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05 May 20:09

Customer Lifetime Value Explained: For Subscription and Continuity Businesses

by Blair McNea

For subscription & continuity businesses, the difference between those who succeed and those who fail is sustained optimal Customer Lifetime Value (CLV). This post will explain what CLV is and how it applies to your subscription or continuity business model.

What is Customer Lifetime Value?

We define CLV as: the average total revenue per customer, less the average variable costs per customer for a Cohort.

Measuring Customer Lifetime Value

There are two schools of thought, when it comes to measuring CLV. The first method is to measure CLV based on all historical data for a period of time. The second method is to measure all historical data for a period of time plus the expected revenues and costs in the future.

We strongly prefer to use the historical data as CLV and use the future projections to calculate something we call eCLV. Wrapping historical and future calculations into one CLV term falls short, in our opinion, because it fails to delineate what has actually occurred and what is “expected to occur.”

The primary purpose of CLV is to measure the money you make incrementally for each customer

It’s also important to note what CLV isn’t. CLV is not the total revenues you got from a group of customers. That’s just total revenue per customer, but falls short of a true CLV calculation. CLV also is not total profit per customer, based on dividing company-wide profits by the total number of customers.

In the same way that total revenue per customer falls short of a true CLV calculation, total profit per customer includes too much by including overhead, admin, rent and other fixed costs.

Remember, the primary purpose of CLV is to measure the money you make incrementally for each customer. When done correctly it creates a powerful measurement tool for management, allowing you to focus on the areas where you can best lift CLV and overall company profits.

The Math

So what are the raw calculations for CLV is the average total revenue less the average variable costs for a Cohort?

Let’s start with a “cohort.”

A Cohort is a group of customers who share attributes. Those attributes are essentially infinite, but typically include a beginning date, a status of usage (trial, ongoing customer, canceled customer, suspended customer, etc.), a specific product, a pricing plan and usually very important, where and how they signed up for a business’s product

Average total revenue per customer is the total revenue from a Cohort creates, divided by the number of customers in the Cohort. It’s important that all revenue is taken into account; revenue from trial fees, shipping, discounts as well as standard pricing should be measured.

Average total revenue per customer is the total revenue from a Cohort creates, divided by the number of customers in the Cohort.

Average Total Variable Costs per customer is the total variable or incremental, cost incurred in selling a product, or providing a service, to a customer. It’s important not to factor into this calculation fixed costs or overhead amortization. Including those costs tends to distort the profitability of customers or traffic and pollutes it with factors not directly related to fulfilling customer needs.

As an example, a company selling a health supplement online would include their effective cost per acquisition of customers (eCPA), the cost to ship the product, the cost to bottle and produce the product (COGS) and the labor to get the product out the door. They would not include salaries of employees, other than those directly manufacturing or shipping the product or providing customer service, rent, legal, insurance or any other admin costs.

The combination of total revenues less total variable costs is often referred to in financial terms as Contribution Margin. By adding the total number of people in a Cohort, we can then break down the total Contribution Margin into an average Cohort CLV.

Example of Customer Lifetime Value in a Subscription or Continuity Business

Spacely Space Sprockets signs up 10,000 customers, on February 1, for their “Sprocket-Of-The Month Club” service.

Customers signed up for an initial low price of $29.95 and then after 30 days they begin receiving monthly shipments of the sprockets, billed at $100 per sprocket.

Of the original 10,000 customers who signed up for continuity shipments, 5,500 are still live and receiving monthly shipments.

To date, they’ve received the following amount of revenue:

Trial Revenue $299,500
Postage Rev $100,000
Subscription Rev $700,000
Total Revenue $1,099,500

The following are the total costs associated with the Cohort after four months have elapsed:

PPC advertising $600,000
Product Cost $300,000
Fulfillment Costs $35,000
Postage $ 50,000
Total Costs $ 985,000
Contribution Margin $114,500
Cohort Size 10,000
CLV $11.45*

*Note this is ACTUAL CLV. The total expected CLV (eCLV) of this Cohort will be much higher because there are still 5,500 customers who have not cancelled.

