Shared posts

25 May 17:32

The Ultimate Guide to Mobile Marketing

by Brandon Gains

ultimate-guide-to-mobile-marketing-strategy-8

“Mobile marketing isn’t magic. There’s a science to it.”

When you hear growth stories about startups scaling to billion dollar valuations in just a span of few years, you attribute their surreal growth to a lot of internal factors like platforms, market timing, etc. But the truth is that none of it would have been possible without an extremely well planned mobile marketing strategy.

In this article, we explore some of the most effective mobile marketing strategies used by widely popular travel apps like AirBnB, TripAdvisor, Priceline, Expedia and more. We explore the science behind the choices they made, and how those choices turned out to be great winners.

1. Create an experience

1-airbnb-personalization-blank-state

“Products are consumed. Services are experienced.”– Levitt

People don’t remember exchanges; they remember experiences. They forget what you offered, but they’ll always remember how you offered it.

If I told you that I want to start a company that allowed people to rent a space in their home to unknown strangers, you’ll probably think I’m crazy. And if I told you that I want to do this on a global scale, you would probably want to know what I was drinking.

However, here’s a reality check. As of Spring 2014, AirBnB had 10 million guests and 550,000 properties listed on their platform, along with a valuation of $10B, making it more valuable than legacy players like Wyndham and Hyatt.

So, how did AirBnB manage to squeeze past some of the most established players in the hospitality industry, and that, too, in such a short span of time? Weren’t these 5-star hotels delivering great experiences to their users already?

Well, it turns out that as Chesky and Gebbia first advertised, customers wanted more than just a place to sleep. They wanted to experience the place like they live there. If you look at the home screen of AirBnB, it reads “Book homes from local hosts and experience a place like you live there.” And… that’s exactly the kind of experience they delivered.

AirBnB allowed users to lookup hundreds of verified places, interact with hosts via messaging and customize their stay the way they want it– right from their smartphone. On the other side, it helped tenants monetize an empty space in their home and handled the operational part (verification, professional photography, cleaning, etc.) for them.

Of course, it was an operational challenge, but they stayed true to what they had promised on offering, and delivered one-of-a-kind experience to their users.

Had AirBnB thought about aggregating hotels or lodges on their platform instead of hosts, they would have failed in attaining such levels of personalization and engagement, not to mention they would have not been able to kept the costs 80% lower.

That’s the #1 mobile marketing tactic– stay true to your unique value offering, and deliver great experiences. And, go for a win-win strategy, because, nobody wins, until everybody wins.

2. Don’t Wait for it

Creating good experiences doesn’t always have to be counterintuitive. Sometimes, even a simple interactive wait screen can engage the user and make the experience worth it. For instance, look at the “Searching Hotels…” screen in Expedia.
2-expedia-mobile-app-loading-logo

Whenever a user enters location and time preferences to search for a hotel, the app shows the above screen. Now, technically speaking, given the power of cloud infrastructure, finding a hotel should not take more than 1-2 seconds. However, the app purposefully makes you wait a few good seconds (at least 5-7 seconds), before showing the results.

Why?

Well, the answer to that question lies in David.H.Maister’s paper– Psychology of waiting lines, where he states that waiting time is actually proportional to the expected outcome. In his paper, David mentions the first law of science, which is as follows:

S (Satisfaction) = P (Perception) – E (Expectation).

While perception and expectation are abstract entities that cannot be measured, it highlights the fact that more valuable the service, the longer the customer will wait.

Now, since the app screen reads “Searching Hundreds of Hotels for You… ”, it gives user the impression that it’s doing an intensive task that would take a little bit of time. The user is happy to wait, knowing that the app is doing all the hard work for him.

Had Expedia displayed the results instantly, the satisfaction levels would have actually gone down, as the user would perceive that the system didn’t “work enough” to fetch all the results. However, since the app took a considerable amount of time to process, the user felt more contented with the displayed results.

Also, now that the user has waited enough, the principle of cognitive dissonance comes into play, which states that once the user has committed to something, it’s hard for him to back out, as that makes him inconsistent with his original set of beliefs. So, by making the user wait, Expedia actually increases the overall interaction time, and ensures that users don’t just quit, before exploring all the choices.

In his paper, David also points that “occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time” and “anxiety makes wait times seem longer”.

Therefore, in order to make the waiting time engaging for the impatient user and take the anxiety out of the equation, Expedia made the door knob on the app screen sensitive to acceleration movements, which means the knob tilts in the direction you tilt your phone.

Although a minor design tweak, the hack became a great bragging point for its users and made them connect with the overall product experience.

That’s mobile marketing tactic #2 for brands– “Make things worth the while”.

3. Put your CTA in the right context

“When content meets context, conversions happen.”

According to the widely popular self-affirmation theory in psychology, users are more likely to complete an action if they’re told why they should complete it and are given a glimpse of the end-result. For instance, in real life, you’re more likely to entertain a favor, if you’re explained the premise and the implications of conforming to it. For eg. donations, charity, crowd-funding campaigns, etc adhere to the same principle.

So far, we have been talking about how we should be using clear and direct language when conceptualizing CTAs, but what’s also important is to put your CTA in the right context. In other words, apart from telling the user what they need to do, you also need to tell them why you want them to perform that action, and how they would benefit from it.
3-airbnb-start-exploring-blank-state-optimization

For instance, look how AirBnB tells users what will happen when they click on the CTA– “Start Exploring”. It tempts the user to get started, since it associates an “end-result” (in this case: itinerary) with the process, and also motivates them to complete a booking.

It’s easier to use this tactic when there’s an instant reward associated with the action, but in cases, where there’s a certain degree of friction involved with completing an action, you need to invoke positive emotions, and make users feel at ease.

4-airbnb-no-messages-yet-personalization

For example, AirBnB uses image of a “happy girl” and some positive words, like, “tell them a bit about yourself and the trip” to get users past the initial barrier or activation gap. The context plays a big role in breaking the ice, and in taking the initial apprehension out of the equation. It also amplifies the perception of the host in the mind of a customer and makes them feel good about interacting with them.

That’s mobile marketing tactic #3 for brands– “the key ingredient to better user experiences is relevance.

4. Improve engagement with social discovery.

6-expedia-mobile-marketing-hotel-deals-example

In the summer of 2012, AirBnB redesigned the site around a WishList feature that allowed users to save places that they find interesting. In just four months of launching the feature, the team found out that nearly 45% of the users were engaging with that feature, and over a million wish lists had been created.

5-airbnb-wishlists-start-exploring-example

Now, the wishlist feature comes integrated in almost all travel apps, including Expedia, Priceline, Tripadvisor and more, but the reason why such a simple feature succeeded in providing such dramatic levels of engagement for AirBnB is– social discovery.

Earlier, when there was no wishlist feature, users explored AirBnB *specifically* to look up places and contact hosts. However, with the introduction of the wish lists, the search dynamic changed. Users were engaging with the app not only when they were looking to book a room, but also when the work was boring, or when they were commuting to work.

By integrating sharing and collaborative features on their platform, AirBnB enabled a sophisticated social discovery model for exploring interested places around the world. From being a service that connected hosts and guests, AirBnB became a service that allowed users to explore new places and save them for future.

Apart from improving content accessibility, it also allowed AirBnB to personalize results, as it could now understand individual preferences, and fine-tune its algorithm to find the best matches. In the words of Gebbia, “Of course, users have to search, but what if they don’t know where to go?”

Wishlists proved to be just the right strategy for AirBnB that improved user engagement, personalization and content discovery, while also increasing revenue and traction.

That’s mobile marketing tactic #4 for brands– “shift from merely being a discovery platform to a social discovery platform.

5. Capture the emotional intent

8-airbnb-emotional-intent-mobile-marketing-example

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”Dale Carnegie

Now, we looked at how AirBnB improved the engagement by 45% by integrating wish lists, but what’s interesting is how the idea of creating the feature originated.

When Chesky and his team were creating the product, they experimented with a simple change. They already allowed users to favorite a place, which they decided to change the symbol from “star” to “heart”. When they ran the tests after a couple of weeks, they found that engagement levels shot up by nearly 30% just due to that simple change.

That, right there, was the testimony to the fact that humans are emotional beings. We judge a service by the kind of emotions that the experience invokes. And, every little detail, including the choice of symbol and colour plays a pivotal role in improving engagement. That gave the tea, the motivation to build a more functional feature and wishlist was born.

But what’s important is how AirBnB tapped into the emotional side of its users, and refined their interface to capitalize on it.

9-airbnb-welcome-screen-mobile-marketing-example

And it’s not just symbols. Even the choice of colour plays a role in triggering the right emotions.

For instance, notice how AirBnB uses lighter shades of red in its interface. As per Parott’s emotions grouping model, emotions like adoration, fondness, caring, tenderness, adoration and desire are closely linked to the primary emotion of love. Considering the fact that AirBnB is a platform that connects hosts and guests, the colour choice is perfect, since it generates the right set of emotions.

10-tripadvisor-hotel-search-mobile-example

As another example, look at TripAdvisor’s interface. You’ll notice distinctive use of the colours “green” and “yellow” in the layout and CTAs.

If you match the colour shades being used with Plutchik’s wheel of emotions, you’ll find that the colour combination is associated with triggering emotions of trust, joy, ecstasy and admiration.

Similarly, BusBud uses the combination of green and blue, which is associated with triggering emotions of amazement, surprise, trust and acceptance.

11-busbud-search-mobile-app-example

That’s mobile marketing tactic #5 for brands– “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons. So, make sure you generate the right set of emotions.”

6. Scarcity creates demand.

12-tripadvisor-checkout-mobile-example

“People assign more value to things when they are less available.”- Steven Feinberg

It’s basic human nature to want more and more of what is less and less of. It’s due to this law of scarcity that any product that has a higher demand and lower supply fetches a bigger premium.

That’s the principle TripAdvisor uses to improve conversions. It tells users that “sure, rooms are available, but that number is limited.

Since the number is limited, users tend to mentally increase the valuation of the service that’s being offered (high demand + low supply = premium pricing). It also relates closely to the concept of social proof, which explains the natural human tendency to interpret other’s actions as correct. If a product is out of stock or in limited quantity, the product must be good, as the only reason it’s available in limited quantity is because everyone’s buying it.

Not only that, scarcity also gets users to act quickly. In his book- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Cialdini explains that in a competitive environment, the drive to obtain a scarcely available resource intensifies. Users fear that if they don’t book quickly, they would run out of good options, and miss out on a great deal, which makes them act quickly.

That’s mobile marketing tactic #6 for brands- “It’s not enough to tell them the benefits they’ll gain by availing your service. You also need to show them how your propositions are unique and what they tend to lose, if they don’t act (quickly).”

7. Customization improves conversion.

“When it comes to marketing, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.”

In my previous points, I mentioned the importance of having a social discovery model for building user engagement. But social discovery is aimed towards users who don’t know what they’re looking for. What if customers already know what they want?

In his transactional analysis theory, Eric Berne states that for a good working relationship, the service provider needs to change the role (parent/child/adult) based on the role the user adapts.

For example, if the user does not know what he’s looking for, the service provides needs to adapt the role of an adult and show him the options that the service offers. That would be the social discovery model.

However, in cases, where the user behaves like an adult, the service provider needs to comply to expectations, and behave like an “adaptive child”. If the service provides does not comply (offers no option for customization) or tries to be a parent (suggests completely different options), the user might get fed up and leave the transaction.

13-crossed-transactions-behavior-example

The biggest mistake you can make with your marketing strategy is to consider every customer the same, because conversions only happen when you help users find what they are looking for, and realistically, not every user is looking for the same thing.

For instance, look how many customization options Priceline offers to its customers. From checking facilities to finding a budget in a range, the interface allows users to narrow down on a hotel in just a few seconds.

14-priceline-mobile-search-filter-options

Priceline understands that not every customer would be willing to pay the price a hotel asks for a room. Some users would like to negotiate or would book only if they get a good deal. To cater to that user segment, the app offers a “Bids” section, where users can actually bargain for the room price with the hotel.

15-priceline-winning-bids-mobile-user-experience

This is a great example of personalizing user experiences for a customer segment, and implementation of the transactional analysis theory.

That’s mobile marketing tactic #7 for brands– “The only way to make a customer last is to put him first”.

8. Referrals are growth multipliers.

“When it comes to delivering organic growth, nothing beats referral marketing.”

Referrals are the biggest growth multipliers, because unlike other forms of marketing, they come from trusted, known and credible sources. They’re validated by strong social proof, and have the lowest activation gap.

16-airbnb-referral-program-example-user-flow

To understand why referrals are so effective, consider this– In 2014, AirBnB decided to relaunch their “underutilized” referral program, because of poor conversion ratio offered by referral emails. They redesigned the referral experience by integrating it with iOS and Android platform, and providing travel credits as gift for every successful referral. They also integrated social and collaborative channels for maximizing referral sharing.

Result? Number of bookings shot up by 25%, and they started seeing lot more traction. Based on the collected data, AirBnB also found that referred users tended to be better than general users– as in, they were more likely to book a place or refer the app to their friends than normal users.

Apart from gaining quality users, the referral program also helped AirBnB bring down the CAC, as there was no actual money being spent on acquiring users; it was just service credits. This equitable reward mechanism helped AirBnB in scaling fast across a wide number of geographies, without burning a larger hole in their pockets.

Besides increasing the numbers, referrals also help in strengthening customer trust and building brand loyalty– metrics that play a key role in building a sustainable brand.

That’s mobile marketing tactic#8 for brands– “A brand is no longer what we tell the customer it is — it is what customers tell each other it is.”

Wrapping up

In this post, we had a look at some of the most effective mobile marketing strategies used by popular travel apps.

From creating great experiences to delivering timely results, from accurately putting your actions in context to adapting an interactive social discovery model, we explored some of the most fascinating concepts these travel apps used to gain traction and build engagement.

content-upgrade-mobile-marketing-strategy

 

Image Sources: Airbnb.com + BusBud.com + TripAdvisor.com + Priceline.com + Expedia.com

25 May 17:31

How to Maximize Your Creative Process at Scale [Infographic]

by Bob Hutchins

content-process-at-scale-SMALL-HEADER

One hit wonders are becoming a thing of the past suggests data from the last 45 years of Billboard’s Hot 100 charts. There simply isn’t room. Today’s hits once they enter the Hot 100 tend to last twice as long on the chart as they did in the 1960s. The study also found that the average Katy Perry song remains in the Hot 100 nearly three times longer than the average Beatles song.

Why should you care about one hit wonders? Just as it is with music, when it comes to content, creating a one hit wonder of your own is a more difficult and less viable option in comparison to a calculated, long-term content strategy.

Think of the first time you took on a task that’s now second nature for you. Let’s say your task is making a cheeseburger. After doing it twenty times, you know the best places to shop for all the different ingredients; the best way to slice an onion; the right amount of charcoal to put in the grill; the amount of prep time needed to eat dinner on time, and so on and so forth. The creative process works the same way.

The Agency Benefit: Logistics On Lock-Down
When you partner with an agency, all of those details–from pricing to timelines to procedures–are perfectly rehearsed, running like a well-oiled machine. A new infographic from Search Engine Journal (reposted below) covers several of the missteps that most frequently throw brands and creators off track. A few key ways to avoid pitfalls:

  • Use the resources of the “gig economy.” By 2020, Intuit executive Alex Chriss predicts contingent workers will account for 40% of the workforce.
  • It’s not all about traffic. Ultimately, conversion is what matters. For every $100 spent on Internet traffic, just $1 goes toward converting the traffic to business.
  • It’s not “…and ” It’s mobile FIRST. Mobile accounts for 51% of time with digital media while desktop accounts for 42%. (More on the rise of mobile.)

5 Steps to an Airtight Production Process
Okay, so those are a few tips for creating and scaling content, but what does an effective creative process look like? In the same post, Search Engine Journal shares these steps, which closely mirror our process here at BuzzPlant.

  1. Develop a strategy document. This is the guiding force in your campaign (or company as a whole). If any ideas or actions aren’t supported by the strategy document, then they shouldn’t be on the table for discussion.
  2. Make a style guide. Save time and streamline your workflow by developing a style guide that contains everything the creatives need to do their work: fonts, logos, colors, language, samples, etc.
  3. Find the experts. Your agency may have everyone needed for the job in-house. If the project requires very specialized skills or a larger workforce than the staff, then it’s time to locate the right creative for the job.
  4. Verify the creatives’ work. You should ask for samples of the creatives’ work to ensure that you’re going to receive a product on par with your expectations.
  5. Be flexible. Even if you have an “airtight” production process, well… few things are perfectly airtight. Always leave a little extra time in the schedule and be ready to shift as needed. Hopefully the modifications won’t go all the way up the chain to your strategy document!

Does Your Content Scale?

What processes do you have in place to ensure that you’re squeezing the most out of your creative process? We’d love to hear your strategies in the comments section below! For more ways to get started, check out “42 Content Posting Ideas” and “9 Reasons Why Great Creators Mix Visuals & Story.”

Pitfalls-of-Scaling-Quality-Content-2

25 May 17:29

5 Tips That Will Supercharge Your Sales and Marketing

by Jonathan Herrick

You’re passionate about your business. You’re an expert in your industry. But when it comes to sales and marketing, the thought of “selling” stresses you out. After all, you’re the best in your biz, so shouldn’t your products sell themselves?

The truth is, even if you have a great product, it’s tough to cut through the daily noise and reach your target audience. These 5 tips will help supercharge your sales and marketing, keeping quality leads coming in the door while you focus on the parts of your business you love best:

1. Build an Engaging Website

In this modern, digital era, the face of a business is not its storefront or primary office space; it’s a strong website. But you already knew that. What you may not know, though, is that your website should be working for you 24/7 to capture fresh leads that fit the profile of your ideal buyer.

It’s not enough to just have information about your products and services any more. Lending your expertise to your audience will help you slice through all of the distractions they face online – and even incentivize them to leave their contact info behind so that you can start a meaningful conversation.

An active blog and a great lead magnet or two are essential tools that will turn your static website into a lead generation machine for your small business.

2. Embrace Social Media

If a website is the face of your company, social media is its voice. Social media is a brilliant way for small brands to have a two-way conversation with their audience. So, while you may not have the budget to buy a primetime radio or TV spot, you can reach your audience and talk with them – not at them.

When social media first burst on the scene, it was great for small businesses because it provided free, organic reach. As social media channels have been pressured to monetize their platforms, it has become more of a pay-to-play model for small businesses. Organic reach has declined on sites like Facebook, meaning you may have to pay to boost a post or to get more likes. However, because of the rich data social platforms are collecting, you can be extremely efficient with your ad spend in reaching a specific audience.

Why be on social media? Because it’s where your customers are. And if they aren’t there, you could be wasting precious resources investing in the wrong place. For instance, if you’re a B2B company whose target buyer is a man in his 50s, you could be wasting time trying to build a following on Snapchat, where the average age is 18 to 24, and the gender profile is typically female.

Being strategic about which social platforms you leverage and how you invest your spend there will give you another touchpoint with potential customers in this fragmented, noisy digital landscape.

3. Use Video

Every person loves a good story, and video can add another dimension to your small business’s narrative, stamping your branding on the hearts and minds of your audience..

“More than 72 percent of buyers are watching video throughout the entire path to purchase and nearly 50 percent are watching 30 minutes or more of video content. If you’re not producing video content, then you’re not meeting the content requirements of today’s video-hungry buyers,” says Kimbe MacMaster, Content Marketing Manager for Vidyard.

You already know the value of video marketing because you probably catch a few videos a day on your favorite device. But you may be hesitant to try video as part of your marketing strategy because it is such unfamiliar territory.

Video doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. With a little creativity and small business-friendly tools, you can produce and test bite-sized videos in your marketing campaigns and sales process.

Try recording a Google Hangout with another thought leader in your industry and add it to your email campaigns. Get your team to promote an upcoming event like in this Vidyard video:

Or use Camtasia to capture a video of your product to add to your landing pages like we did in our 1-minute quick tour.

Leveraging videos in your sales and marketing can help you deliver content to your audience through the medium they’re craving.

(And, if video just isn’t your speed, you might try a weekly podcast…)

4. Upcycle Content

Blog posts deliver your story and insight to peers and customers, positioning your business as an industry thought leader. When managed effectively, they instill confidence and educate people on making smart decisions—like investing in your company.

It can, however, be a chore to create new, engaging content on a daily or weekly basis. If that’s a problem, follow the lead of some of the best brands in the content marketing industry and spruce up evergreen pieces (ones that aren’t time-sensitive) with updates, infographics, and videos.

Your business has lots of content within reach, you just may need some inspiration to tap into it – like our blog post, “How to Write a Popular Blog Post – Without Writing.”

Upcycling is a great way to produce new content with ease, keeping your brand fresh and relevant without draining your resources.

5. Follow Up

Getting your audience’s attention by optimizing your website, managing social media, leveraging video, and blogging is an investment of your time – and time is money. So it can be frustrating when those hard-won leads don’t convert.

Fortunately, getting leads to convert isn’t rocket-surgery. It just takes persistence and organization – well within the reach of any small business.

If at first you don’t succeed (or immediately hear back), try again. It’s easy for communications and concerns to get lost in the bustle of daily operation, so having a process in place for calling or emailing prospective clients is imperative.

Marketing automation does just that – gives small businesses a simple way to stick to a follow-up process through automated emails, notifications and tasks. So when a new lead doesn’t answer your first email, you have a task queued up to call them the next day. It can take 7 or 8 touches for a prospect to convert, so having a solid process in place is a must if you want to squeeze all of the revenue you can out of your sales pipeline.

Sales and marketing doesn’t have to give you the cold sweats. By implementing these effective tips into your business, you’ll boost your sales and marketing efforts and convert more online visitors into customers.

25 May 17:29

What Is Sales Leadership? What Is Its Impact With Customers?

by Mark Hunter

The words “sales leadership” and “sales leader” are thrown around a lot, and it seems each time I hear the words, the person saying them is associating them with a different meaning. So what is “sales leadership” and, more importantly, what impact does it have on sales?

First, let’s dispel the myth that sales leadership is something only companies with a dominant position in the marketplace can have. Sales leadership is not about a company or a product. Sales leadership is about you!

I’ve seen companies with the smallest of market shares have the best sales leaders, and I’ll argue the smaller the market share, the greater the need to be seen as a sales leader. When we say “sales leader,” we’re saying two things: A leader to others within the company and a leader to customers and the entire marketplace.

Sales leadership is about maximizing opportunities others don’t see. This means the sales leader can’t be comfortable with conventional norms. They can’t be comfortable being average. Sales leaders view everything as an opportunity, and when they do this, it changes their outlook from being one of protecting what they have to one of building more with others.

A sales leader possesses a drive to know more regardless of the situation. A customer might be content with the products and services your company provides, but that doesn’t stop you, the sales leader. The sales leader is going to build on the base by digging deeper into the customer’s business and, more importantly, into understanding the customer’s customer.

Sales leaders aren’t content with existing relationships. They strive for more and they strive to make each one even deeper. When I say deeper, it’s with the purpose of helping to uncover more ways to serve.

The role of the sales leader with regard to the customer has never been more important. If your customer doesn’t consider you a sales leader, then what value are you bringing them? If you’re not bringing value, then why should your company even employ you?

Customers want to see sales leadership and they will pay for it. No, this doesn’t mean you can add a surcharge to your invoices, noting something such as “sales leadership fee.” Sorry, that just isn’t going to fly! However, they will pay more because they’ll understand better the value of the opportunity. They see the value better, because the sales leader asks better questions and displays a higher level of competence than other salespeople.

Sales leadership is not something a salesperson should aspire to become. Being a sales leader is what every salesperson must be NOW if they want to continue in the profession.

If you’re not helping your customers uncover new opportunities and increasing the value of what you provide from what they initially expected, then you’re not a leader. To get to this level it is essential you understand the customer’s customer. You must nurture relationships and go deeper than the buyer level.

Finally, being willing to ask questions of everyone is vital! Anything less is settling for average, and anything less will quickly make you obsolete.

Your customers seeing you as relevant means they will see you as a sales leader. Join me June 15-16 in NYC for Sales Machine where I’ll discuss this more! You can register at this link.

25 May 17:27

THE BLOCKCHAIN REPORT: Why the technology behind Bitcoin is seeing widespread investment and early application across the finance industry

by Jaime Toplin

blockchain consortiums and partners

Blockchain technology, which is best known for powering Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, is gaining steam among finance firms because of its potential to streamline processes and increase efficiency. The technology could cut costs by up to $20 billion annually by 2022, according to Santander.

That's because blockchain, which operates as a distributed ledger, has the ability to allow multiple parties to transfer and store sensitive information in a space that’s secure, permanent, anonymous, and easily accessible. That could simplify paper-heavy, expensive, or logistically complicated financial systems, like remittances and cross-border transfer, shareholder management and ownership exchange, and securities trading, to name a few. And outside of finance, governments and the music industry are investigating the technology’s potential to simplify record-keeping.

As a result, venture capital firms and financial institutions alike are pouring investment into finding, developing, and testing blockchain use cases. Over 50 major financial institutions are involved with collaborative blockchain startups, have begun researching the technology in-house, or have helped fund startups with products rooted in blockchain. 

In BI Intelligence’s Blockchain Report, we explain how blockchain works, why it has the potential to provide a watershed moment for the financial industry, and the different ways it could be put into practice in the coming years.

Here are some key takeaways from the report.

  • Spending on capital markets applications of blockchain is expected to grow at a 52% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2019, according to Aite Group, to reach $400 million that year.
  • Banks and major financial institutions are working both collaboratively and independently to develop blockchain tech. Over 50 major financial institutions are involved with collaborative blockchain startups, like R3 CEV or Chain. And many are investing in the technology on their own as well.
  • Putting blockchain to use for real-world transactions is likely not that far off. If working groups' tests are successful, firms could be using it to transact real value as early as the end of this year and we could see widespread industry application within the next few years. 

In full, the report:

  • Examines the funding increases that are pouring into blockchain
  • Assesses why blockchain is becoming so popular and what factors are driving up increased research and development
  • Explains in full how blockchain technology work and what assets make it valuable and vulnerable
  • Identifies pain points in the financial industry and profiles how various firms are using blockchain to solve them
  • Demonstrates the challenges to mainstream adoption and their potential solutions

Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:

  1. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn More Now
  2. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. >> Purchase & Download Now

Join the conversation about this story »

25 May 17:22

21 Social Media Facts You Should Know Right Now

by Mandy Edwards

21 Social Media Facts You Should Know Right Now

Millennials are still on Facebook. Images get shared more. Digital ad spending is increasing. People will unfollow your Facebook page if you overpost.

Yes, these are things you need to know – and there’s proof to back it up.

Earlier in 2016 I wrote a post with 16 marketing and social media facts you needed to know heading into the year and now I’ve rounded up 21 facts you need to know right now. They span over a broad range of topics and yes, I already know Snapchat is no where on the list. Not that I’ve had my head in the sand, I just am not drinking the Snapchat-is-where-it’s-at-for-brand-marketing kool-aid. I have an account. I use it. I believe Snapchat still has a long way to go for it to be a viable, legit marketing option for brands, especially the ones I work with.

These stats are incorporated into my now-revived Marketing Fact Friday series that you’ll see on my social channels, so feel free to share the graphics as they post each Friday :)

Here are 21 marketing and social media facts you need to know right now…

Social Media Facts

  • Facebook’s user base is estimated to reach 1.43 billion monthly users by the end of 2016. Mobile is estimated to account for 82% of Facebook’s US digital ad revenue this year. (Source: eMarketer)
  • 95.8% of social media marketers worldwide said Facebook produced the best ROI. (Source: eMarketer)
  • 21% of Facebook users say they unfollow brands that post repetitive or boring content. 19% say they would unfollow a brand on Facebook if the brand posted too often (more than six times a day). (Source: Adweek)
    • True story – I was a conference this Spring where a social media “expert” told the group of about 300 that they needed to post “as much as possible” on their Facebook pages. I was horrified! I wanted to stand up and yell NO!!! because you are asking to have scores of people unfollow you if you do that. Yes, you can post multiple times per day, but it has to be done strategically and not “as much as possible”. And the organizers (who I know) consider her an “expert” and selected her pitch over mine…
  • 7% of U.S. companies with 100 employees or more used Facebook for marketing activities in 2015. That share is projected to rise to 85.3% this year and 85.8% next year. (Source: MediaPost)
  • 91% of millennials (aged 15-34) are on Facebook. (Source: Infinitdatum)
  • There’s an average 45% increase in engagement when a LinkedIn post contains a link, a 50% increase in comments when a post contains a question, and a 98% increase in comments when the post contains an image. (Source: DMR)
  • 32% of U.S. companies with 100 employees or more used Instagram for marketing activities in 2015. That number is predicted to increase to nearly 49% this year and 70.7% next year. (Source: MediaPost)
  • 81% of B2B decision makers use online communities and blogs to help make purchasing decisions. 74% use LinkedIn and 42% use Twitter. (Source: Marketing Think)
  • 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others. (Source: Get Ambassador)
  • Visual content 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content. (Source: Hubspot)
  • 78% of people who complain to a brand via Twitter expect a response within an hour. (Source: Lithium)
  • When it comes to communicating with businesses, 33% of Millennials prefer using social media over any other channel. (Source: Marketing Sherpa)
  • Internet users have an average of 54 social media accounts. (Source: Global Web Index)
  • When making a purchase, 75% of B2B buyers use social media for their decision-making. (Source: IDC)

Content Marketing Facts

  • Marketers who blog are 13 times more likely to generate ROI. (Source: Contently)
  • 74% of readers trust educational content from brands as long as it doesn’t push a sale. (Source: Contently)
  • 88% of B2B marketers in North America use Twitter for content distribution. (Source: DMR)

Advertising Facts

  • 56% of general internet display ads are never seen by actual humans. (Source: Contently)
  • Half of B2B buyers are using smartphones for business purchases — with 40% of these purchases directly influenced by such devices. Conversely, the allocation for mobile in digital marketing only amounts to 3%. (Source: PureB2B)
  • Total spending on Internet advertising is predicted to grow 12.9% next year. Ahead of TV, Internet will become the largest medium for advertising this year. (Source: MediaPost)

And the most concering stat I read…

  • One-third of marketers say they don’t know which digital marketing channel has the biggest positive impact on revenue. (Source: MarketingProfs) THIS IS WHY YOU NEED TO TRACK YOUR ACTIVITIES!!!

Which of these stats surprised you the most? I could have added so many more, but these were the ones that stuck out the most to me. Have you found any interesting marketing statistics lately? Share them with me below in the comments!

25 May 17:22

The Worst B2B Marketing Mistake You Commit Every Day

by Ron Chatterjee

“The world is in perpetual motion, and we must invent the things of tomorrow… Act with audacity. – Madame Clicquot”

If you are a B2B copywriter, pay full attention.

For I am going to disclose the worst mistake in B2B marketing that you commit as a copywriter.

Correcting this little mistake will help you pull up the responsiveness of your prospects to your copy, and needless to say, it will definitely show up in the sales graph in the next quarter.

In fact, this little mistake is so common that nobody even notices it. What’s more? Nobody talks about it.

Curious to know what the mistake is, already?

Well, I will tell you in the next couple of minutes. Just bear with me.

You see, you don’t come across unique tactics like this often. Let’s be honest, these are just solid gold nuggets!

Savor this moment.

Take a cup of coffee.

Spread out on your knotted chair and discover the secret to taking your B2B marketing success right through the roof.

This article will let you build your business brand.

This article will let you attract clients like bears to honey.

This article will completely change the way you view B2B marketing.

I would go as far as to say, this is probably the best article that you read on B2B marketing today, or perhaps, in this whole past week or even a few months.

Are you ready to know the secret that has changed the lives (literally!) of many B2B marketers and has skyrocketed their business to a whole new level.

Want to know more? Read on below.

Because the destiny of your business lies in your hands.

Hold on a second.

I just noticed that I have already written over 270 words, and I haven’t yet said what the biggest mistake is. Are you still curious?

Well, The Biggest Mistake Is…

What I did right from the start of this very article.

I strove to pique your curiosity so that you read on and on.

And frankly speaking, this is how most of the B2C copywriters write.

They start with a promise and slowly unfold the story.

And to apply the same tactic in B2B copywriting is the biggest mistake of all. As Bill Maurer says, “If Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz was a B2C copywriter, she might say: “Teasers, emotions,and hype. Oh, my!”

Many new writers going into the B2B fields – and even experienced writers transitioning to B2B – have difficulty shaking old consumer copywriting habits and models. Many B2C techniques and tools are no longer valid and may prove detrimental.”

Very true, Maurer.

You just cannot try to manipulate your B2B prospect.

Okay, I have to note here that you can start with a curious headline, that’s not a problem. But you cannot milk it for long, if you know what I mean to say.

A B2B prospect is not moved by emotions, as much as they are moved by solid facts and logical arguments. Think about it. Your would-be client is not a 20-year-old who is looking to start a small e-business to earn a cool pocket money through college. Your would-be client is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Neither does he have the time to read through a long 400-words teaser, nor is he that gullible to not see through your marketing tactic. He probably uses the same tactics as a part of his daily diet. Whatever a business buys is often expensive and comes with a huge commitment factor. So, a business that will probably buy your product or service is definitely not going to do it on a quick impulse.

In other words, you have to convince them. You have to make them rationally figure out why they should buy your specific product or service, and on top of that, why they would choose you over others.

So that takes us to a new question, “How to write sales copies for B2B clients… without committing this heinous mistake?”

I would have to say, understand your readers first.

What Buys Your Products Or Services?

There are basically four types of B2B clients, according to John F. Tanner Jr. and Mary Anne Raymond in their book “Principles of Marketing”.

Producers are companies that purchase goods and services that they transform into other products. They include both manufacturers and service providers. Procter & Gamble, General Motors, McDonald’s, Dell, and Delta Airlines are examples. Even doctors, lawyers, accountants or your local tattoo parlor fall into this category. They buy goods and services to finish a final product or service. For example, General Motors buys steel to produce cars. McDonald’s requires beef and potato. The doctor requires effective drugs and anesthetics. Your tattoo parlor needs high-quality ink and needles.

Resellers are companies that sell goods and services produced by other firms without materially changing them. They include wholesalers, brokers, and retailers. Walmart and Target are two big retailers you are familiar with. If you find only two or three of them, they will make solid, long-term clients for your company.

Government – the biggest purchaser ever is. It purchases everything you can imagine, from paper and fax machines to tanks and weapons, buildings, toilets for NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration), highway construction services, and medical and security services. Even state and local governments contract with companies that provide citizens with all kinds of services from transportation to garbage collection. (So do foreign governments, provinces, and localities, of course.) Business-to-government (B2G) markets, or when companies sell to local, state, and federal governments, represent a major selling opportunity, even for smaller sellers.

Institutional buyers include nonprofit organizations such as the American Red Cross, churches, hospitals, charitable organizations, private colleges, civic clubs, and so on. Like government and for-profit organizations, they buy a huge quantity of products and services. Holding costs down is especially important to them. The lower their costs are, the more people they can provide their services to.

But that’s not all.

But Actually Who Buys?

Consider the above as just places where you sell.

But ultimately, the decision will be made by a person, who will get hold of your sales message and finally make the decision.

So, if you are to convince that person to buy your product or service, you have to understand that specific person as well.

As Direct Marketing News article says, there are basically eight kinds of B2B content consumers.

Grazers/Sharers (32% of respondents): This is the largest segment of the “researcher” set of content consumers found in larger enterprises. Grazers/Sharers research, consume, and summarize content with the singular intention of sharing the resulting intelligence with colleagues. Research reports and studies are their favorite food for thought because they feel these are more important for executives in the evaluation phase of the purchase cycle. Technical specs and trade journal articles are also high on their list.