Increasing Customer Lifetime Value Can Make or Break Your Business

Historically, businesses have used technologies and software focused predominantly on customer acquisition methods.

Customer acquisition strategies such as: search engine optimization, A/B testing, content and, email marketing, and social media have revolutionized sales and marketing over the last 15 years.

In a subscription-based economy, it’s more important than ever to test and optimize customer service experience.

Recently, businesses are discovering that using software and technology to increase CLV is an area ripe for driving more profitability. The goal is often to refocus sales and marketing priorities and lift advertising spend.

In the same way, a new wave of strategies and technologies focused on lifting the profitability of existing customers are now emerging.

Based on previous technology adoptions (such as A/B testing for customer acquisition), we are most likely approaching an inflection point where continuity merchants who actively test and optimize CLV using newer technologies will have a competitive advantage over less sophisticated merchants, allowing them to increase adspend (due to higher CLV) and grab additional marketshare.

The first step to optimizing CLV is to understand and measure it.

Now you know how.

Ready to learn more about optimizing CLV for your subscription or continuity business? Contact us for a demo today. This post originally appeared on the RevGuard blog.

05 May 20:08

6 Types of Sales Automation Your Team Should Be Using

by ari@hubspot.com (Ari Plaut)

sales-automation-your-team-should-be-using.jpg

Here’s a question: How should sales teams spend their time? If your answer was anything other than “selling,” you’re in the wrong business. But as it turns out, that’s not how most teams operate. A recent study showed that reps spend less than a third of their time actually selling — compared to a full 50% spent between administrative CRM tasks and searching for content.

There are two primary ways to ensure that sales teams actually have time to sell: 

  1. Make sure the right teams own the right tasks. Did you know that in 52% of companies, Marketing is held accountable for sales productivity?
  2. Decrease the time spent on “non-sales” tasks, or better yet, automate them.

Your company's organizational structure might not be up to you, so you might not be able to fix #1. But you can certainly take take steps today to act on #2. Below are six types of sales automation that can speed up your process and reduce time spent on tedious busywork.

1) Automate your reporting

At HubSpot, our sales teams get a daily morning digest with all the data they need to know for the day -- from high-level team results to deal status and rep productivity. The dashboard distribution sets up friendly competition and ensures that reps are holding themselves and each other accountable. In addition, it saves valuable time -- no more pulling data manually, screenshotting charts, and attaching those reports to individual emails.

How to get started:

If you're keeping data in Excel or Google Sheets, automating your reporting won't be easy. You might be able to set something up, but chances are it'll get complex quickly. If you're using a CRM, consult the system's help documentation to determine how best to set up an automated email schedule for your reports. If you use HubSpot CRM, build out your first sales dashboard now.  

2) Automate your lead distribution

Lead comes in. Lead sits in database until sales manager has time to check on it. Sales manager looks at lead and, without any defined method, assigns it to rep of his choice.

Does that situation sound familiar? Sales managers often spend too many hours manually rotating leads. That time should be spent coaching reps and helping close deals.

How to get started:

First, create a standard set of criteria for lead rotation -- something more than just a "gut" test. Is your team divided into territories? If so, document the specific boundaries of each region. 

Once you're satisfied with your criteria, use the lead rotator or round robin tool within your CRM to divvy up leads according to your plan. If you use HubSpot CRM, it's your lucky day -- you now have access to a brand-new lead rotator.  

3) Automate lead prioritization

Much of a rep’s time is spent sourcing leads. But once you have a list of target accounts, how do you know which ones to call first? Not all leads are created equal: Certain behavioral and demographic characteristics make some much more likely to close than others. It's crucial that you automate your prioritization process to make sure the best leads get the first follow-ups -- without spending hours poring through the data yourself.

How to get started: Utilize an automated lead scoring system. Assign scores to your leads based on your own criteria, or utilize a system that predicts likelihood to close for you. Once you have your scores, create views of leads with the highest scores / propensities to close, and call those leads first. If you keep your marketing database separate from your CRM, set up an integration between the two to ensure that the best leads pass seamlessly between the two systems.