Hunters/Gatherers (10%): The smaller complement of researchers are pros. Their job is to research and identify relevant content, but they rarely engage with it themselves. Two-thirds of them are in a constant state of content-gathering, focused on new best practices, trends, and marketplace advancements. They believe that analyst intelligence and insights are most valuable in the evaluation process.

Critical Contributors (25%): They have no budgets and so never pull the trigger on purchases, but they are primary influencers in the buying process. They are more strategic than researchers, reaching out for content that addresses specific problems and needs within their organizations. Critical Contributors are hungry for insights and so seek out a broad range of content, including summarized “quick bites.” They shy away from blogs, preferring research reports and studies, data sheets, and white papers.

Informed Influencers (4%): The biggest fans of infographics and pictograms, the opinions of these influencers are highly valued by the people in the organization who sign the contracts. They want content that is expertly packaged, favoring analyst insights, use cases, and research papers.

Decision Drivers (23%): These content consumers are the holders of the Holy Grail. Decision Drivers are primary decision makers and they seek out and consume content to inform their decisions. Two-thirds say they constantly consume content to stay up to date on new solutions that can have an impact on their organizations. The great majority (77%) favors research reports and studies. Other valued content includes technical specs and data sheets (61%), analyst intelligence (48%), and white papers (37%).

Authority Leaders (6%): They make the calls, and 61% say they rely on outside content to inform them—but they depend on colleagues to supply the goods. Research reports and analyst intelligence are high on their content lists. They are also more highly influenced by industry peers than any other segment.

These are the people who you are going to sell to.

And to be honest, they are not average consumers.

Big businesses ask for tenders.

To make your sales message stand out, you have to cater it in a way that is ingestible by them.

They are busy.

They are professional.

They are logical.

Your sales message has to be like that.

Savvy?

What’s the Most Serious Problem?

When you are pitching to a B2B client, you don’t know who reads your copy.

It can be the lower-rung managers.

It can be the middle-level executives.

It can be the Chief Executive Officer.

And that’s the biggest problem that you face while writing your sales message.

Normally, it is accepted in copywriting circles that a sales copy should target one type of prospect and revolve around one idea.

This becomes a near-impossible feat in the B2B arena if you are to follow the B2C copywriting rules.

What you have to do is, create something that works for all, whoever reads it.

Or better yet, if you can get an idea of who the purchasing person is, you can mold your letter specifically to that first person who reads it.

However, keep in mind that it will definitely be read by a lot more people. But you don’t know them.

Just try to get past that gateway at first.

And just remember this important gold nugget from the book “Advice From The Top: The Expert Guide To B2B Marketing”:

Customers don’t want to be “sold”. What they do want is to solve a problem: their problem.

That decides the fate of your marketing message. Period.

25 May 17:20

5 Storytelling Archetypes and How to Use Them in Marketing

by Rick Enrico

Storytelling has become a good technique for building strong relationships with customers and a booming community of loyalists over time. Business professionals and entrepreneurs cling to stories as a powerful marketing tool to hold people’s attention and influence them into making buying decisions.

In a research conducted by Google in conjunction with CEB Global, it was found that 71% of buyers who see personal value will purchase a product. Stories, being great literary agents that connect with people on a personal level, can be a perfect fit in leveraging businesses’ marketing efforts.

No matter what the plot or context, stories have something in common—they stir emotions. Whether they’re about a tragic event, a fight against the adversary, or a magical journey, they all come down to leaving a message to the viewers.

Read also: New Theme: 3 New Infographic Templates to Get Your Message Across

Christopher Booker, author of The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, said that “there are indeed a small number of plots which are so fundamental to the way we tell stories that it is virtually impossible for any storyteller ever to break away from them.”

These storytelling archetypes are useful in making content marketing more interesting and effective. Let’s take a closer look at five of Booker’s basic plots and see how they can help you persuade customers and generate leads.

1. Fighting Evil

This is a story plot where an evil force threatens the hero in restoring balance in the world. Referred to as “overcoming the monster” by Booker, it showcases an epic battle between heroes and villains, both aiming for the victory.

It’s common in contemporary films and literature like David and Goliath, Terminator, Beowulf, and Jurassic Park. The story ends with protagonists emerging victorious and monsters facing defeat.

Try incorporating this form of storytelling into your marketing to win your customers’ hearts. The good news is that you don’t need to defeat a physical monster to appear triumphant. Solving abstractions like customer issues and concerns is one of the best applications of this story plot.

To do this, you have to present yourself as the hero who will save them from their troubles. Show them how your product or service benefits them. Compare the merits of your offering to those of the competition. For example, demonstrate how your handheld vacuum cleaner differs from larger counterparts. Focus on its special features such as compact size, light weight, and ease of use.

2. Rags to Riches

Another common setting of a story is the rags to riches archetype. Here, the main character experiences hardships in the beginning and eventually steps into the limelight and attains his or her fullest potential in the end.

The Karate Kid, Cinderella, Pretty Woman, and A Knight’s Tale are among the most well-known rags to riches movies. They all convey an inspirational message that everyone can be successful by just believing and improving oneself.

In marketing, it helps if you produce content that shows how your brand transformed into a major hit. Think of it like a climax of a story, wherein conflict becomes present and solution is seen in the horizon.

Share how your company started as a startup, faced struggles, and eventually began to grow sales and clients in few years’ time. Business storytelling makes people’s emotions run high, which is important in engaging them. Also, highlight some of your client feedback and testimonials to attest your credibility and business reputation.

3. The Journey

The quest or journey narrates a hero going forth into an enchanting land of adventures, obstacles, and rewards. Most of the time, the main character has companions with him on his journey.

Popular examples of this story theme are The Lord of the Rings, The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, and Harry Potter. All of these are built into the plot where the protagonist encounters hostile characters and threatening circumstances.

To leverage your content marketing efforts, be like an explorer who is adventurous, brave, and ready to face challenges. Influence your audience by allowing them to discover satisfaction with your brand. Be there for them before, during, and after purchase. Keep the communication alive to ensure you deliver the best customer experience.

Read also: Infographic Layout: Storytelling With Roadmaps

4. Tragedy

Of all the storytelling archetypes, tragedy is the only plot that ends in an awful way. The character faces tragic events like defeat or (sometimes) death.

Some movies with tragic plotlines are Titanic, Romeo and Juliet, Gladiator, and Hamlet. These stories all take a tragic turn, which is far from the glorious feeling of victory and happiness.

In the marketing world, customers also go through difficult times. Sometimes, they’re torn between whether or not a product is useful for them or worth their money. You won’t want to place yourself in the same sticky situation, try to anticipate possible customer concerns and make sure you can present a solution.

5. Voyage and Return

Like the quest, the voyage and return is also based on a journey. However, this story plot sends the hero out from his normal world into somewhere unfamiliar, where he or she will eventually need to escape to find his or her way back home.

Alice in Wonderland, Back to the Future, and The Chronicles of Narnia are a few of the stories with a journey-like plot. Movies of this type have turning points from normality to dreamy fascination or startling nightmare, as well as thrilling escape and return.

If you want to take your marketing efforts to the next level, borrow some ideas from this storytelling archetype. Take your customers to another world by showcasing your product or service in a different way. Since people nowadays are spending more time online, it’s ideal to promote digital and interactive content like blog posts, whitepapers, videos, and infographics. Adhere to trends like this to capture your audience and keep them coming back for more.


Try it yourself!

The art of storytelling isn’t only useful in producing exceptional films and movies. Using stories in your marketing and advertising can also give you the edge in selling to your target market.

Let Christopher Booker’s storytelling archetypes help you map out an effective marketing strategy for increased leads and traffic.

  • Overcoming the monster. Use this victory-themed storytelling to stand out from the competition. Present yourself as a hero who will save customers from all their troubles.
  • Rags to riches. Show people how you surpassed all the life challenges and how they helped you succeed in your field.
  • The quest. Bring your audience in a journey they will never forget. Ensure quality communication is kept from the beginning till end.
  • The tragedy. Keep people away from frustrating and troublesome experiences. Present a solution to any of their problems.
  • Voyage and return. Leave your customers in awe by taking them to a different world. Find creative ways to showcase your product successfully.

Choose among the five story plots or mix and match types according to your marketing message.

Try applying these archetypes and brace yourself for a delightful and triumphant business journey!

25 May 17:20

The Benefits of Outsourcing Sales & Insourcing Sales

by Doug Dvorak

There are many elements that are essential to not only having a good sales team but to developing and sustaining a top sales team. A strategic approach and knowing where and why you should insource or outsource specific sales positions and management opportunities is all part of the equation. Knowing the benefits of outsourcing sales versus insourcing sales can be crucial to your organization’s growth and success.

benefits-of-outsourcing-sales-vs-insource-sales
The Benefits of Insourcing Sales

Insourcing, or hiring from within the organization or through your own hirinScreen Shot 2016-05-17 at 3.23.20 PMg team for new recruits and candidates, offers the company the greatest in possible control over the entire process.

A report from the Whitehouse from January 2012 titled “Investing in America: Building an Economy That Lasts”, takes a big picture and very detailed look at the increased hiring in the private sector, resulting the addition of 2 million jobs across the country in 2011 with the trend predicted to continue.

This trend has continued, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that 2.45 million jobs were added in the United States in 2015. However, this really hasn’t created a dent in the talent available with many qualified, experienced and highly effective sales professional out of work or underemployed.

When sales positions are posted and a company receives applications from talented and qualified candidates, insourcing makes good business sense. Through this process employees already fully trained in the business model and with solid product knowledge and experience can move into sales positions and also be maintained, trained and evaluated for potential moves up the corporate ladder.

This is one of the most critical factors to consider. When a business has a pool or stockpile of current sales professionals able to move into more advanced positions in team management, to take on lead in-house sales roles and to develop a solid network of qualified leads, the business and the employee both win.

The employee on the sales team sees and understands the potential for advancement which motivates them to continue with their professional development and leadership skill development. The company, in turn, has a long period of time to evaluate all employee skill levels, leadership potential and ability to work within the business model and achieve the individual and team goals.

In other words, with insourcing, there is a very low risk in promoting people up through the ranks of the sales team and even into management positions. The company also has full control over the training of the individuals, which can include cross-training for different positions within the sales team to provide a team that can function even through unforeseen issues should a critical team position be left vacant.

It may even be easier to think of the benefits of insourcing as having a farm team. Talent can be mentored, trained and evaluated across real-world experiences and situations before a promotion or a move is offered.

Additional Benefits of Insourcing Sales

There are other benefits to consider with insourcing of in-house sales positions that include:

supervision-icon• Direct supervision and support – when the sales team is present and under your management, there is immediate feedback available, support when atypical issues arise, and full supervision of the team by a manager from the company.

• Collaboration potential – problem solving and innovative ideas are more easily generated with the use of in-house teams. The ability to identify challenges or potential issues and develop workarounds that conform to the company policies or that are used to create new policies gives you full control over how these situations are addressed. Since management can be easily brought into the discussion, sales staff are more likely to understand they have a voice at the table and a vested interest in working to resolve the issue.

ID-specialization-icon• Specializations – often outsourcing companies have the same challenges as any business in finding highly specialized types of sales employees and managers. When a company has these specialized positions, hiring from within may actually be faster than trying to find an outsourcing company offering those specific skill sets in a cost-effective way. The argument for insourcing is solid, and it is one that is used across all departments in a company, not just in sales. Developing top company trained and experienced staff for sales or sales management and leader.

The Benefits of Outsourcing Sales

Outsourcing is a way to bring in new blood, new ideas, new energy and even new possibilities to any company sales team. However, it is not always the right option for every company and business, and it needs to be carefully considered as there can be many benefits of outsourcing sales. However, making the decision to outsource sales staffing is not a simple task. There may be multiple options that make it difficult to insource these jobs, and it may be very challenging to vet potential candidates and get them in place, through the onboarding process and ready to start selling in the necessary window of time.

In general outsourcing of sales teams makes good business sense when:

clock-icon• Time is of the essence – for startups and new businesses, or established businesses changing their business model or going through new product launches, outsourcing provides a very quick transition to a fully trained, experienced and cohesive sales team.


• Lack of qualified candidates
– sometimes, despite those 250 resumes per job opening, you are unable to find the correct candidates for the job. When you have multiple positions to fill or are adding a sales team or restructuring a sales department this lack of qualified candidates can sales-candidatecreate significant challenges that may have a very large financial impact on the company.

Loss of qualified talent – in a survey by Glassdoor for Employers it was found that 46% of those defined as Millenials left their job because of a perceived lack of opportunity for career growth. To add to this 65% of this same group were highly skeptical of the promises made by employers, and were more likely to change jobs for an opportunity for advancement, even if a lower base salary was offered. When companies are constantly losing qualified talent, it is very challenging to develop an effective inside sales team. With an outsourced sales team, this is a non-issue as the sales staff has their own internal progression or advancement model. These 4 professionals are also not as susceptible to heavy recruitment from the competition, creating a more stable sales workforce for short or long-term deployment with the company.

chart-icon• Failing to meet goals – this is a complicated process that can include poor performance on the part of the sales team as well as incorrect metrics developed or the inside sales team. In a report by memoryBlue, many companies over or underestimate the metrics they use as they related to industry averages. This can include the number of calls made per sales rep, the amount of sales or other factors. With an outsourced sales team, the sales model will already include these metrics, providing more accurate information and a clear picture of performance.

manager-icon• Management support – with the services offering outsourced inside sales teams it is also possible to bring in management with the team. This can be a terrific option for a smaller company or a startup, allowing the in-house management team to train and develop until they are ready to assume the leadership roles. When transforming a sales team changing management strategy and skill set may also be an important consideration and this option allows for that time, training and experience working with a proven professional. Additionally, some of the top outsourcing companies will provide support to the

Additional benefits of outsourcing sales can include provided support to the in-house management team to work with B2B sales companies to hire, onboard and develop protocols for creating the insourced sales and management team that will eventually take over. This places the outsourcing company in the role of both a consultant as well as a mentor, literally training and developing the replacement in-house team in the same effective model they are using. Metrics and analysis methods in tracking team effectiveness and success can be further refined to accurately reflect the needs of the company.

Outsourcing sales is typically considered a temporary option for most companies, but the duration of the service can be months to years. While it is difficult to find specific statistics on outsourcing inside sales, in the United States alone in 2013 Source Line Computer Economics reports that 2.6 million jobs were outsourced, with about 20% of companies reporting that the outsourcing was done to transform and/or reorganize internally. In addition, about 9% of companies in the same survey reported the outsourcing was done to speed up the time to enter the market. While this survey was completed on outsourcing to different countries, many of these jobs were in sales and customer service.

25 May 17:19

5 Ways to Boost B2B Sales Through LinkedIn Social Selling

by Russell Banzon

5 Ways to Boost B2B Sales Through LinkedIn Social Selling

If your company is anything like some that I’ve seen around Silicon Valley, your sales reps see their quotas increase quarter after quarter. With lofty goals, every sales rep needs to utilize all the tools he has at his disposal to close the deal.

While social media sometimes gets a bad rep among professionals due to the endless posts about difficult math problems and memes, when done well, social media can be one of the most effective and underutilized channels for sales teams. In this blog, I’ll cover five strategies to use LinkedIn to drive significant revenue for your company:

1. Add Prospective Customers and Share Their Content with Your Network

This may be obvious, but a reminder never hurts: you should always connect with your leads! Having access to the content that they like and share is paramount to having a strong conversation with them. This is especially important to do if your lead is publishing original content on LinkedIn. Why? Because re-promoting their content by sharing it shows your support. Personally, I absolutely love when one of our vendors shares my content. It shows me that the rep is actually interested in having a relationship with me and that I’m not just closed won business.

Remember though, when you invite your prospect, always send them a tailored request to connect. Selling is way better received when it feels like a 1-to-1 relationship, rather than a blanket message to all people. As social selling magnate Nancy Nardin would say, “Social is personal!”

Here’s a basic example:

Personal Note

From the short message above, you can tell that whoever the requestor is (me, in this case), really dove into the person’s profile and even pointed out that the person had something to gain by connecting—content they might be interested in!

Once you begin connecting with prospects, their activity will show up on your feed. You’ll be able to find even more prospects because of this. When your connection, say a sales ops professional, likes another sales ops professional’s content, you’ll find yourself with another lead opportunity.

2. Warm Introductions

Even more powerful than a custom invitation to connect is a warm introduction. As you access people’s profiles, on the top right hand side, LinkedIn will automatically find people who you and your prospect have in common. They even tell you what your connection and your prospect have in common! Let’s look at another example:

Connections

In this example, I would be the sales rep and Elaine would be the prospect I’m looking to reach. Once I see that Sharon is a joint connection, I could reach out to Sharon and ask her if she would be comfortable with giving me a warm introduction to connect with Elaine since they went to the same college. After this introduction, I can steer the ship—but this makes reaching Elaine much easier than coming in cold.

3. Find the Right Leads with Sales Navigator

If you haven’t heard of LinkedIn Sales Navigator yet, you may want to check it out. There are numerous benefits to going premium on LinkedIn, from account filters that show you your target leads at your target companies to the social selling index that measures your social selling effectiveness (which I’ll cover towards the end of this blog).

So how do you get started? First, build out your account lists in Sales Navigator. Following accounts in Sales Navigator will provide you with up-to-date information on what is happening within that company. It gives you updates on what the company is sharing so that you know what your prospects truly care about and what their company is focusing on. Then, you can act on key events, such as funding announcements, to engage in meaningful conversation with your prospects. Being able to kick start a conversation with “Congratulations on the recent funding round” is much stronger than “Hey, I’m Russell.“

Oh yeah, and did I mention you can build lead lists in your target accounts? If you already have your target persona, such as those built to segment and target audiences within your marketing automation platform, take advantage of all the filters the LinkedIn premium account offers to create targeted lists.

LinkedIn Lead Builder

This comes in handy when you need to, for example, find all the VPs of Sales in your region within your account tier, but don’t have a complete list of company names. You can go even deeper with profile filters such as keywords, seniority level, and industry. If you already have a target account list, you should do some account specific profile searching by using the “current company” filter.

4. Build Your Account Contact List with “Export to CRM”

One of the most painful things as a sales rep or business development rep is manually updating your CRM with new leads, which is equally important for your marketing automation platform since often the two platforms integrate seamlessly with the right solutions. Many times you’ll want to do prospecting in LinkedIn, but your CRM is your single source of truth (“If it’s not in the CRM, it never happened” type scenario.) Save additional time by adding in the “Export to CRM” Chrome extension to your browser. This allows you to easily create a contact in your CRM using someone’s LinkedIn profile.

Export to CRM

This is especially helpful for the marketing team, who’s always on the lookout for new names to add to the database. Once they’re in the database, the marketing team can then support the sales team by plugging that contact into different, relevant, campaigns. Keep in mind that these contacts may not have opted-in to receiving email communications from you, so you may need to target them in other ways.

5. Measure Your Success with the Social Selling Index (SSI)

This last tip makes social selling even more fun. LinkedIn provides a way for you to be graded on how well you use the platform to do social selling. There are four criterion that go into this rating. The social selling index (SSI) “measures how effective you are at establishing your professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships.” These factors impact your social selling index:

  • The amount of content you share
  • The number of connections you have with your target audience
  • How often you click on insights on your feed
  • How much you interact with others

If you’re someone who manages social selling, sales enablement, or social media at a company, you can easily get people excited about their SSI score with a sales performance incentive fund (SPIF) and giveaways. Doing a major team-wide competition of who can raise their SSI score to the highest in a specific month can not only help your sales team sell better, but also help you get more brand exposure.

These social selling strategies are a win-win situation, helping you connect with more prospects and develop more meaningful relationships with them. Pretty soon, it won’t be considered “social selling,” it will simply be a part of “selling.”

What other tips do you have to boost sales through LinkedIn or other social platforms? Share them in the comments below!

25 May 17:19

Create a Sales Touch Point Model to Reflect Hyper-Personalization

by Leah Bell

As the selling landscape evolves, it’s becoming more critical every day to communicate with your buyers personally and intentionally. The customer is at the heart of persona based selling, and within each and every workflow, there needs to be a sales touch point model designed specifically around the persona based messaging you’ve created.

To accomplish this as a sincere seller, you must be able to quickly organize people by similar personas, create custom messaging for each, and then test those messages at scale.

This testing begins with fully understanding your buyer personas. Once you’ve identified the personas that you want to approach, both by function and where they live within the buying cycle, it’s finally time to uncover their pain points — specific to their function — and how your solution is going to help relieve those pains.

First, create custom a sales touch point model based off of where each persona likely lives. What is their means of communication? What medium is going to be most conducive to the first conversation?

For example, IT personas are more likely to be reached via emails, where Sales personas are more likely to be reach by phone, and Marketing personas are more likely live on social. So, with each one of these personas, you’re going to have a different cadence of touch points — everything from velocity to the time that you reach out to them.

Enterprise sales personas are going to be longer, more passive touch cycles. Transactional sales will be a quicker, higher sales touch point model, aiming to solicit that first response. These small differences are where the persona based strategy plays into the specific and targeted sales touch point model.

Let’s start with the champion: if you’re building a relationship with a champion, you’re likely going to be able to have a conversation with them fairly easily because the champion is likely the end user — the person who’s working from the bottom up to get the buying cycle moving. Use the champion to gather information, and capitalize on the fact that the sales touch point model will be quicker and faster. (Read: You can put more of them into that funnel.)

But when you look to the influencer, the one who is most parallel to the decision maker (for us at SalesLoft, the decision maker most likely being the Sales Development Manager, Sales Opps, or their Marketing counterpart) you’ll want to focus on who’s going to get side benefits from your solution. The influencer may not be the end buyer, but they are going to be able to help influence the decision maker based on the knowledge of what’s in it for them.

This all leads to your decision maker, the one with whom you’re going to have to be hyper-personalized. Reaching this persona takes a lot of touch points, specific to where they live, with a focus on executive buy-in. This function wants to know the high-level reasoning: How could this solution help me? Where’s the ROI? What’s it going to do to help me grow my business?

When you cater your messaging and touch points to your buyer personas, it’s best to inject those personas with that persona based messaging within your strategic cadence and workflow. The goal is always to ensure the highest rate of conversions from each and every touch point.

The best way to achieve this goal is to create a formula for when and where each one of those personas lives along the timeline of that buying process.

Begin by reaching out to the champion to uncover more information about the organization with questions like, “Who is the decision maker? What is the decision making criteria? What are the pain points that organization experiences?”

Then, with the influencer: give them material. Have conversations around how the side benefits of your solution help them in their role. Give marketing the ability to allocate right resources for building a sales touch point model in the messaging, while also allowing those activities to track back into Salesforce. This is all to give credit where credit’s due — to know what’s working — what messaging, what talk track, etc.

And then finally, with the decision maker, make sure that they fully understand the value prop of your solution, and how it’s going to help them specific to their function. The final executive buy-in is likely going to be with someone that you finally reach in specific scenarios (like when the deal is stuck or you’ve got a previous relationship established).

All in all, these custom messaging tracks are catered completely to the buyer personas and where they live. And it all starts with hypotheses to discover the best plan of action with each one. That’s when you can eventually dive deeper into A/B testing, and truly understanding which messaging converts best.

You’ve created these personas based on function. You’ve created the custom messaging for each persona. And now you’re following through by creating a sales touch point model to reflect this high level of personalization.

At the end of the day, everything we do as sincere sellers has always been focused on the needs, desires, pains, and functions of each person in a sales cycle. This strategy is simply meant to help uncover the best places to communicate with people, and how to implement a customized messaging strategy to connect with your buyers better and faster.

We’re not here to tell you what’s new — we’re here to tell you what works. And delivering personalization, sincerity and professionalism at scale is the key to success in sales development.

For a more comprehensive look into SalesLoft’s internal SDR process, download the second section of our newest playbook trilogy, The Sales Development Playbook: Executing. In this section, we share the ins and outs of efficiently using SalesLoft to call and email prospects.

Download our free white paper and optimize your sales efforts to start crushing your sales development goals today.

Playbook_2

The post Create a Sales Touch Point Model to Reflect Hyper-Personalization appeared first on SalesLoft.

25 May 17:19

How Much Do Your Leads Cost?

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

7_Truths_Header-5.jpgUnderstand the price you are paying for your leads and then optimize.

Document the cost per lead is the fourth of 7 Truths about Sales and Marketing that CEOs need to know. This post is part of a series about the CEO’s role in eliminating wasted marketing spend and increasing sales results.

In the last blog in this series we discussed the need for marketing to be more accountable for driving revenue. Today we will discuss how to document and then optimize the cost per lead, including the Sales Accepted Lead, the Sales Qualified Lead and Closed/Won business.

Key to documenting and then optimizing cost per lead (plus SAL, SQL and closed deals) is first making sure that the agreed upon definition of a lead is met at each stage of lead progression. If you haven’t gained mutual agreement of what a lead is in your organization, determining the cost of a lead is next to impossible—there’s no way to measure. So start by making sure everyone in your sales and marketing organizations know the answers to the following questions:

  • What constitutes a marketing qualified lead? Does this lead meet your industry, organization size and additional criteria required? Have decision makers and influencers been identified, their authority confirmed and their agreement to engage secured? Is the appropriate business issue, compelling event and sense of urgency confirmed? Only if the answers are “yes” to these questions, do you have a lead that you can put a price on.
  • What determines that a lead will be accepted by sales? Have additional decision makers been identified? Have all contacts been engaged? Has a generic solution been agreed upon? Is there a short list in place? Has the decision process and timeframe been uncovered and documented? Only if the answers are “yes” to these questions, do you have a sales accepted lead that you can price.
  • What will it take for an SAL to be considered qualified by sales? Has a custom solution been agreed upon? Is the lead likely to close in one sales cycle? Have the deal specifications been finalized? Is the budget finalized? Only if the answers are “yes” to these questions, do you have a sales qualified lead that you can price.
  • Has the deal closed? Only if the answer is “yes” do you have a closed/won situation that lets you calculate the cost of the getting the deal.

Screen_Shot_2016-05-23_at_2.41.15_PM.pngEven experienced marketing leaders often believe that a company in the correct industry, at the correct size with perhaps one other criteria met (such as “North America”) is sufficient to send to sales as a lead. I tell them that they need a whole lot more information than that (decision makers and influencer data and business issue, compelling event and a sense of urgency) to call a lead sales-ready and worth sales’ time to pursue. My opinion is that you not only need to meet Industry and Firmographic criteria, you also need as criteria to qualify a lead and call it “sales-ready.”

True leads require a lot of work—and that work doesn’t come cheap. A download from a content syndicator is inexpensive, yes, but it is not a lead. Let me give you a real-life example of this—one that is repeated over and over again in most companies. Over the past year our clients’ marketing department generated thousands of “leads” from many sources with the most preferred source called “Downloads from Content Syndicator”—see table Lead Source Analysis below. The marketing team was thrilled with their results. Sales executives, however, were not so thrilled. During the year, marketing spent more than $100,000 driving thousands of so-called leads—while sales reported that they got absolutely nothing of value from marketing. So while the leads were cost effectively generated, none panned out, and all money spent was wasted.

A deeper dive points to the fact that the relatively low cost per lead was offset by the relatively poor quality of the leads as indicated both by the percent of qualified leads generated, 1.28% as a percent of raw leads, and the overall percent of qualified companies. In fact, proactive outbound prospecting produced the most cost-effective method of highly qualified sales opportunities while other sources cost substantially more—as much as two to nine times more.

Lead Source Analysis (actual results for undisclosed client)

table_2_for_blog_series_number_5.png

It is highly likely that a substantial portion, if not all, of the marketing spend results in very little impact on revenue. While it can be difficult (due to discussions over “attribution,”) it is possible to isolate and then optimize cost per lead, per sales accepted lead, per sales qualified lead and per closed won deal with a little work—and it well worth it.

Using industry benchmarks, the cost per B2B lead, SAL, SQL and closed deal are approximately as follows:

table 3 blog series part 5

Note that the costs from Downloads from Content Syndicator are infinite. Those leads were never followed by sales—and marketing, stating that they were too important a source of leads, continued to dump them on the field regardless. This lead quantity over quality action by marketing is killing the return on marketing investments in many if not most companies.

The lesson learned…good leads aren’t cheap, but they’re the ones that deliver value to your company.

What has your organization done to document the cost of leads … and optimize that cost?

For more information on documenting the cost of leads, and optimizing that cost, read the white paper “How Much Should a Lead Cost?” (available here).

The next blog in this series introduces the Judicial Branch—the best way to eliminate finger pointing between marketing and sales, and keep leads from being ignored by the field.

 

New Call-to-action

25 May 17:19

5 Not-So-Obvious Ways Sales Can Leverage Content Marketing to Close Deals

by Alex Lopes

sales-leverage-content-marketing

You put a lot of time into showing the amount of visits and leads that your content produces, but the content marketing team is still relegated to the child’s table.

But sales? Sales always gets a seat at the grown-up table. How do they do it?

After all, you’re just as responsible for driving revenue as the sales department. They wouldn’t have great sales-ready leads to close if it weren’t for your content marketing efforts.

As professionals, we want our work to be viewed as critical to growing the companies where we work. But here is the brutal truth: Executives measure the success by revenue, not by effort.

Traffic and leads are great. However, if your content marketing efforts don’t directly move the financial needle, you probably aren’t going to be invited to the grown-up table.

If this resonates with you, there is hope.

Content marketing can be leveraged to not just create the potential for deals, but to actually help the sales team close deals.


#Contentmarketing can be leveraged to create the potential & help sales close deals via @SharebirdInc
Click To Tweet


Here are five challenges that keep deals from closing that your content marketing can fix. And what’s even greater is that none of these fixes requires you to create new content.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
Content is Bigger Than Marketing

1. Sales reps need to be seen as thought leaders

What percentage of your leads don’t convert to appointments for your sales reps? I’m guessing it’s somewhere in the ballpark of 90%.

How many leads do your sales reps generate on their own? I’m guessing that number is lower than you would like as well.

Many times, potential customers don’t engage with your company because they think it is a waste of their time. They aren’t interested in talking with a sales rep about your product.

Instead, they are interested in talking with a thought leader about a solution.

Many studies show that your prospects are craving guidance from your sales reps. According to LinkedIn research, 92% percent of buyers engage if the professional is a known industry thought leader.


92% of buyers engage if the professional is a known industry thought leader via @LinkedIn research
Click To Tweet


92%! That would seriously flip your sales reps’ number of appointments on its head.

What makes someone a thought leader? Great content!

If your sales reps can share valuable content on their social media channels and in communicating with prospects, then buyers would see them as valuable resources and be more willing to engage.

Try this: Provide your sales team with a helpful infographic and ask them to write their own 200-word introduction. Have them publish it through their LinkedIn account. (To publish a post, click on “Publish a post” on your dashboard, write your post, and publish.)

LinkedIn-Publish-A-Post

2. Sales reps need to build a relationship digitally

Gone are the days when your sales reps could walk into the offices of their prospects. If your company is like most, your inside sales team is growing and your field sales team is shrinking.

A USC study found that twice as many companies were moving to an inside sales model as those that were moving to a field sales model. Here are two reasons why:

  • It is more cost-effective to have an inside sales team rather than an in-the-field sales team – up to 90 percent less expensive according to venture capitalist David Skok.
  • Nearly half of buyers more readily accept the remote-selling process.

But as face-to-face opportunities decline so do opportunities to build personal relationships. Would your closest friends even be friends if you didn’t spend quality time with them? You can imagine the uphill climb that your sales reps are facing.

To scale the relationship mountain, your sales reps need content marketing – not sales collateral but thought-leadership content. Why? Sharing thought-leadership content helps your sales reps become trusted advisers because the content may help the potential customer solve a pain point. It also enables your prospects to humanize the relationship and see the sales rep as someone who knows them and cares about them as individuals.

Try this: When you write a new article, share it with your sales reps with a bullet-point list of reasons why a prospect would find the article beneficial.

3. Sales reps need to stay top of mind between long touchpoints

If your prospect has to budget for your solution (meaning it’s not cheap enough to put on their company credit card without approval), then your sales reps likely don’t have enough touchpoints to stay top of mind.

As a result, they look for any excuse to reach out to their contacts. The last thing they want is for the prospect to put your product on the back burner.

And there is a good chance that your product does go on the back burner without meaningful touchpoints. As a result, your sales reps are craving ways to keep the momentum going.

Instead of the usual, “I would love to connect to hear how things are,” that your sales reps shovel out to prospects, your content marketing can give them a value-added reason to reach out.

Try this: When you publish a report, study, or any other carrot content, share it with your sales reps so they can share it immediately with their prospects.

You also should provide easy access to older reports and studies so that sales reps can conveniently find and share them during the sales cycle.

4. Sales reps need to help their prospects sell internally

The average company has seven execs involved in a B2B tech-buying decision. When your sales reps are selling to their prospect organizations, they are no longer selling to one person. They are selling to a committee.


The average company has 7 execs involved in a B2B tech-buying decision via @marketingcharts
Click To Tweet


And what makes this situation even more challenging for your sales reps is that in many cases, they don’t even know who those committee members are.

To sell your product, the sales rep relies heavily on one of those committee members or influencers to champion your product. This prospect champion has been drinking your Kool-Aid. They understand the problem that you solve, and how important the problem is. Your sales reps can provide the prospect champions with tools (i.e., content) to educate their fellow decision-makers about how your product can solve their problem.

I’m not talking about content focused on your product. I’m talking about content focused on the problem. Why? Because even though you’ve built demand with the prospect, their colleagues are starting from ground zero. And if this is done well, there is a good chance that you’ve not only increased the odds that your sales reps close that prospect, but it could even lead to multi-year deals.

Try this: Provide helpful content that tells the story of how your company solves prospects’ problems. I’ve found infographics to be really helpful at this stage. Infographics are highly digestible. Busy executives usually find them much easier to understand than a long white paper or case study. As a result, it’s more likely to be shared, and more likely to be viewed.

5. Sales reps need to understand their prospect’s world

It’s a frustrating feeling to hand over really qualified, sales-ready leads, just to see them squandered. Or at least that’s what it feels like. It’s hard not to point fingers at sales. They are clamoring for better leads. So you gave them to them. And now your one shot with that prospect is gone.

But why did the lead get botched? It may be because your sales reps couldn’t speak their prospect’s language. According to Forrester, 76% of prospects don’t want to meet with sales because they think sales reps “can’t relate to my role and responsibilities in the organization.”

Luckily for your sales team, your content marketing could solve this problem because you have done the research to craft well-developed personas for your company’s target audiences. That’s the type of training that your sales reps need in order to speak the prospects’ language. Not just once, but all the time. That will help them turn your leads into revenue.

Try this: Join the weekly sales meeting in your company, and do two things. First, share your most recent and relevant content. Second, ask your sales reps to share how they used your previously shared content. That’s a quick way to ensure that they are reading your content and learn how they find it useful in closing deals.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
How to Build Buyer Personas That Build Sales

Conclusion

Sales needs to distribute valuable, relevant, and consistent content to drive profitable customer action. Thus, sales needs content marketing.

By helping your sales reps distribute your content marketing, you’ll continue to build the business case for how content marketing drives revenue. And the best part of this approach is that it doesn’t require new content creation to get you a seat at the grown-up table.

Want to amp up your content marketing to be even more valuable to your sales team, download CMI’s 2016 Content Marketing Playbook.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post 5 Not-So-Obvious Ways Sales Can Leverage Content Marketing to Close Deals appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

24 May 16:46

I spent 10 days riding a motorbike through the mountains of Vietnam, and it was the greatest adventure of my life

by Jonathan Garber

Vietnam

Back in 2008, I spent a summer abroad in China as part of my grad school studies. When my studies concluded, I had the chance to travel around Southeast Asia, visiting Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

And while the entire summer was amazing, nothing was quite like the motorbike trip I took over my last 10 days in Asia. Here's what it's like to experience Offroad Vietnam

SEE ALSO: 5 maps that explain China's strategy

The trip began in Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, and spanned the mountainous Northwest region of the country. The estimated location of the trip is highlighted by the red square on the map.