4) Automate record creation

Here’s how sales reps often divide their days: For every two hours spent selling, they spend an hour on CRM administration -- creating contacts and companies, logging tasks to follow up on, creating opportunities, and associating them with records. Newsflash: If you can cut down on that hour of admin work, you'll sell more.

How to get started:

Explore the workflow automation section of your CRM. If you use HubSpot CRM, check out our brand-new sales automation features.

If you're not sure which processes to automate, here are a few to get you up and running:

  • Create a task whenever a lead visits the pricing page.
  • Create a deal when a contact fills out a demo form on your site.
  • Create a task to follow up when a contact's trial is expiring.

5) Automate your sales collateral repository

Reps spend a third of their time finding or creating content to send to prospects. Why is that the case? The average sales organization stores content across five or six different content repositories. Yet only a third of sales teams prioritize improving content access and utilization. Sales teams need actionable content that's centralized and trackable. Having content in an easily accessible place saves time for reps before and after every prospect interaction.

How to get started:

If you don't yet have a central place to store content, start with an internal wiki page or a shared Google Drive folder. Share the folder with your marketing team, and ensure there's a place to add ideas to the content creation pipeline. As your library grows, find a more robust document tracking solution with more advanced analytics to insure you have full transparency into how your prospects are interacting with your content.

6) Automate your meeting-booking process

While sales reps love meetings, the process of getting one on their calendar is incredibly frustrating -- the back-and forth, the dreaded reply-all. Booking meetings, quite simply, wastes time.

How to get started: 

Use tools like ScheduleOnce, Time Trade, or HubSpot Meetings to create custom booking links for each of your reps. Many tools come with a free trial, so it's easy to get started. Add the custom scheduling links into your email templates and signatures, and make sure your marketing team integrates them into their lead nurturing campaigns.

HubSpot CRM

05 May 20:07

Donald Trump: The worst is yet to come

by Evan Solomon
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, United States, April 27, 2016.  (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, United States, April 27, 2016. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

There ought to be a unit of measurement, a kind of Moneyball-like stat, to gauge the impact of a certain kind of career in politics: the business tycoon who leaps off his mountain of money and aims for the top of the legislative heap. Sadly, no such unit exists, but with Donald Trump’s inexorable ascension to the Republican nomination, I will propose one: the PKP.

Loosely based on Pierre Karl Péladeau’s condensed career as leader of the Parti Québécois, the formula would be PKP=T x S, where T represents the length of time spent as leader and S represents the value assigned to the significance of the contribution. In Péladeau’s case, his PKP value would be a mere one. His quixotic, empty political adventure never made sense. A capricious CEO with a track record of locking out his own workers, Péladeau led a separatist party rooted in unionists, democratic socialists, desperado idealists and bloody-minded academics. It was like a baby-seal hunter being elected leader of PETA.

Contrast that to billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg, who has a massive PKP score. He began his term as mayor of New York with the city still reeling from 9/11 and its finances in the red. Twelve years later he left a city newly considered to be one of the safest, most attractive places on the planet—with a surplus to boot.

Bloomberg’s PKP would be a whopping 144. Impressive.

Other moguls, like Ross Perot, or Steve Forbes, neither of whom were elected, nonetheless made a difference to their movements. Ted Cruz is still parroting Forbes’s flat-tax promise all these years later. They get a score. Here in Canada, as Kevin O’Leary muses about running for the leadership of the Conservative party, there are bets as to how long he might last and what impact he may yet have on the political landscape.

But the only urgent question right now is Donald Trump. How long will his run last and how significant will it be? Hard to believe that he only declared his candidacy on June 16, 2015. Is it too early to measure his impact? Not at all.

There’s a fair bit of magical thinking going on, especially inside the Republican establishment, that somehow Trump—the chauvinist, nativist, belligerent, fear-mongering candidate (the guy is boosting thesaurus sales, I’ll give him that)— is going to go away. Maybe a brokered convention in Cleveland will snatch his nomination crown, or maybe, if he actually gets nominated, he’ll lose the general election to Hillary Clinton and fade away. Wrong.