I had never been on a motorcycle before, and had just one hour to learn the day before we left. Having never driven manual transmission before, I ended up with this scooter. It was less powerful so I struggled climbing mountains, but was faster on the straightaways.



We arrived at the the Offroad Vietnam office at about 7am to load up the bikes. When we finally left, it was rush hour in Hanoi. This picture doesn't even show how crazy and chaotic the streets are. There are motorbikes everywhere.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
24 May 16:43

Why U.S. manufacturing may not need Trump or Sanders to return it to ‘greatness’

by Joe Chidley

Imagine, if you will, a presidential debate between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. At some point, the question of trade, jobs and manufacturing would be bound to come up, and the replies might go something like this:

Sanders: “Guys like Donald Trump embody everything that’s wrong with America. Corporate bigwigs and one-per-centers like him have got rich on the backs of American workers. Over the past three decades, free trade agreements — every one of which I have opposed — have decimated the middle class and our manufacturing sector. We’ve lost tens of millions of jobs to China and Vietnam. We have to fight back. Only by ripping up trade agreements, repatriating manufacturing and caring more about jobs than corporate profits can we make America great again.”

Trump: “Bernie, you’re an idiot. Only somebody as out of touch as you could make a stupid argument like that. The real problem with America today is that we’re weak, and countries like China have been screwing us. We need to bring back all those manufacturing jobs. We’ve got to stop being so lily-livered. I’ll force China to play fair. I’ll make American companies make stuff here in America. I’ll rip up those dumb free trade agreements. I will be the greatest president for American workers ever.”

You get my drift. Though they position themselves on opposite poles of the political spectrum, Trump and Sanders agree on one thing: American manufacturing sucks, and the next president should take extreme measures to restore it to “greatness.” The result will be jobs for everybody. An American renaissance. A chicken in every pot.

As Canadians, we like to watch these fireworks, and often dismiss what presidential candidates say as campaign blather — which it is. But it’s nevertheless important, because the U.S. debate on manufacturing, trade and jobs has clear implications for Canada. An anti-trade president would probably be bad news for this country, which depends so much on access to U.S. markets.

The other thing we might want to pay attention to is that both Trump and Sanders have a point, sort of. And in some ways, when it comes to manufacturing and American “greatness,” they are right — just maybe not in the way they intend.

For one thing, it’s true that U.S. manufacturing jobs have evaporated over the past few decades. Between 1998 and 2008, the U.S. lost almost a quarter of its manufacturing jobs — more than four million.

This is a familiar story, but it might not be accurate to single out America as the big wimp, manufacturing-wise. The same trend happened throughout the developed world, including Canada, which lost more than 450,000 manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2009, according to Statistics Canada. That dropped the sector’s share of overall employment during that period dropped from 16 per cent to just 10 per cent. And similar shocks to manufacturing occurred in the United Kingdom, Japan and Europe.

Sanders and Trump would no doubt attribute these declines in large part to the rise of China as the world’s manufacturing powerhouse, and they would in part be right. While manufacturing employment declined in the developed world through the last decade, it soared in China. From 2002 to 2009, the number of manufacturing jobs there grew by more than 15 per cent, while manufacturing wages increased by a factor of nearly three.

So, did this effectively neuter America’s leadership at making things? Well, not quite. In fact, real U.S. manufacturing output grew by more than 25 per cent from 2002 to 2008. And although jobs declined, wages increased by nearly 15 per cent over the same period.

Here’s where Trump and Sanders are probably wrong. Manufacturing in the U.S. didn’t die with the rise of China: it adapted, and became better at making stuff with fewer people.

That’s because what’s going on now in manufacturing globally is less a “race to the bottom” (in terms of worker wages) than a “race to the top” (in terms of value-added). One way to get a handle on this is through industrial robot sales, which grew by eight per cent last year to reach a new sales record of 240,000 units. Some 66,000 of those were sold in China, but 34,000 were sold in North America.

It’s not at all clear that this is costing U.S. jobs. While factory employment may never again reach pre-2000 levels, since cratering after the 2008-09 recession, U.S. manufacturing employment has grown by nearly seven per cent since early 2010. That’s not phenomenal, but it’s hardly a disaster either. (By way of comparison, manufacturing employment in Canada has basically flat-lined since the recession.)

So it’s not all bad for factories or jobs in the U.S., despite what Trump/Sanders says. And the future may actually be pretty rosy.

A recent survey conducted by Deloitte and the Council on Competitiveness found that China is the world’s most competitive manufacturing nation — but also that the U.S. was a close second. More importantly, the study predicts that by 2020, the U.S. will surpass China in terms of manufacturing competitiveness. The reason: as manufacturers use more advanced technologies, developed countries — the U.S., chief among them – will increasingly benefit because of higher levels of innovation, robust legal and IP infrastructure, and a better supply of highly skilled workers.

So here’s the thing: If Trump or Sanders (or whoever) manages to get elected, he will no doubt claim credit for America’s return to manufacturing powerhouse status. But it may well get there no matter who becomes the next president of the United States.

24 May 16:39

Cuba to legalize small and medium-sized private businesses

by CB Staff

HAVANA – Cuba announced Tuesday that it will legalize small and medium-sized private businesses, a move that could significantly expand the space allowed for private enterprise in one of the world’s last communist countries.

Until now, the government has allowed private enterprise only by self-employed workers in several hundred established categories like restaurant owner or hairdresser. Many of those workers have become de-facto small business owners employing other Cubans. But there are widespread complaints about the difficulties of running a business in a system that does not officially recognize them. Low-level officials often engage in crackdowns on successful businesses for supposed violations of the arcane rules on self-employment.

Communist Party documents published Tuesday said a category of small, mid-sized and “micro” private business is being added to the party’s master plan for social and economic development, which was approved by last month’s Cuban Communist Party Congress. The twice-a-decade meeting sets the direction for the single-party state for the coming five years.

The documents say that the three categories of business will be recognized as legal entities separate from their owners, implying a degree of protection that hasn’t so far existed for self-employed workers.

“Private property in certain means of production contributes to employment, economic efficiency and well-being, in a context in which socialist property relationships predominate,” reads one section of the “Conceptualization of the Cuban Economic and Social Model of Socialist Development.”

“This is a tremendously important step,” said Alfonso Valentin Larrea Barroso, director-general of Scenius, a co-operatively run economic consulting firm in Havana. “They’re creating, legally speaking, the non-state sector of the economy. They’re making that sector official.”

He said that about 6,000 de facto small and medium sized businesses now operate under self-employed workers’ licenses. This bars them from most dealings with the Cuban state, which maintains inefficient monopolies on imports and exports. As a result, most private businesses are forced to buy scarce supplies from state retail stores or on the black market, driving up prices for ordinary Cubans. Others pay networks of “mules” to import goods in checked airline baggage, adding huge costs and delays.

Larrea said he believed that legally recognized private business would be able to deal officially with state importers and exporters, allowing them to obtain wholesale goods more cheaply and efficiently.

“It’s a necessary step,” he said.

Reforms initiated by President Raul Castro after he became president in 2008 have allowed about half a million Cubans to transition to work in the private sector despite the extensive limits on self-employment. New categories of small and mid-sized businesses create the potential for many more jobs in the private sector, although Castro’s reforms have been slow and marked by periodic reversals of many reforms.

Reversals and crackdowns have been particularly marked in reforms that allow private businesses to flourish and compete with state monopolies, leading entrepreneurs to complain of constantly changing signals about the government’s desire for reform.

The 32-page party document is the first comprehensive accounting of the decisions taken by the party congress, which was closed to the public and international press. State media reported few details of the debate or decisions taken at the meeting but featured harsh rhetoric from leading officials about the continuing threat from U.S. imperialism and the dangers of international capitalism.

That tough talk, it now appears, was accompanied by what could be a major step in Cuba’s ongoing reform of its centrally planned economy.

Any such change will take months to go into effect. Major reforms like allowing new forms of business almost certainly must be formally approved by the country’s National Assembly, which is expected to hold one of its biannual meetings by August.

_____

Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein

The post Cuba to legalize small and medium-sized private businesses appeared first on Canadian Business - Your Source For Business News.

24 May 15:01

The 14 Best Content Planning and Research Tools

by Tom Pick

With 93% of B2B marketers now using content marketing to build brand awareness and generate leads, success going forward will require producing higher-quality content—not just more of it.

Best content marketing planning and research toolsCreating high-quality content starts with planning (deciding what to write about) and research (determining what to say about those topics).

Those decisions will start with your company’s content strategy and collaboration between marketing, PR and sales. There are also a number of tools that can be helpful with both content ideation and research. Here are 14 of the most useful tools for managing and executing the initial stages of content development.

4 Best Content Planning Tools

1) Trello
Google Review Count: 1,190,000

A project management tool that uses cards and lists to coordinate efforts between team members for content planning (or other types of projects). Users can add checklists, labels, and due dates, and project information is kept in sync across devices.

Sample review: “Trello is a simple, yet effective project management tool following the agile development model. The app uses “lanes” to identify columns of where specific tasks or “cards” are in the process of your project, keeping your project organized.” — SmartBug Media

Pricing: free to $21 per month

Showcase reviews: Online Marketing Institute, Anders Orsander, Marketing Insider Group (Strategy), Blogging Wizard, SmartBug Media, StoreYa Blog, Social Media Examiner, Marketing Insider Group (Content), Express Writers, SnapApp

2) Podio
Google Review Count: 715,000

Project management tool from Citrix that includes online chat, meeting scheduling, social collaboration, and workflow automation for content planning and development or other purposes.

Sample review: “Podio is a project management tool, and can help you keep your content projects in check much the same way as Trello – with the added bonus of nifty Apps you can add it and use for different functions (like collaboration and research).” — Online Marketing Institute

Pricing: $9 to $24 per month, plus custom pricing for enterprises

Showcase reviews: Online Marketing Institute

3) Bubbl.us

Google Review Count: 57,800

Online brainstorming tool enabling individuals or groups to create mindmaps, organize thoughts and ideas, and plan goals.

Sample review: “This is a very easy-to-use tool for brainstorming and creating mindmaps. I use it for mapping out different content and blog post types to include in my editorial calendars.” — Online Marketing Institute

Pricing: free to $59 per month, plus custom pricing for enterprises

Showcase reviews: Online Marketing Institute, Siasat

4) CoSchedule
Google Review Count: 30,700

Online editorial calendar for content marketing and social media planning. Includes social media scheduling and workflow planning, and integrates with WordPress, Google Docs and Evernote.

Sample review: “Super user friendly, works perfect and is very affordable! On top of providing easy-to-use editorial calendar management, CoSchedule also provides a feature to promote our content on our social channels (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and G+). I can even connect it to my Buffer account. It simply rocks!” — RazorSocial

Pricing: $60 to $300 per month

Showcase reviews: BuzzBlogger, RazorSocial, Blogging Wizard, SnapApp

10 Best Content Research Tools

1) Google Scholar
Google Review Count: 4,970,000

A specialized search engine which provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.

Sample review: “I don’t know why more people don’t talk about Google Scholar, but I love this tool for researching science-heavy articles and digging into emerging studies…Pair it with a Google Alert to get amazing research on your topics of interest delivered right to your inbox.” — Buffer Social

Pricing: free

Showcase reviews: Buffer Social

2) Google Trends
Google Review Count: 592,000

Discover the most popular topics people are searching for right now, or investigate historical search. For example, almost no one looked for information about “content marketing” prior to early 2011, but interest really soared a couple of years later, with search volume tripling between December 2012 and January 2014.

Sample review: “There is no reason to overlook the obvious. Use this constantly to make sure that the keywords you are targeting are not losing steam. You’ll also be able to get suggestions for other valuable keywords.” — StoreYa Blog

Pricing: free

Showcase reviews: Buffer Social, Perception System, Cent Muruganandam, StoreYa Blog, Express Writers

3) HARO
Google Review Count: 333,000

HARO (Help a Reporter Out) gives journalists and bloggers access to a database of sources for upcoming stories, and offers subject matter experts daily opportunities to secure valuable media coverage.

Sample review: “Writing an article, but don’t have the perfect source? Submit a posting with Help A Reporter Out and responses will begin flowing into your email box. Looking to become the front page of Time? Use the HARO emails to help other reporters out with their next big story.” — Social Media Today

Pricing: free to $149 per month

Showcase reviews: Social Media Today

4) Wolfram|Alpha
Google Review Count: 234,000

Wolfram|Alpha is an engine for computing answers and providing knowledge. It works by using a large store of expert-level knowledge and algorithms to automatically answer questions, perform analysis, and generate reports.

Pricing: basic version free; Pro version $5.49 per month

Showcase reviews: Siasat, Johnny Lists

5) SimilarSites
Google Review Count: 230,000

Enter any URL and find other websites that are similar. A Firefox browser extension is also available.

Pricing: free

Showcase reviews: Siasat

6) Snopes.com
Google Review Count: 85,100

An independent fact-checking site, Snopes bills itself as “the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation.” Check on current news stories or submit rumors for investigation.

Pricing: free

Showcase reviews: Siasat

7) Think With Google
Google Review Count: 54,000

Digital marketing data, statistics, insights, and trends tracked and collected by Google across industries, platforms and audiences.

Pricing: free

Showcase reviews: iMedia Connection

8) Google History
Google Review Count: 39,200

Helpful for finding information you’ve previously searched for. Displays your Google search history across devices, including YouTube searches.

Pricing: free

Showcase reviews: Siasat

9) Consumer Barometer
Google Review Count: 12,100

Another Google marketing research tool, this one reveals how people across the world use the Internet. Create graphs, compare trended data over time, and explore curated research highlights.

Pricing: free

Showcase reviews: Online Marketing Institute

10) Google Drive Research Tool
Google Review Count: 12,100

Perform quick research while working on a document or presention in Google docs. Search for everything related to a specific topic, or narrow the search to images, Scholar, quotes, dictionary definitions, tables, or results from yuor personal files stored on Google Drive.

Pricing: free

Showcase reviews: HubSpot, SnapApp

Showcase Review Links

Anders Orsander
Blogging Wizard (Content)
Blogging Wizard (Writing)
Buffer Social
BuzzBlogger
Cent Muruganandam
Express Writers
HubSpot
iMedia Connection
Johnny Lists
Marketing Insider Group (Content)
Marketing Insider Group (Strategy)
Online Marketing Institute
Perception System
RazorSocial
Siasat
SmartBug Media
SnapApp
Social Media Examiner
Social Media Today
StoreYa Blog

24 May 15:00

Your Sales Content Doesn’t Resonate with Buyers [Report]

by Tal Vinnik

conference-room

In recent research, Forrester has found that sellers demonstrate strong knowledge about their products only 52 percent of the time. What should be alarming, though, is that only 10 percent of buyers think that salespeople understand their specific concerns or are able to share relevant information with them. Buyers are looking for helpful information, but they’re continuously presented with generic PowerPoint decks. In a recent report, Breakout Vendors: Sales Content Management, Forrester laid out how several solution providers are helping sales organizations meet their buyers’ needs.

Dedicated sales content management tools are the first step

Forrester’s report explains 3 ways that companies approach managing their sales content:

  1. Using what they already have. Companies who have an enterprise content management system (ECM) might try to make these systems work for sales distribution. But, as Forrester writes, “these tools require sales reps to sift through sales and non-sales content, do not connect content with customer relationship management (CRM) data, and do not facilitate salesperson collaboration.” There’s also the challenge of keeping new and relevant surfacing to the top when 60% of content goes unused.
  2. Getting a dedicated system for sales. The first step that companies can take towards better content management is to get a tool specifically for it. These allow salespeople easy access to content meant specifically for sales. The tools can include effectiveness ratings and CRM integration, but they don’t help guide reps or lead to more engaging conversations with prospects.
  3. Using a solution to transform the sales process. Another approach, which Forrester focused on for the Breakout Vendor report, goes beyond basic content management. These use analytics, mobility, and streaming video for more relevant confident that makes for more confident reps. Features such as interactive sales content help transform the selling process to better address prospect needs. With our support for engaging end user interaction, Forrester covers Mediafly as one of the breakout vendors in this report.

Sales content management is a life cycle

The vendors explored in the Forrester report all treat sales content management as a flexible and agile life cycle, aligning sales and marketing. According to the Forrester report, the life cycle consists of 4 parts:

  • Analytics
  • Construction
  • Delivery
  • Engagement

Salespeople present to customers, which gives feedback into the sales content management platform. That feedback goes back to marketing, who optimizes content based on sales content metrics, and maximizes value for customers and prospects.

Breakout tech will deepen engagement (and shorten sales cycles)

Buyer-seller interactions are changing, with modern buyers demanding sellers become more consultants than order-takers. With overall B2B sales cycles getting longer with more and more stakeholders getting involved with purchasing decisions, it’s crucial that salespeople move beyond canned pitches and meet their buyers’ needs and concerns head-on.

The breakout vendors in the content management space, Forrester believes, are “driving innovation around content creation, engagement, and analytics in sales content management.” Mediafly, for example, “allows reps to bridge the knowledge and understanding gap between themselves and their customers,” empowering them to display relevant content like case studies, promotions, or other content.

As traditional slide decks disappear from positive sales interactions, modern companies need to invest in solutions that establish trust between salespeople and prospects, while keeping buyers engaged at every moment in the sales cycle.

For more on how sales reps can increase productivity and engagement, download our eBook below.

sales productivity ebook CTA

Image credit: Conference room by FreeStockPhotos

24 May 14:59

The Bad Sales Cycle

by Keenan

Sales isn’t about taking, or convincing. It’s not about forcing or cajoling.

Sales is about giving, teaching, coaching, educating, sharing and engaging. Sales is about helping, that’s all.

Today it’s easy to forget that.  The pressure to perform, to get to quota and to win in sales is intense. It’s this pressure that ends up perverting sales.

Because of this pressure buyers don’t allow sales people to help, as they don’t trust them. The don’t see them as trying to help, they see them as trying to take.

When buyers won’t let sales people help, sales people push harder, they start trying to convince, force, and cajole. They stop selling.