Trump is already having an impact, especially on global affairs. If he’s occasionally defensive about his lack of political experience, Trump makes up for it by always being offensive about his political opponents. His recent foreign policy speech might as well have announced a new season of a chilling new reality show called “Global Arms Race,” starring China and Russia.

“China and Russia are ramping up defence spending,” says Stephen Saidemen, the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University. This year China increased its military budget by more than seven per cent, to US$146 billion a year, on the heels of hefty year-on-year spending increases over the last decade. While Trump hasn’t triggered that increase, he hasn’t cooled it, either.

This week he compared China’s trade policy with the United States to rape. “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country,” Trump said in Indiana. Never missing a chance to insult women, Trump added a new reckless jibe, invoking the horrors of the Rape of Nanjing, the 1937 mass murder and rape of Chinese citizens by the Japanese Imperial army. The event still scars Sino-Japanese relations and resonates in China as a moment of shame. It’s hard to calculate the damage Trump’s irresponsible words inflict.

“China does a poor job of reading and understanding U.S. politics,” David Mulroney, the former Canadian ambassador to China told me. Mulroney recently wrote Middle Power, Middle Kingdom: What Canadians Need to Know About China in the 21st Century. “China rejected olive branches extended by President Obama and then-Secretary of State Clinton in 2009, and China has been increasingly assertive in the region since.”

For Canada, strained relations between the U.S. and China are troubling. “Our most important trading partner is in an increasingly tense stand-off with our second-most important trading partner,” Mulroney says. “Even a modest rise in tensions between the U.S. and China would have an immediate impact on our economy, and should things deteriorate beyond that, global security would be endangered.”

Trump is a wild card on trade. He’s already called NAFTA a “disaster” and said he would not sign any similar trade deals. So forget the TPP trade deal in Asia. He also threatens to punish companies who move factories to foreign jurisdictions. Look out, Ontario. “Never again!” Trump has thundered on trade deals.

Whether on trade, security, immigration, education or gender issues, Trump is radicalizing the debate. People may wish he ends up scoring as low on the PKP chart as Péladeau himself, but it’s too late. Trump’s numbers are growing. We’ll have to invent new tools to truly measure his impact.

The post Donald Trump: The worst is yet to come appeared first on Macleans.ca.

05 May 20:03

What to Know About Doing Business in Iran

by Matthew Spivack
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Foreign companies, foreign governments, and Iranians expected to see improvements to Iran’s investment climate after implementing a nuclear deal and sanctions relief in the country. But peruse some of the recent headlines about Iran, and you might wonder whether the market’s potential was overstated. The economy still hasn’t received a boost from sanctions relief, and many big banks that left the country have not returned. This slow pace of change has left many senior leaders at multinational companies frustrated and doubtful about Iran’s potential. However, despite a weakened economy, political tensions, market uncertainty, and the lingering effects of sanctions, Iran remains an important opportunity for multinationals in emerging markets.

Compared to most oil-rich countries in the Middle East, Iran has a diversified economy, its tourism sector is on the verge of a major windfall, and threats to its political stability are in decline. The country’s urbanized and large middle class has maintained a strong preference for foreign-made products despite restrictions due to U.S. sanctions and a fragile economy. Senior executives should not lose perspective on the enormous opportunities in Iran, but they must be prepared to navigate some serious challenges.

The Challenges

U.S. sanctions, which were initially enacted in 1979 and strengthened in subsequent years, resulted in many U.S. and European companies restricting their presence in Iran or exiting the market altogether — and they continue to dampen foreign direct investment prospects in 2016. Many sanctions banning financial, trade, and business transactions remain in place, due to concern over Iran’s human rights record, terrorism, conventional weapons, and ballistic missiles program, which means that most U.S. companies can’t do business there. This dynamic will persist in the foreseeable future. (There are some exemptions for humanitarian-designated sectors, such as agriculture, food products, health care, and civil aviation.)

For non-U.S.-based companies, many relevant U.S. sanctions have been suspended, and most national– and EU-level restrictions were eliminated after the nuclear deal in January. Within weeks there was $50 billion in business deals involving foreign companies, including the Airbus agreement (worth $25 billion) to sell 118 planes, and Italy’s state rail company’s $5 billion pact to develop the local rail network. However, remaining U.S. sanctions are delaying these projects being financed. Large European banks in particular are not ready to return to Iran even though they are permitted. Financial institutions remain anxious because of the $15 billion in fines banks have paid for sanctions violations over the last five years and the difficulty of avoiding the U.S. financial system for bank transactions related to Iran.

Iran’s economic woes go beyond sanctions. The country remains reliant on oil revenue, though sanctions have hastened economic diversification: 37.5% of government revenue was derived from energy in the first half of FY 16. This is far lower than rival oil exporters such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. However, oil prices have dropped more than 60% since the interim nuclear deal in November 2013. Thus Iran is collecting less oil revenue than anticipated two and a half years ago, limiting public spending. The situation is encouraging the government to raise revenue through other means, including new taxes and subsidy reform — good news for sustainable economic growth, but bad news for economic recovery in 2016. And alongside the country’s bad debt (some estimates say it is $40 billion), sanctions were commonly evaded through money laundering, which discouraged foreign banks from operating locally.

Some powerful Iranian institutions are highly suspicious of Western influence. This dynamic can stall important change (e.g., more competition to reduce consumer prices, sharing international best practices, technology transfer, public-private partnerships) needed to boost the economy’s health. And while President Hassan Rouhani’s allies gained significant ground in parliamentary elections, allowing more space to open Iran to foreign investment, new policies will be subject to review by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who needs to manage the expectations of his own constituents (religious institutions, Revolutionary Guard, the low-income segment).

The Opportunities

Even with these challenges there are foreign companies seizing the opportunity ahead of their competitors. While the oil and gas sector gets the most attention, Iran’s diversified economy is attracting companies across industries. In particular, consumer-oriented sectors are counting on Iran’s large (nearly 80 million), young (more than 60% under 30 years old), and urbanized (more than 70%) population to be loyal customers in the future.

For example, South Korea–based LG Electronics, which maintained an Iran presence despite sanctions, is in discussions to establish a manufacturing plant in Tehran that will produce more than 1.5 million refrigerators, televisions, and washing machines per year. French automaker Renault has taken advantage of sanctions relief, assembling nearly 15,000 cars between January and April, a sevenfold increase from the same period in 2015. And Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk is building on its Iran presence by doubling local staff to nearly 300 and investing $76 million in a new factory.

The country’s tourism sector attracted fewer than five million visitors in 2014 while neighboring Turkey attracted 39 million people. Given Iran’s top 10 ranking in the number of UNESCO world heritage cultural sites in the world, this is poised to change. Luxury hotel brand Melia is joining Accor and Rotana to open the country’s first international five-star hotel, the Gran Melia Ghoo.

Looking further into the future, Iran is a potential global trade hub. Already nearly 20% of oil trade passes through the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow waterway off Iran’s southern coast, which is the only sea route out of the Persian Gulf and one of the world’s most strategic transit points. Furthermore, the International North-South Transport Corridor will make Iran a key link in connecting India, Central Asia, and Russia, while Iran’s role as part of China’s new Silk Road (especially with rail links) could boost bilateral trade between those countries to up to $600 billion. There are lucrative export and investment opportunities elsewhere in the region, such as in Afghanistan, which is seeking to tap mineral wealth, and in emerging giants such as India, Pakistan, and Turkey, which need natural gas to fuel economic development.

How to Plan for Doing Business in Iran

Based on frequent conversations with Iran-focused multinational companies, there are five notable challenges that deserve immediate attention in order to reap the benefits of the Iranian market:

  • Updating global compliance policies. A comprehensive compliance strategy is the essential bedrock for building and implementing a successful Iran plan. Companies need to confirm that their policies are compliant by consulting with an external sanctions lawyer.
  • Overcoming a lack of market data. Companies looking to enter the market should identify and track leading macroeconomic indicators of specific customer segments. Focusing on data such as population growth, inflation, and GDP growth is a way to anticipate market developments.
  • Finding the right local partners. While it is possible to set up a direct presence, using local distributors at first is strongly advised. The best way to identify new partners involves in-person due diligence. Companies are increasingly considering a “Dubai model,” in which they use local partners in the UAE to connect with distributors in Iran. Many foreign companies have already employed a similar approach through a “Turkish model,” involving partners based in Istanbul.
  • Reclaiming brand equity. Customers may have distorted views of foreign goods that are in Iran illegally. Senior executives should be ready to trace the origins of and combat grey market trade and counterfeits of their products in Iran. Otherwise, companies risk facing challenges related to pricing, value, and positioning against competitors.
  • Accessing foreign exchange. Often, local companies spend weeks waiting for access to foreign currency to import goods from their foreign partners. Without access to the U.S. financial system, this pressure will not ease in the near term. Moreover, this problem is likely to persist because Iran is unifying dual currency exchange rates while also seeking to protect local producers from volatility.

Iran presents an important opportunity for multinational companies that operate in emerging markets. But managing expectations about the country’s trajectory is crucial for building an effective strategy. A smart approach will find the sweet spot: advancing ahead of competitors while sidestepping first-mover mistakes that often plague companies in unfamiliar, rapidly changing, high-stakes business environments.

05 May 20:02

How Top Salespeople Land Hard-to-Get Meetings

by Stu Heinecke
may16-05-566272577

Richard Branson famously said, “Succeeding in business is all about making connections.” Mr. Branson surely has little trouble getting anyone he wants on the phone, but the rest of us could use a little help.

While I was researching my new book, How to Get a Meeting with Anyone, I asked the top 100 sales thought leaders in the world, “When you absolutely must reach someone who is very important but nearly impossible to reach, how do you do it?” What I discovered was a shadow practice that has been extremely effective at breaking through to critical contacts, but no one actually had a name for it.

You and Your Team Series

Meetings

  • The Seven Imperatives to Keeping Meetings on Track
    • Amy Gallo
    How to Design an Agenda for an Effective Meeting
    • Roger Schwarz
    Do You Really Need to Hold That Meeting?
    • Elizabeth Grace Saunders

    I dubbed it “contact marketing,” and found it to be a surprisingly effective marketing technique. Based on my interviews, reported response rates averaged from 60% to 80%, with some campaigns actually hitting 100%. What exactly is contact marketing? It’s a fusion of marketing and selling, employing specific campaigns to connect with specific C-level executives and top decision makers. The idea is that you only need a few dozen of the right high-level relationships to change the scale of your business. Contact marketing can take many forms, but there are five takeaways you can use to make your own high-level connections:

    Deliver something of value. Here’s your chance to stand out, to be audacious, and to create a meaningful connection. The objective is not to attempt to bribe someone to meet with you, but to deliver something that makes a difference to the recipient. It should express your brand personality but contain absolutely no pitch. Your first mission is simply to create a connection, to establish yourself as someone they’ll want to listen to. While you might use search results and social media postings to try to determine an executive’s specific challenges and desires, there are also some simple assumptions you can use to open doors, based on universal desires shared by most business leaders. We all want more success, recognition, and income, but we also want to do the best job we can and leave a mark. For example, I’m a cartoonist, and I’ve found that my cartoons can touch upon all of these markers in a very personal way. Sending a personalized cartoon, like the one below, has become a can’t-miss way for me to connect with virtually anyone, but anything that recognizes the recipients’ desires, helps them do their job more effectively, or enhances their business in some way can be highly effective.

    ed139-hbr-cartoon-580

    Offer something of further value. As your request for contact is received, it’s a good idea to include something additional as a reward for taking the proposed meeting or phone call. Some campaigns split a gift in two — a remote-control model sent with a note explaining that the withheld control unit will be delivered during the meeting, for instance. Although this has reportedly worked, it can come off as being too pushy. A far better approach would be to offer relevant research, a white paper, or a free audit of some aspect of the target executive’s business when the meeting takes place, as a way to provide the incentive you may need to actually get the meeting. The point is to continually add value to the connection building between you in a way that helps the executive do their job more effectively.