When sales people stop selling, things only get worse and the pressure increases.

When the pressure increases, sales pushes harder, cajoles more and teaches, shares, and consults less, even when new buyers want a sales person’s help.

The cycle has begun.

To avoid this negative cycle or get out of the cycle, a sales person’s job ISN’T to get the customer to listen to their pitch or buy their product. It’s simply to get them to be open to help.

When prospects and buyers are open to help and the sales person is honestly providing it, that’s when selling is happening.

Figure out how to get prospects and buyers to want your help, and the rest will take care of itself.

 

24 May 14:59

The Importance of Consistency Provided by the Sales Process

by Stephan Hagelauer

There are two things that unite virtually every sales organization: 1) the desire to improve sales performance and 2) to achieve results as quickly as possible. In this series of posts, I discuss three ways in which the sales process can be used as a blueprint for rapid behavior change that drives better results. The first post in the series focused on common language; this second post focuses on the consistency provided by the sales process.

Consistency Across the Organization

The leading concern of sales executives is the lengthening of sales cycles, with deals getting stuck in the pipeline. According to research reported by the Aberdeen Group, in September 2015, 52% of sales executives reported this as a top concern. The Aberdeen report also found best-in-class sales organizations reported a 16% shorter average sales cycle than under-performing companies.

More research, this time by Harvard Business Review, also in 2015, discovered that salesforces were “most effective in managing their sales pipelines if they had invested time in defining a credible, formalized sales process. In fact, there was an 18% difference in revenue growth between companies that defined a formal sales process and companies that didn’t.”

As you might expect, just having a sales process doesn’t guarantee success. The process itself must meet a number of qualifiers to be effective.

  • It must be aligned with the buying process of customers
  • It must provide clear direction for sellers’ activities and outcomes at each stage
  • It must become part of the conversation that sales managers have with their direct reports, coaching them to develop their skills and adopt desired behaviors

With the Richardson sales methodology, the process is typically broken into such stages as these: Qualification, Discovery, Proposal, Presentation, Solution Refinement, and Contract. Each stage is customized to specific client organizations and their customers’ buying process. Activities are sequenced to deliver maximum value to buyers, with dialogue models, tools, and verifiable outcomes identified for each stage. The result is a consistent, repeatable, and effective process that sellers and sales managers can use to work opportunities in the pipeline as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The second biggest concern of sales leaders, as identified by Aberdeen Group research, was that “sellers can’t differentiate themselves/us from competitors,” which at 37% signifies a major problem. Again, consistency is part of the solution, both in process (what needs to be done) and in skills (how things are done).

Sales leaders want to be confident in their teams’ ability to be credible and valuable partners to their customers. They need a consistent way to determine what happens in the field and whether sellers have the skills to clearly articulate value.

The sales process can provide that consistency, allowing sales managers to quickly diagnose where the problems are and recommend changes in behavior to make sure that their people are doing and saying the right things at the right times. The outcome should be a greater consistency of selling behaviors across the organization and have a positive impact on the sales cycle, accelerating results.

sales-process-consulting

The post The Importance of Consistency Provided by the Sales Process appeared first on Richardson Sales Training and Enablement Blog.

24 May 14:58

This Is What Your Marketing and Sales Funnel Really Looks Like

by Ben Jessup

The sales funnel has evolved. The tried and true sales and marketing model has been surpassed by flywheels, bowties, and more. But just like your grandmother kept her old cookie cutters to make Christmas cookies every year, the traditional sales and marketing funnel is still a helpful guide.

the ideal sales funnel shape

The ideal marketing and sales funnel is symmetrical in form – a model of efficiency that makes sense of your visitors, leads, opportunities, and customers.

But YOUR sales funnel isn’t that perfect, new cookie cutter shape.

A Marketing Team Can Improve Your Funnel

Many B2B companies aren’t thinking about their sales funnels. Those that are, may not be thinking about how it is shaped, and what that means to their business.

Often, business owners try to tackle marketing and sales initiatives by themselves. The problem with that, is they don’t understand the relationship between funnel shape, and marketing and sales activities. They start throwing a bunch of marketing tactics at their problems without a clearly-defined understanding of what’s really wrong.

First – Don’t Be A Bottleneck

In a growing business, a successful inbound marketing program needs a team of experts and specialists in analytical, strategic, and creative fields. As a business owner, you shouldn’t be the bottleneck to marketing and sales. You need to hire, what we call, a “Sarah.”

Hire “Sarah” (a junior marketing team member) to help guide your marketing efforts alongside freelancers or a marketing agency. With you out of the way, your funnel shape identified, and Sarah at the wheel, your marketing will start to get some traction.

How to Find Your Marketing and Sales Funnel’s Shape

Not sure what your sales funnel looks like? Ask these questions:

  • How many site visitors do you have each month?
  • How many leads do you get during that time?
  • Do you already have a database of contacts?
  • How many sales opportunities come through in a month?
  • How many closed sales do you earn in that period?

Knowing these details will give you all the information you need to clearly see the shape of your company’s funnel—uncover problem spots and discover opportunities for where you need to invest your marketing team’s time and effort.

Which of these funnels is yours?

Discover Your Marketing and Sales Funnels Shape

Too Many Leads

too many leads sales funnel shape

If you’re like most B2B companies, you’re marketing and sales funnel looks something like this. This is because:

  • You don’t have a lot of website visitors.
  • You do have a giant database of leads and contacts, but most are old and un-engaged.
  • You are starving for more closed sales.
  • So you are paying close attention to the few leads that come in.

It’s not the time to be focusing too much on attracting visitors. Instead, Take a look at how you can improve this funnel shape.

Not Enough Leads

not enough leads sales funnel shape

You’ve got a strange lookin’ funnel here. It is because:

  • You have a TON of visitors coming to your website
  • You’ve got hardly any leads
  • You’re doing a phenomenal job attracting people to your site, but you’re not converting them

Learn how to correct this funnel shape with our Understand Your Sales Funnel Guide.

Low Close Rate

Low close rate sales funnel shape

This one is pretty simple – you have a low close rate. Here is what you are doing right:

  • Your visits are good
  • You are converting your visitors to leads
  • The opportunities from your leads are solid

So for one reason or another, your leads are pulling back at the last minute and you can’t close your opportunities. Take a look at your short and long term fixes for this.

Not Enough Visitors

Not Enough Visitors sales funnel shape

This funnel looks more like a tube because there’s almost no difference in the number of visitors and sales. In this case:

  • All of your visitors immediately want to buy
  • You have ridiculously high conversion rates all the way down the funnel

As great as this might seem at first, it’s a malnourished funnel. This funnel is a sign that you have very little brand exposure and all of your visitors already know who you are—probably due to referrals. Learn how to fix it.

What Shape Is Your Funnel?

Know what your funnel looks like, and you’ll identify your greatest marketing and sales needs. Attack the problem areas over the next quarter and reassess your funnel. Then adjust your focus based on the way the shape has shifted.

Understanding the shape of your sales funnel is key to building an effective marketing strategy. If you want to know just a bit more about the shape of your funnel and some possible short term and long term solutions take a look at our Understand Your Sales Funnel Guide.

24 May 14:58

7 Reasons Why You Need to Take Your Facebook Page Seriously

by Laura Donovan

Many business owners think that just setting up a business page on Facebook and posting a few updates here and there is adequate.

71% of online adults use Facebook. (Pew Research Center) Facebook is an important tool for marketing and advertising. Paid advertising on Facebook generates great results, but daily marketing on the business page can achieve great results too.

Unfortunately, not understanding how the business page works for a business is the problem. Business pages on Facebook do not always generate immediate results. Like any other marketing or advertising campaign results may not be as obvious.

Here are 7 things a business page can accomplish with an active, interesting, engaging and professional daily marketing strategy:

  1. Increased Exposure

Your Facebook page has a built in audience. This audience likely consists of current customers and potential customers. Engaging with the current customers generates loyalty and encourages them to share your information with their friends, which helps generate new leads. The daily campaign also aims to convert the potential customers into current customers.

  1. Generate Warm Leads & Referrals

Posting daily updates at least 1 to 3 or more times per day will ensure your business stays in front of the audience. Hopefully, this audience will engage with your update. Those interactions will then be shared with their networks. Your online visibility and branding have now increased and more people are aware of you. Additionally, by staying in front of your current customers and nurturing that brand loyalty they will then refer their friends to your business.

  1. Collect Lead Information

Facebook provides a great way to gather information about the individuals in your network. Friends of the page are an instant database of potential leads. If your Facebook page disappeared tomorrow would you be able to reach the people who followed your updates? Gathering the emails and information from this network will provide the ability to reach them outside of Facebook through emails or even offline.

  1. Reach a Specific Audience

Facebook updates provide the ability to target specific individuals who are friends of the business page or potential friends of the page.

For example, if you post an update that would only be relevant to teachers you can target the friends of your page who fit this demographic so that only teachers will see the update. The demographics can be targeted to interests, purchasing history, age, gender, location, and more.

Additionally, you can also expand the reach of the update by paying to boost the post. There are several options for an audience with the boosted post:

  • Reach friends of the page.
  • Reach friends of the page AND their friends.
  • Reach a new audience with specific demographics or by location.

Typically the cost to boost a post is just a few dollars and can be quite effective.

  1. Boost SEO/Search Rank

Most businesses are concerned with SEO and have paid handsomely to achieve optimized search rank. Many SEO companies focus only on the website, optimizing the site, using keywords, etc. Unfortunately, most ignore Social Media. Social Media activity is important for SEO. Facebook updates, activity, interactions (likes, comments and shares) and business page descriptions and information all contribute to Search Rank.

Posting updates several times a day, including a variety of topics as well as updates about your industry or your business will improve your Search Rank.

  1. Increase Website Traffic

Most businesses have websites. The website is the place for the business to introduce their services/products and provide enough information to hopefully close the deal and make a sale or grab a hot lead.

Though getting people to the website can be a challenge. Facebook provides a built-in audience to target and get them to click through to your site. This increased traffic will also contribute to your SEO and Search Rank.

  1. Monitor Your Competitors

Facebook has a feature that allows business pages to watch what their competitors are doing on the site. On the business page there is a feature called “Pages to Watch” that provides businesses in your area that are similar to your industry or niche. Once you select the businesses you want to watch you can then how many likes their page has and how many new friends they got that week. You can also click through to see what their daily campaign looks like.

If a page you are watching suddenly has a high number of new friends for the week you can click over to their page and see what they are doing to generate interest. Your strategy can then potentially be changed to mirror what they are doing for results.

(If you are not active with your business page on Facebook, check out the Pages to Watch and take a look at what your competitors are doing. If they have a strong presence, daily updates, a high friend count they are using Facebook effectively. They are likely also in front of your customers and potential customers either stealing away your current customers or generating leads from your potential customers. If they are there you need to be there too or you could be losing business and not even know it.)

Facebook business pages are an important tool. Each and every update on the page matters. Whether it is a goofy meme that your friends share or an update about a sales special or even an article that you think your audience may find useful these updates actually contribute to your bottom line.

Stop wasting this opportunity and start using your business page as the serious marketing tool it actually is to grow your business and generate some revenue.

24 May 14:58

Stop These Poor Lead Nurturing Habits in Your Marketing

by Matt Ford

For those that have not actualized inbound marketing or sales development activities, it gives a chance to make an unmistakable guide to figure out what issues, assuming any, should be tended to; how to best address them, and what the snappiest way to effect would be.

For companies that have been actualizing either of these methodologies, it’s an open door for a decent registration to recognize chances to upgrade their efforts.

Poor Lead Nurturing Habits

Inbound marketing is not a speedy fix. Time and again I see individuals using inbound methodologies to produce leads and after that apply outdated deals strategies to a cluster of individuals who aren’t prepared or in a position to purchase anything. At that point, they grumble that inbound doesn’t work.

Our evaluations were no exemption. Viable content gives you the point of interest to be pertinent to your business sector before they’re in the business sector to purchase. This is a HUGE favorable position if just you profit by it.

Noted marketing master Seth Godin regularly discusses how consideration from your fancied business sector is the most significant resource any business can have (it’s too awful there’s no spot on the asset report to cover it). Awesome substance is the vehicle for building that consideration.

In any case, recall that individuals download things for their reasons, not yours. They regularly download on the grounds that they’re looking for data or information on something that matters to them, not on the grounds that they need or need to purchase anything.

This is the place nurturing comes in. A viable lead sustaining strategy develops the consideration you’ve made, drives them to comprehend their issues better and highlights the quality you make for them when they lock in. Done effectively nurturing quickens the sales cycle, expanding the normal sales value and builds your win rates.

However in spite of its reasonable worth, not very many do it well (in the event that they do it by any stretch of the imagination). Nurturing is more than simply sending messages schilling your online courses and other download offers. Lead nurturing requires a well thoroughly considered arrangement, a high level of personalization and the control to support.

24 May 14:57

5 Ways to Boost B2B Sales Through LinkedIn Social Selling

by Russell Banzon
5 Ways to Boost B2B Sales Through LinkedIn Social Selling

Author: Russell Banzon

If your company is anything like some that I’ve seen around Silicon Valley, your sales reps see their quotas increase quarter after quarter. With lofty goals, every sales rep needs to utilize all the tools he has at his disposal to close the deal.

While social media sometimes gets a bad rep among professionals due to the endless posts about difficult math problems and memes, when done well, social media can be one of the most effective and underutilized channels for sales teams. In this blog, I’ll cover five strategies to use LinkedIn to drive significant revenue for your company:

1. Add Prospective Customers and Share Their Content with Your Network

This may be obvious, but a reminder never hurts: you should always connect with your leads! Having access to the content that they like and share is paramount to having a strong conversation with them. This is especially important to do if your lead is publishing original content on LinkedIn. Why? Because re-promoting their content by sharing it shows your support. Personally, I absolutely love when one of our vendors shares my content. It shows me that the rep is actually interested in having a relationship with me and that I’m not just closed won business.

Remember though, when you invite your prospect, always send them a tailored request to connect. Selling is way better received when it feels like a 1-to-1 relationship, rather than a blanket message to all people. As social selling magnate Nancy Nardin would say, “Social is personal!”

Here’s a basic example:Personal Note

From the short message above, you can tell that whoever the requestor is (me, in this case), really dove into the person’s profile and even pointed out that the person had something to gain by connecting—content they might be interested in!

Once you begin connecting with prospects, their activity will show up on your feed. You’ll be able to find even more prospects because of this. When your connection, say a sales ops professional, likes another sales ops professional’s content, you’ll find yourself with another lead opportunity.

2. Warm Introductions

Even more powerful than a custom invitation to connect is a warm introduction. As you access people’s profiles, on the top right hand side, LinkedIn will automatically find people who you and your prospect have in common. They even tell you what your connection and your prospect have in common! Let’s look at another example:Connections

In this example, I would be the sales rep and Elaine would be the prospect I’m looking to reach. Once I see that Sharon is a joint connection, I could reach out to Sharon and ask her if she would be comfortable with giving me a warm introduction to connect with Elaine since they went to the same college. After this introduction, I can steer the ship—but this makes reaching Elaine much easier than coming in cold.

3. Find the Right Leads with Sales Navigator

If you haven’t heard of LinkedIn Sales Navigator yet, you may want to check it out. There are numerous benefits to going premium on LinkedIn, from account filters that show you your target leads at your target companies to the social selling index that measures your social selling effectiveness (which I’ll cover towards the end of this blog).

So how do you get started? First, build out your account lists in Sales Navigator. Following accounts in Sales Navigator will provide you with up-to-date information on what is happening within that company. It gives you updates on what the company is sharing so that you know what your prospects truly care about and what their company is focusing on. Then, you can act on key events, such as funding announcements, to engage in meaningful conversation with your prospects. Being able to kick start a conversation with “Congratulations on the recent funding round” is much stronger than “Hey, I’m Russell.“

Oh yeah, and did I mention you can build lead lists in your target accounts? If you already have your target persona, such as those built to segment and target audiences within your marketing automation platform, take advantage of all the filters the LinkedIn premium account offers to create targeted lists.

 

LinkedIn Lead Builder

This comes in handy when you need to, for example, find all the VPs of Sales in your region within your account tier, but don’t have a complete list of company names. You can go even deeper with profile filters such as keywords, seniority level, and industry. If you already have a target account list, you should do some account specific profile searching by using the “current company” filter.

4. Build Your Account Contact List with “Export to CRM”

One of the most painful things as a sales rep or business development rep is manually updating your CRM with new leads, which is equally important for your marketing automation platform since often the two platforms integrate seamlessly with the right solutions. Many times you’ll want to do prospecting in LinkedIn, but your CRM is your single source of truth (“If it’s not in the CRM, it never happened” type scenario.) Save additional time by adding in the “Export to CRM” Chrome extension to your browser. This allows you to easily create a contact in your CRM using someone’s LinkedIn profile.

Export to CRM

This is especially helpful for the marketing team, who’s always on the lookout for new names to add to the database. Once they’re in the database, the marketing team can then support the sales team by plugging that contact into different, relevant, campaigns. Keep in mind that these contacts may not have opted-in to receiving email communications from you, so you may need to target them in other ways.

5. Measure Your Success with the Social Selling Index (SSI)

This last tip makes social selling even more fun. LinkedIn provides a way for you to be graded on how well you use the platform to do social selling. There are four criterion that go into this rating. The social selling index (SSI) “measures how effective you are at establishing your professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships.” These factors impact your social selling index:

  • The amount of content you share
  • The number of connections you have with your target audience
  • How often you click on insights on your feed
  • How much you interact with others

If you’re someone who manages social selling, sales enablement, or social media at a company, you can easily get people excited about their SSI score with a sales performance incentive fund (SPIF) and giveaways. Doing a major team-wide competition of who can raise their SSI score to the highest in a specific month can not only help your sales team sell better, but also help you get more brand exposure.

These social selling strategies are a win-win situation, helping you connect with more prospects and develop more meaningful relationships with them. Pretty soon, it won’t be considered “social selling,” it will simply be a part of “selling.”

What other tips do you have to boost sales through LinkedIn or other social platforms? Share them in the comments below!


5 Ways to Boost B2B Sales Through LinkedIn Social Selling was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

The post 5 Ways to Boost B2B Sales Through LinkedIn Social Selling appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

24 May 14:57

Demand Generation 101: 7 Tactics For Generating High Quality Leads

by Nathan Isaacs

Demand Generation 101: 7 Tactics For Generating High Quality Leads

Demand generation, aka “demand gen,” isn’t just about leads. Demand gen is about creating high quality leads that engage with your brand – and eventually turn into revenue.

More than ever, marketers and demand generation professionals are facing mounting pressure from their executives to tie marketing efforts to revenue. That’s where demand gen comes in.

The Content Marketing Institute defines demand generation as “the practice of creating demand for an organization’s product or services through marketing.”

“What’s really important here is the direct outcome. Your audience should be more likely to purchase your products or services,” said Rachel Rosin, Act-On’s Web and Content Optimization Manager. “Successful demand generation programs aren’t just about the sheer volume of leads. A successful program is measured by:

  • The quality of your leads
  • What you’re able to convert to revenue
  • The ability to prove your contribution to your company’s bottom line.”

What a demand gen program looks like

Demand generation is conducted through a number of different tactics to generate leads. These include filling out a form, downloading a piece of content, signing up for a webinar, and so forth.

From there, the lead is nurtured from that first interaction along a journey to the consideration phase where marketing passes the qualified lead off to sales.

dg101-diagram

Not all nurtured leads are always going to be sales ready. But if they aren’t ready to buy now, that doesn’t mean that they won’t ever buy. Sales can return those leads back to marketing for further nurturing. Marketing can re-engage those leads, and try to again reach that benchmark level of interaction to return them back to sales for further conversations.

3 parts to demand generation programs

There are three main parts to successful demand generation programs: the players, the methods, and the goals.

  • The players

Demand gen should be a collaborative activity between your company’s sales and marketing teams. Some of the players you can expect to see have job titles such as demand gen marketer, marketing operations, or marketing technologist. On the sales side typical titles include sales operations or sales managers. “The sales people play a key role in helping to define these processes and maintain an open line of communication with the marketing team members, which really makes a huge difference,” Rosin said.

  • The methods

Demand generation uses coordinating multi-tiered marketing activities to identify and engage buyers through targeted inbound and outbound activities. There are seven key tactics or methods of demand generation: web insights and inbound marketing, content marketing, social media engagement, lead nurturing, lead scoring, measuring and optimization, and sales and marketing alignment. We’ll dive deeper into each of these methods in a bit.

  • The goal

Your goal should be to have a well-oiled demand generation process that improves lead quality, accelerates the buying cycle, and improves conversion rates from your initial inquiries to qualified opportunities.

“The most important goal, however, is to generate higher revenue from your marketing source leads,” said Janelle Johnson, Act-On’s Senior Director for Global Segment Marketing. “What it all boils down to is quality, not quantity.”

Pumping your pipeline full of high volume with low quality leads, isn’t gonna help your company, especially in the long run. And it can definitely deteriorate your relationship with your sales team. You really have to focus your time and energy on generating those high quality leads that will convert in order to truly achieve demand generation success.

3 challenges for today’s marketer

Generating those high quality leads is made tougher by three challenges for today’s marketer: empowered buyers, high expectations, and pressure to perform.

  • Empowered buyers

Consumers are now in the driver’s seat in their buying journey. In fact, 40 percent of buyers wait longer than they did in the past to initiate contact with a vendor, and buyers typically get 60 percent through the buying journey before they engage with a salesperson. Today’s marketers have to find a way to position their companies as trusted advisors to buyers as they move along their journey. With 58 percent of buyers spending more time researching their options than they did in the past, it’s imperative that you engage with your buyers by building relationships and trust. Because if you don’t, you better believe that your competitors will. Read about proven strategies, in this free eBook: 10 Ways to Nurture the Buyer’s Journey.

  • Higher expectations

With so much access to information and choices, buyers expect more from the companies with whom they interact. Today’s buyers live in an always-on world, filled with instantly available, highly personalized apps, messages, offers, and services. That’s pretty incredible, but it also challenges us as marketers to anticipate the needs of our consumers and deliver thoughtful content related to their needs. Cookie-cutter marketing content and one-size-fits all communication does not work in this new environment. Check out this infographic to see the new buyer’s funnel.

  • Pressure to perform

With all the technology available at our fingertips, we can now tie most of our marketing efforts to revenue. It’s becoming more and more common for marketing to have a revenue goal, just like sales. A well-planned demand gen process can address these challenges by offering an efficient and reliable process to identify and engage these empowered buyers and turn quality leads into revenue that’s measured.

Our 7 tactics for a successful demand gen program

We’ve identified seven tactics and methods behind every successful demand gen program: web insights and inbound marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, lead nurturing, lead scoring, measuring and optimization, and sales and marketing alignment. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Web insights and inbound marketing

Your website is one of your most important demand generation assets. It is where you can observe the digital fingerprints of people visiting your website, which reveal their interests, pain points, content preferences, and even urgency. Many inbound marketing tactics include content offers, blog posts, and other website resources. Check out the 11 website design trends you need to know about.

Website Prospector

2. Content marketing

Content marketing is the fuel that powers your demand gen engine. In fact, 75 percent of executives interviewed in Demand Gen’s 2014 B2B Buyer Behavior Survey say they rely more on content to research purchases than they did a year earlier. And 64 percent say a vendor’s content had a significant impact on their buying decision.

Your content powers the inbound activities that attract and pull prospects into your sales funnel. Content can include anything from blog posts, press releases, case studies, eBooks, white papers, infographics, videos, emails, and so much more. If you can build it, they are likely to come.

The most important piece of a content marketing strategy is matching content with the prospect’s individual pain points, readiness to buy, content preferences, and where they’re at in their purchasing journey. You should start by asking yourself and your sales team a few questions like:

  • Who are our ideal prospects and customers?
  • How do they go about making buying decisions?
  • What are their questions and their pain points?
  • What are some of their common objections?

You use answers to those questions to guide the content you create, making it more relevant to your audience, which will help you attract higher quality, more suitable leads.

3. Social media marketing

Social networks today aren’t just a B2C marketing tool. According to the 2014 Demand Gen Report content preferences survey, 75 percent of B2B executives get more of their content through social networks or peer connection now than they did a year ago. And according to Forrester’s B2B Social Technographics, fully 100% of business decision-makers use social media for work purposes. Besides impacting lead gen activities, social networks may also influence your prospects’ vendor selection and buying decisions.

There are three pillars of social media strategy vital to the success of your program.

  • The first is focus. Always be focused on your customers’ needs. This includes listening, joining groups, and creating conversations.
  • Secondly, you’ll want to inform. This includes educating your audience on all things related to your vertical – or theirs.
  • And the final pillar is trust. If you’re successful in the first two pillars, then the third one should follow suit easily.

The most important part of a social media strategy should be to build rapport with your audience so that they can look to you as a thought leader and a problem solver, and to really build trust. You should work to inspire your audience consistently. It’s easier than you think. Read our blog post 12 Brilliant Ways to Save Time on Social Media.

4. Lead nurturing

“Lead nurturing is not about making that sale,” Johnson said. “That’s going to come later once your prospect is qualified and warmed up. Instead, nurturing is about educating, responding to the prospect’s needs, and truly building that trust with them.”

Lead nurturing is a proven method for turning prospects into buyers by systematically contacting prospects over a set amount of time, and providing them content relevant to where they are in their journey. As a rule, only about 25 percent of the new leads that your organization identifies are actually ready to buy. The rest fall somewhere in the full range of a buyer’s journey. Learn Lead Nurturing Basics.

This creates a couple big questions you need to answer. How do you recognize sales-ready leads? And how do you know when the other 75 percent of those leads have changed their minds and are in fact now ready to be passed to sales?

5. Lead scoring

To determine a lead’s sales readiness is where lead scoring comes into play. It’s a way of measuring a prospect’s engagement with your brand and assets, and giving higher points for different activities that show more sales readiness.

lead scoring activity

Lead scoring uses a point system to assign values based on a person’s online and offline behavior. These actions can help us gauge where the buyer is on their journey and their growing sales readiness.

Typically, sales and marketing teams within an organization will work together to determine how many points a prospect will get for different activities. For example, reading a blog post might get you two points and downloading a white paper might be worth five. Responding to a prospecting email might get you 10.

Once a lead has accrued enough points (based on your organization and how your organization defines that quality lead), they can be passed to sales, flagged for follow up, or dropped into a more accelerated nurture program.

Lead scoring is a crucial piece of the demand generation machine. In fact, according to Marketing Sherpa, organizations that use lead scoring see a 77 percent increase lift in their lead generation ROI.

6. Measuring and optimization

You need to understand what’s working with your demand gen program and what’s not working, and how to make tweaks to optimize that program. This is a great opportunity for you to reevaluate where your marketing efforts and dollars are going. By measuring the effectiveness of your efforts, you can then focus your attention on the areas of the funnel that aren’t working as smoothly.

Depending on your company’s size in the market, there are a variety of metrics that marketers should be focusing on when it comes to demand generation. In order to get a good pulse on your marketing efforts though, you wanna take a look at things like your closing percentages, cost per acquisition, cost per lead, the average deal size, and the time to close. And what’s interesting is you wanna look at those as a whole for your marketing efforts, but then also by different campaign types because they will differ.

7. Aligning sales and marketing

Demand gen is absolutely a team sport, requiring cooperation between sales and marketing. Make sure you’re talking in the same language – what is a qualified lead, what does that mean to sales, and what does that mean to marketing? Work together to agree on standards for lead scoring, for qualification, and for following up on a lead.

An integrated marketing workspace plays an important part in building a strong sales and marketing relationship.

rachel-dg-quote

Conclusion

At its core, demand generation marketers should facilitate the flow of generation leads for your organization, nurture those leads to establish your company as a choice in the consideration process, and ultimately build trust with those leads and your prospects. Once the leads you have generated have been nurtured by your marketing or demand gen team, they will pass off to the sales team once they’ve reached a level of engagement that both sales and marketing have agreed upon as being ready for contact. And sales will then move these prospects to an opportunity stage where they’ll then, hopefully, become customers.

What advice do you have for building a successful demand generation program?

Want to learn more? Download our eBook, Demand Generation 101.

23 May 18:01

4 ways Elon Musk's proposed Hyperloop will change how we travel

by Cadie Thompson

Hyperloop one Pod in motion

If you are like most, you probably find air travel to be a stressful experience.

There’s the commute to the airport, the long lines to check your bag, the security check, and then once you’re finally on the plane, there’s the tight squeeze of sitting for several hours with barely any legroom.

And yet, air travel is really our only option for traveling hundreds of miles quickly. But the Hyperloop could change that.

The Hyperloop is a tubular transport system that carries passengers in capsules at speeds reaching more than 700 miles per hour. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first proposed the idea in a white paper published in 2013 and made his research public so others could pursue developing the concept. The LA-based startup Hyperloop One is doing just that.

But Hyperloop One doesn’t just want to build a system that is as fast as a plane. The company wants to create an entirely new travel experience, one that is a lot less stressful and a lot more convenient.

"It's not about getting somewhere, it's about being somewhere. We're not trying to optimize the transportation experience, we are trying to eliminate it," Brogan BamBrogan, Hyperloop One’s co-founder and chief technology officer, said at a company event earlier this month

How exactly does it plan on doing this? 

BamBrogan shared with Tech Insider four ways the Hyperloop will revolutionize all aspects of transportation.

SEE ALSO: This $1.5 billion PC gaming company's first US store stole some of the spotlight from the new Apple Store in San Francisco

It will be more accessible and more efficient.

For starters, Hyperloop One wants to put stations in the middle of cities so that there's no annoying commute to an airport-like hub outside metropolitan areas, Brogan BamBrogan, Hyperloop One’s co-founder, told Tech Insider.

“Effectively, the Hyperloop will move people about the speed of an airplane. But we can do it city center to city center as we integrate ourselves into tunneling, so that’s really a value add,” BamBrogan said.

That's right, effectively you'd get to say goodbye to that $30 cab ride to and from the airport outside the city. 

What's more, because the Hyperloop is in a controlled environment and is completely autonomous, you will never be delayed because of weather or because of an operator's error. 

 



No more ticket lines.

BamBrogan also said the company wants to introduce a streamlined ticketing system so that lines are a thing of the past. 

“Certainly, as we move forward, there’s going to be autonomous ticketing systems and you’re going to have an absolute elevator experience that is going to seamlessly deliver you to your destination.”

BamBrogan didn't elaborate on how exactly this would work, but he did mention that part of the process could be through your smartphone.

In Musk's white paper, he stated that all ticketing and baggage tracking would be handled electronically, effectively doing away with printing boarding passed and luggage labels. 

 



The seats will actually be comfortable.

As for the seating, BamBrogan said the company is working to design passenger pods that are not only comfortable, but also spacious enough to allow people to keep their luggage with them at all times. 

The company aims to share some renderings of potential pod designs sometime during the next three months, BamBrogan said.

 



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
23 May 18:00

The Ultimate Guide to Referral Marketing

by Jen Gray

airbnb-referral

Referral marketing has seen more than its fair share of outsized success stories. Tech companies like Dropbox and PayPal have achieved blow-out growth and reached millions of users without traditional advertising spend, all thanks to customer referrals.

But while a lot of marketers know that they should be digging into referral, many don’t know where to begin. For one, many relegate the success of referral to software products with viral distribution—that simply isn’t true. Less sexy businesses with high customer lifetime values, like banks and telecom have known about the power of referral for years.

In a landmark 2011 study, researchers from Wharton analyzed the referral program of a German bank, measuring the differences between referred customers and the average customer. They found that referred customers were 18% more likely to stick with the bank and generated 16% higher profits for the bank.

Referral doesn’t just get more customers—it also gets better customers. And today, there are more communication channels than ever that referral can penetrate organically, from traditional SMS to chat, and email to the social network. That has marketers itching to grab a piece of the pie, but many don’t know where to begin.

Referral isn’t super complex. It’s about customers sharing stuff they like with family and friends, which is as human an instinct as breathing.

In this guide, we’ll teach you how to lay the groundwork for word-of-mouth with an airtight referral program, and let your customers do the talking for you.

Open the Doors to Referral

A key part of winning with referral is tapping into everyday advocacy. Anyone who comes into contact with your brand, customer or not, can potentially share a referral, but only if you make them aware of the opportunity.

That’s why you need to make your referral marketing program a prominent part of your customers’ experience. They need to know the program exists in order to become advocates. It’s a simple concept, but lots of marketers just bury a link to their referral page in some corner of their website where no one can find it.

uber-referral
Uber is a great example of a company that’s leveraged the power of referral as a low-cost, ultra-effective customer acquisition channel—and it’s done so by giving referral pride of place in its mobile app. When new users log into the app for the first time, a modal window appears with the promise of “Free Rides” through referral. This messaging is repeated throughout a customer’s lifecycle. Every time users tap the navigation bar, the referral offer is right there for them to find.

Don’t just create a microsite for your referral marketing program and call it a day. Consider all the other ways you can make customers aware of your referral program:

  • Put a referral call-to-action (CTA) on your site’s home page—you can use a lightbox like Uber, or put a button on your main menu. That makes customers 300% more likely to share a referral than if the CTA is on another page.
  • Put a CTA on every user’s account page.
  • Put one on the post-purchase page whenever someone buys. Extole’s internal data shows this increases referral shares 16x.
  • Spread the news about referral on your social media accounts, blogs, or email newsletter.
  • If you ship physical products, you can shout out your referral marketing program on the packaging.

Referral marketing starts with awareness, and these are all opportunities to fill your customers in and get them excited to become advocates.

Hyper-Personalize Referral

According to the familiarity principle, the more we see something, the more we like it. But as our lives grow increasingly saturated with ads, marketers can’t just rely on just getting up in their customers’ faces. They need to make sure that they’re establishing real connections.

Referral marketing can cut through the noise and create those connections because it’s a recommendation from a friend rather than a plug from a faceless company. Your referral program needs to accentuate that as much as possible—something as small as displaying a picture of the advocate’s face on the referral message boosts conversion by more than 3%. Take a look at how TaskRabbit does this.

mobile-friend-landing
Outdoor gear provider Backcountry takes personalization up another notch and allows advocates to write their own personal message when they share, rather than sticking them with a predetermined message some copywriter whipped up. That reinforces that the referral is coming from a friend, making them more likely to accept the referral.

backcountry-refer-page
Some other personalization strategies include:

  • Have the referral message come from the advocate’s personal email address rather than a generic “DoNotReply” address that your customers’ inboxes are already stuffed with. This ensures your referral doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
  • If you run a store that sells a lot of different products—say, like a clothing store—let the advocate suggest a specific product they think their friend would like when they send a referral. Most people understand their friends’ tastes, so this tactic lets you target them with a product they’re more likely to want.
    Use the advocate’s name as a referral code. It’s easier to remember and also reinforces the friend-to-friend aspect of referral.

In marketing, it’s not enough to just get your brand in front of your customers’ eyeballs. You need to deliver a unique, impactful experience. Referral is able to do that in a unique way by tapping into the power of relationships—each of these strategies accentuates that.

Design For Frictionless Sharing

Psychology tells us it’s human nature to seek instant gratification, and this is more true in a world that’s “always on.” Companies like Amazon have made it possible to get virtually anything delivered in two days with the tap of a finger, raising the bar for what consumers expect in terms of ease and accessibility.

Remember that when you ask your advocates to refer their friends, you’re asking them a favor on behalf of your brand. You need to make sure that the referral experience is smooth and beautifully designed, and make referral a pleasurable experience for advocates and friends. As Geico would say, you need to make referral “so easy a caveman could do it.

The key is to eliminate friction—any extra, unnecessary steps the advocate or new customer has to take. Examples of friction would be a referral CTA that’s difficult to find, a long, complicated referral code, or forcing users to create an account on your site before they can share or accept a referral. Those are all chances for the advocate or their friend to say, “Forget it.”