    Include the executive assistant. Many sales reps do their best to avoid, circumvent, or trick the executive assistants they encounter, but that is a fatal mistake. Don’t think of assistants as gatekeepers; think of them as talent scouts, always on watch for extraordinary opportunities their executives would otherwise miss. Once they’ve rendered assistance, be sure to thank them with a modest but meaningful gift. If an assistant has been helpful to me, I often send a card with one of my cartoons personalized in their name and a handwritten note of thanks. Whatever you send, don’t make it look like a bribe; a dozen roses is way too much, but a gift card for a few lattes is perfect. Just make sure it expresses your appreciation for their help.

    Secure the meeting. Arranging a call or meeting can be painfully tedious as all parties attempt to coordinate openings in their schedules. You can either suffer the details or use one of many productivity tools on the market to get your meeting on calendars, such as Calendly, Assistant.to, ScheduleOnce, and TimeTrade. I recommend x.ai, an artificial intelligence agent that makes the necessary arrangements via email, from the initial request right on through to confirming meeting times on everyone’s calendars.

    Connect, don’t pitch. Once you’ve gone through the trouble of arranging the meeting, it would be a waste to ruin it with a misguided pitch of your company’s product or service. So don’t do it. Instead, be ready to have an exploratory but informed conversation about an issue by researching news stories or mentions in their social media feeds. Share other cases in which you’ve helped companies in their industry gain new competitive advantages, but never start the meeting assuming your offer is right for them. Be human, explore, and have a conversation.

    Here are two stories of how others have used contact marketing to inspire a few ideas for your own campaign.

    Dan Waldschmidt’s swords. Dan Waldschmidt is an extreme athlete, an author, and one of the top sales bloggers in the world. But his core business is turnaround consulting. To connect with prospects, he scours the business news for stories of missed earnings estimates. When he finds one, he has a beautiful sword made with an engraved inscription in the target contact’s name. It’s sent in a fine wooden box with a handwritten letter telling the CEO he’s got his back in the next battle — but says nothing about his turnaround service. This offer has generated a near 100% response rate and numerous multimillion-dollar engagements while beautifully expressing the value Dan delivers and the personality of his brand.

    NoWait app launch. The founders of the NoWait app, which allows you to put yourself on the waitlist of your favorite restaurant from anywhere, used Contact Campaign as the basis of their entire launch strategy. They targeted the CEOs of 30 top restaurant chains with a brilliant campaign that used personalized videos delivered on iPads in custom NoWait packaging. Their highly targeted approach allowed the company to focus on the people who could do them the most good, using a minuscule $30,000 marketing budget to achieve their objectives. As a result the NoWait App is already used by more than half of the targeted chains.

    I’ve always used my own cartoons to connect with great effect, but you don’t have to be a cartoonist or send expensive gifts to break through to important contacts. Just produce a contact marketing campaign that makes you stand out as someone the recipient really needs to get to know. Do your research and figure out the sweet spot between what your future client needs most and why you’re the best person to help them reach their goals.

05 May 19:58

The Secret to Closing the Sales and Marketing Gap [Podcast]

by Joe Lami

As CMOs, we often speak of the discord between the sales and marketing organizations. “If you walk into a meeting with a sales leader and you’re expecting a contentious meeting, you are probably going to get one.”

shoretel

So how does one begin to mend the rift? A box of chocolates? A night-time serenade? Well, how about personality tests? This is Shoretel CMO, Mark Roberts’ strategy. “By having this virtual map of the team, it allowed us to work through the concepts of how to introduce something.” And when he learned how to speak to his sales team, he unlocked began unlocking their trust.

“Its one of those more important relationships you have in an organization,” says Roberts. “You know when it’s going well and you sure as heck know when it’s going badly.” In this episode hear Mark’s secrets to using these tests to better understand his marketing team and mend the rift between sales and marketing.

Some highlights include:

Understanding the disconnect between sales and marketing (1:45)

Tying the buyers journey to sales (4:15)

Leveraging the voice of the customer (7:50)

Communicating building trust with sales (9:30)

Using personality tests to help to communicate (13:00)

Riding along with the sales teams (16:30)

Providing transparency of information (19:00)

05 May 19:58

How To Attract Your Best Prospects

by Greg Cawood

Attract ProspectsWho are the people in your audience?