If you want to hold onto your customers’ attention, you need to minimize the number of steps they have to take. Some proven tactics include:

  • When customers click your referral CTA, let them share the referral from that page rather than a dedicated landing page. Saving them the time it takes to load up a new page makes customers’ 4x more likely to refer.
  • Give customers simple referral codes that are easy to remember and don’t take long to write.
  • Enable advocates and new customers to collect their rewards immediately. That increases the excitement and gets both parties excited to keep on referring.

Apparel provider American Giant offers a great example of a seamless referral process.

american-giant-referral-home-page
American Giant gets 10% of its sales from referral, which has allowed them to carve out a niche in the competitive fashion market without a brick and mortar presence. Their secret weapon is a referral marketing program that’s both beautiful and super easy to use. Advocates click the “Get $15” CTA (who wouldn’t click that?), send emails to friends from the very same page, and they’re done—it’s a cakewalk.

Mobile is your Referral Program’s Best Friend

The rise of mobile is changing the way people shop. In 2015, mobile e-commerce sales totaled over $104 Billion, up 38.7% from 2014. That’s why more and more advertisers are trying to reach customers on their smartphones. According to its Q1 2016 earnings report, 82% of Facebook’s $5.2 Billion in ad revenue came from mobile.

Referral marketing isn’t spared from this trend. Our internal research shows that 18% of referrals are sent from a mobile device, while 39% are accepted on one. You’ll miss out on those opportunities if your program doesn’t work just as well on the small screen as it does on the big one.

The same design principles from the last section apply tenfold when it comes to your mobile referral program. Your CTA needs to be even easier to find, the codes need to be simpler, and the rewards more obvious and immediate. Other mobile referral strategies include:

  • When an advocate clicks the referral CTA on your mobile site, let them send the referral without having to go to a new page.
  • Make it easy for advocates to share referrals via email, text, or messaging apps—the same ways they’d reach out to friends any other time.
  • When someone accepts a referral on their phone, send them right to your website rather than force them to download your mobile app. This wouldn’t work for a company like Uber that depends on its app, but it’s a great play for, say, an e-commerce store.

Check out how last-minute hotel booking app Hotel Tonight does it to see some of these tactics in action:
hotel-tonight-referral

Hotel Tonight is going up against billion-dollar hotel-booking companies like Expedia and Priceline by betting big on a mobile-only model. Its app cross-references geolocation and room occupancy data to provide users with the best deals wherever they are. Thanks in large part to its sleekly-designed referral program, it’s been able to increase bookings over 300% over the last two years.

Give your Top Advocates the Superstar Treatment

The Pareto Principle states that in any system, 80% of the results come from 20% of the work or resources. Our internal research shows that it holds true in referral marketing—in most programs, 80% of referrals come from 20% of the advocates.

Those top advocates are the engine behind any great referral program, so you need to go out of your way to show your gratitude and keep them engaged. In a sociological study, researchers found that waiters who leave mints on customers’ bills get 23% higher tips. If you reciprocate with your best advocates and give them extra rewards, they’ll keep the new customers rolling in.

kipling-cta
Handbag provider Kipling does this by increasing the reward amounts for its most prolific advocates. That shows appreciation and sustains their desire to share referrals.

Track Referral Metrics to Tighten Your Funnel

You can’t just whip up a referral marketing program, put it on your site, and expect immediate growth. Like any other marketing channel, you need to obsessively measure its success, iterate, and make sure it’s constantly improving. And our referral funnel gives you all the metrics you need to do that:
referral-funnel

The funnel highlights one of the best parts about referral: It’s a clearly defined, quantifiable step-by-step process. Each part of the funnel can be measured and optimized, and you can easily tell what needs to change.

That’s a huge advantage referral has over other marketing methods. Take Google Adwords for example. Their cost per click has risen over 40% since 2012, you’re never sure exactly how much you’ll spend, and there’s no clear path to better results. Same with Facebook ads, SEO, and countless other tactics—improving takes guesswork. But any time referral is underperforming, you can dig into the analytics, find the bottleneck, and straighten out your funnel.

For example, if I saw that my referral CTA was getting plenty of advocate clicks, but not many shares, I would know that something about the program isn’t enticing enough—they’re looking into the opportunity, but they’re not biting. I could test a number of ideas to fix that, from a higher reward, to more compelling copy in the referral message based on how customers describe my product on social media. The referral funnel gives you the data to attack these issues with a focus.

Case Study: Airbnb

airbnb-referral
Airbnb knew from the success of companies like Dropbox and PayPal that referral marketing could be a powerful source of new customers, but the program it established way back in 2011 wasn’t getting results. So in 2014, the company tasked a team of engineers for a complete overhaul.

The team started by breaking down the referral path, from advocate to new customer, into a series of more than 20 different steps. By buckling down and optimizing each step, the new referral program brought a 300% increase in daily signups and bookings.

In order to keep track of their progress and drive continuous improvement, the team chose five key metrics to track, each of which can easily be linked to a stage of the referral funnel:

  • Monthly active users sending invites (Advocates stage)
  • Invitees per Inviter (Shares)
  • Conversion Rate to New User (Friend clicks)
  • Conversion Rate to New Guest (Conversions and Revenue)
  • Conversion Rate to New Host (Conversions and Revenue)

By tracking those numbers, Airbnb was able to see where in the referral process they were losing customers and update it accordingly. For example, to boost “number of invitees per inviter,” the team offered email address book imports on the referral page, which made it easy for advocates to sift through their contacts and find the perfect matches for Airbnb.

That core set of winning metrics gave the Airbnb team a simple framework to constantly measure and improve the success of their referral program.

Find the Rewards Structure that Works for You

A common myth about referral is that the only reason advocates share is to get the reward. In reality, advocates are only willing to share products they love and know their friends will love too. After all, why would someone refer a friend to a poor product if they only get *more of that product* in return? The reward is simply an extra incentive to grease the wheels and get people referring faster and more often.

That’s why when it comes to rewards, bigger doesn’t always mean more sharing. For example, one online marketplace using Extole found that a gift card reward of $10 prompted more referral-sharing than a gift card of $15 or $20. Customers don’t like to feel like they’re profiting off of their friends or only sharing to get a reward, so there’s no need to break the bank.

Looking beyond the size of the incentives, there are three basic reward structures:

  • Dual-sided rewards both the advocate and the new customer.
  • Advocate-only rewards just the advocate.
  • New customer-only rewards just the new customer.

For most companies, the dual-sided structure drives the most referrals. It gives advocates an incentive to share but doesn’t feel totally transactional because, hey, their friend gets a reward too. But other structures could make sense depending on your brand or product offerings.

Finally, you need to structure your rewards so that you’re acquiring customers efficiently. When you consider the ratio of customer acquisition cost (CAC) to lifetime value (LTV), referral is typically one of the most cost-effective ways to get new customers. Optimize your rewards so that you get the full benefit.

Case Study: Maple

maple-referral
Maple is a relatively new NYC food delivery service that has tapped into referral to augment growth. The program operates under the new customer-only referral model, offering newly-referred diners $15 off (the equivalent of one Maple dinner. Lunch is $12).

Based on Maple’s estimated customer lifespan and the number of orders most people will make per week, Maple is making $7.13 to every $1 it spends acquiring customers through referral. So right off the bat, their referral program turns a healthy profit.

The new customer-only reward also makes perfect sense for a food delivery company. People’s food tastes and standards vary a ton, so new customers are more likely to trust that the advocate genuinely thinks they’ll like Maple since they’re getting nothing in return.

When in Doubt A/B Test

Today’s marketers approach their craft with scientific rigor, and no strategy is more emblematic of that than the A/B test. It’s a simple experiment: You make a tweak to a website or app, unleash both versions to the world, and see which one gets better results.

The difference with referral marketing is that you can be much more focused in your testing. Every CTA, referral message, or visual design you test is more explicitly connected with a specific goal based on where it is in the referral funnel, so your results are more concrete.

Case Study: Blinds.com

blinds-referral

Blinds.com offers an easy way to buy beautiful, reasonably priced window blinds online. They set up a simple referral program in which advocates got $20 for referring friends to the site. The whole company was excited, but when they got the program up and running, the initial results were underwhelming.

So they decided to get back to their brand’s roots. A huge part of the Blinds.com experience is that customers get to work with a “design consultant” to find the perfect set of blinds, yet their referral program didn’t incorporate that at all. So Blinds.com revamped it so that advocates could refer their friends to the specific consultant they worked with. In A/B testing, the new program posted a whopping 82% new customer conversion rate, drastically outperforming the old one.

blinds-ab-test
They didn’t stop there. Next, Blinds.com tested a newly designed referral CTA and saw a nearly 40% increase in Referral Index. A future test of a Visa-branded gift card reward versus a generic gift card prompted another 50% rise.

By refusing to accept the status quo and relentlessly testing new ideas, Blinds.com has been able to ensure that its referral program is always getting better and driving more customers through the referral funnel.

Follow the Flywheel

Referral marketing is the only channel that gives you a direct path from word of mouth buzz to more customers and higher revenue. It enables the people who love your company to pull in friends they know will feel the same way. Those highly engaged customers can then reach out to their own networks, creating a dramatic flywheel effect where referred customers refer their friends in a virtuous cycle.

Too many marketers miss out on the opportunity. Many don’t even bother with referral marketing because they think it’s just a one-in-a-million shot to go viral à la PayPal. On the other end of the spectrum, many of them mistake referral marketing for a simple transaction. They think they just need to dangle a reward in front of customers and watch the new business roll in.

Neither is correct. Anyone can succeed with referral, but only if you attack it with the same analytical rigor and customer experience-savvy you’d apply to any other marketing channel.

23 May 17:59

Surrendering Your Business Strategy To Your Sales People

by Dave Brock

Do you want your sales people defining your business strategy? As good as they are, do you really want your brand new SDR’s, or your account managers, or even your very top performers defining your business customer and growth strategy? Do you want your bottom performers doing the same?

I don’t think any top business executive or sales executive wants the sales people to be setting the strategic direction and growth priorities for the organization, yet too often, by lack of attention, poor direction, or simple omission, that’s what happens.

Sales people want to be successful. They are hungry to find a customer willing to buy. They’ll do whatever is necessary to satisfy a customer’s needs and get them to buy.

Absent direction, they may be doing things that don’t fit your business strategies and priorities.

They may chase the wrong customers. They may position your solutions and your company in ways that don’t fit your strategy. They may be presenting your value incorrectly or ineffectively. They will struggle to produce results.

Alternatively, they sell the products they are most comfortable and experienced with. Ignoring other product lines that may be critical to your growth strategy. Similarly, they may focus on the customers and markets where they have had the most success, ignoring new strategic markets critical to your growth.

The results–or lack of results they produce impact your business strategies. That new product line fails, you have to shut down development, write off inventory, lay off everyone associated with the product line. Or that new market fails to materialize, the growth committed to the board and investors isn’t achieved.

The interesting thing is sales people are not doing any of this maliciously. They are doing what they do because they don’t know and aren’t getting the direction they need.

Sales is responsible for executing the company strategy in front of the customers. To do this, they have to understand it. They have to know:

  • Who are our ideal customers? This has to be well defined and characterized by industry, market, enterprise type, buyer persona, and other characteristics.
  • What problems do they have that we solve better than anyone else?
  • How do we want them to perceive our solutions and our company?
  • What buying and customer experience do we want to create, how is it differentiated from others?
  • What value do we create through the entire life cycle of their buying process and implementation?
  • How do we differentiate our offerings from the alternatives, including doing nothing?
  • What do we, as an organization, stand for and why is it important to our ideal customers?

Without understanding these critical elements of the company strategy and priorities, sales people have to figure these things out themselves. Not only are they less effective and efficient when they have to do this, it may not be in alignment with what top management thinks the strategies and priorities are.

In addition to making sure they understand these things, they are trained and equipped to be successful, we have to put in place metrics and goals that reinforce the strategies and priorities. For example, great sales performance has to be about selling the entire product line, not just letting sales people make their numbers by selling their favorite products. Or they have to generate revenues in different markets, not just sell the their favorite customers. Or they have to acquire new customers, not just making their numbers by going back to the same customers time and time again.

Let’s look at a simple example of why that’s so important. Imagine you are CEO of a company that has two key product lines. Both are important to your growth and to your future. Let’s imagine your two top sales people sell $5M each, making their numbers. But one has sold that $5M in one product line only. The other had balanced performance, selling both product lines to make $5M.

Which sales person is doing a better job? Hopefully, your answer is the second, because that sales person is executing your company strategy. While the first is making the number, if all your sales people were doing the same thing, one of the product lines would fail and that carefully crafted company strategy fails.

It’s not sales responsibility to develop your company strategy and priorities. But if they aren’t told, trained, coached, reinforced and measured on their execution of the company strategy, they’ll do what they must to achieve their numbers.

It’s not their job, so don’t surrender your strategy to sales!

23 May 17:57

Children are getting their first smartphones at an incredibly young age

by Andrew Meola

Smartphone Share

This story was delivered to BI Intelligence Apps and Platforms Briefing subscribers. To learn more and subscribe, please click here.

Children are getting their first smartphones, on average, at just over 10 years of age in the U.S., according to a new study from Influence Central.

This young age not only demonstrates just how much mobile technology permeates our lives, but it affects the way American children access the Internet and interact with social media. According ot the study, approximately 65% of children access the Internet via a laptop or mobile device, up from 42% in 2012.

Furthermore, car rides have become a popular location for tablet use, as 55% of kids prefer tablets in a car, up from 26% in 2012. Meanwhile, 45% prefer using smartphones, up from 39% in 2012.

Amazingly, more than one-third of children have a social media account before they reach 12 years old, and 11% have one before age 10.

The study revealed how early in life children become acquainted with mobile devices and how these devices are often their first experience with the Internet. And children are using their mobile devices for numerous purposes, including games and productivity apps, according to Influence Central CEO Stacy DeBroff.

Therefore, brands must figure out ways to leverage this young market to develop loyal customers from their first experience with smartphones, especially because these children are coming of age in an era in which smartphones have always been a central part of their lives. It stands to reason, then, that they will have little to no patience for businesses that either do not focus on mobile or provide a poor mobile experience.

This young market could also be the solution to slowing global smartphone market over the next few years. Despite a record-setting holiday quarter, 2015 was likely the last year of double-digit growth for smartphone shipments.

Mature markets were at the heart of this year’s deceleration. Adoption has reached new highs in key markets in the United States, Europe, and China. The pool of first-time buyers in these countries is shrinking rapidly, and sales are now primarily coming from phone upgrades.

Meanwhile, emerging markets will continue to see robust shipment growth. India and Indonesia, in particular, will help fuel a large share of the shipments growth within the global smartphone market over the next few years.

Will McKitterick, senior research analyst at BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on smartphones by country that forecasts the market through 2021 to reflect slower, stabilizing growth in the long term.

Smartphone Market by Country Report Cover

Here are some key points from the report:

  • The global smartphone market is still growing at a steady pace due to more widespread adoption in emerging markets. We estimate the global market will hit about 2.1 billion units shipped in 2021.
  • Shipments growth over the past few years has been driven by the falling price of smartphones, which has made handsets more accessible in emerging markets. The average selling price of a smartphone in India nearly halved between 2010 and 2015.
  • With relatively low smartphone penetration, we forecast Indian smartphone shipments to grow rapidly over the next five years. Nevertheless, India has a long way to go before it surpasses China as the world’s leading market for smart handsets. India is estimated to account for roughly 10% of the global smartphone market in 2016, considerably less than China’s 30% share.
  • The global platform wars are over, even as smartphone adoption continues to rise across various markets worldwide. Android and iOS are estimated to account for 97.3% of global platform market share in 2015, compared to 96.3% last year.
  • Apple closed the year with another strong quarter on the back of its iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus launches. Still, the vendor saw a slight decline in YoY growth of its share of the market in the face of stiff competition from Samsung and Chinese vendors such as Huawei.

In full, the report:

  • Forecasts global smartphone shipments through 2021.
  • Explores why India is the next high-growth smartphone market.
  • Breaks down the global smartphone platform wars.
  • Discusses smartphone vendor performance market share.

To get your copy of this invaluable guide, choose one of these options:

  1. 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
  2. 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 the smartphone market.

Join the conversation about this story »

23 May 17:44

Use These Email Marketing Tools For More Conversions

by Susan Gilbert

Increase Sales and Website Traffic with 4 Email Marketing Tools

Use These Email Marketing Tools For More ConversionsToday I have some email marketing resources to help you improve your website leads and sales. Here’s four links with tips and tricks to kick start your Monday.

Reaching your subscribers and converting leads can be a challenge, but with the right strategy you can have better results and more open rates. These key tools will help you save time and target the right subscribers. Would you like to increase your conversion rates? Take advantage of these resources, and let me know how these work for you!

1) Email statistics made easy – IsValid

Get a detailed analysis of your existing email testing without having to figure out the math. IsValid, a free tool that packs a lot of statistical data quickly, and provides insights such as which emails are getting the most opens as well as more results on your conversion metrics. Just enter your numbers and results will appear immediately.

isvalid

2) Get creative inspiration – The Best of Email

View the best and top quality emails from other marketers. The Best of Email eliminates the need for guesswork and long hours of design and research in order to create an effective, stand-out email message. Gather ideas for campaigns such as major holidays, newsletters, promotions, and more.

TheBestofEmail

3) Create a better subject line – Touchstone

Find out whether your readers will respond to your email subject line right away. Touchstone is an easy to use tool that provides statistics and probable results based on your entry. Upload your own email data and find out how your current subscribers are responding to your messages.

Touchstone

4) High quality HTML email designs – HTML Email Gallery

Would you like to fully customize your emails? Here is a great tool to help you find the best in coded, professional quality emails. HTML Email Gallery showcases a large variety of heavily coded designs with eye-catching graphics. Browse by color scheme or topic such as announcements, conferences, ect. A tips and tricks section is included to help you create a professional email that will garner more opens and response rates.

HTMLemailgallery

Hopefully you will find these email marketing tools helpful for increasing your conversion rates. Are there any that you would like to add as well?