It’s an important question to answer when you’re marketing to industrial buyers (or anyone else for that matter). And the way to answer that question is simple: Just ask them. You do that by creating buyer personas, portraits of your ideal prospects based on interviews with real-life customers.

Here are some questions our partners at HubSpot suggest you ask when creating buyer personas:

1. Tell Us About Yourself.

Start with the basics: Are they married? How old are they? How much money do they make? Where do they live? Do they have kids? A lot of this information might be too personal for some people to answer in person. You may want to collect it through a survey they can send back to you.

2. Where Did You Go To School?

What did they study, and what level of education did they complete? Why did they choose the school they chose?

3. Tell Us About Your Career Path.

How did they get to where they are? Did what they study in school prepare them for their current job? If so, how? Have they worked in other industries? If so, what led them to switch to their current job.

4. Tell Us About Your Company?

What do they do? What do they make?

5. How Big Is Your Company?

This question refers to the size of the business in terms of revenue and the number of employees. Having this information on hand will help you as you create landing page forms on your website.

6. What Is Your Job Title? What Is Your Role?

Follow those questions by asking how long they’ve had that position, and whether they work on their own or manage other employees. Finding out who they report to is key information in a B2B setting. If your persona is a B2B purchasing manager, they’ll need less information than someone lower down the ladder, who will need approval from higher up to make purchasing decisions.

7. How Is Your Performance Measured?

Knowing the things on which your persona is graded helps you conclude what makes them succeed, and what they worry about when it comes to reaching their goals.

8. Walk Us Through A Typical Day.

Here’s a chance to get very detailed. Have them describe what time they get to work and when they leave, and what they might be working on in between. Then have them talk about life outside the office: what do they do for fun? What TV shows do they watch at night?

9. What Skills Do You Need To Get Your Job Done?

How would they describe their job if they had to train a new employee? How did they learn these skills, and how would they rate themselves?

10. What Are You Responsible For?

Knowing the persona’s primary goal at work will help you figure out what you can do to help them meet their targets.

11. What Are Some Tools You Use Every Day?

By learning what products your persona loves – and which ones they hate – you can understand what about your product will appeal to them.

12. What Are Your Biggest Challenges?

In other words: What are their pain points? Try to come up with some real quotes that illustrate these problems.

13. What Does Success Mean For Your Job?

When you know this answer, you’ll know what it takes to make your persona look good. As HubSpot puts it, “Companies that take the time to understand what makes their personas successful will likely enjoy more effective communications from both the sales and marketing teams.”

14. How Do You Find Out New Information For Your Job?

To market to this audience, you’ll need to know how they consume information: newspapers, magazines, blogs, social media, etc. Find out which publications and social networks, and make yourself present in those places so you can build credibility in those communities.

15. How Do You Prefer To Interact With Vendors?

Do they prefer to meet face-to-face, or would they rather carry out the sales process over the phone or online? This will help you determine how they’d like to purchase your product or service. And find out if they use the internet to research vendors or products. If so, how do they search?

16. Tell Us About A Recent Purchase.

Why did they consider it, and how did they decide on that product or service? If you’re able to anticipate any objections the persona will have, you can be prepared to help educate them and assuage their fears.

Whether you call them top prospects, ideal customers or key targets, developing a clear understanding of their pain points and motivations, will help you build buyer personas.

An Introduction To Inbound Marketing

05 May 19:53

3 Strategies to Convert Every Visitor Into a Lead

by Kristen Patel

Helping my clients win is a fantastic feeling. In fact, as an account manager, few things give me the amount of satisfaction as seeing my clients’ numbers – their website traffic and new leads, specifically – trending upwards. On the flipside of that coin, there are few things that frustrate me as much as seeing my clients’ traffic steadily increasing, but their visitor-to-lead conversion rates not keeping up with the growth.

It happens to the best of us. But thankfully, when it does, it’s very easy to execute some quick fixes: Blog more frequently! Post more on social! Engage more with followers! These are all important things you should be doing. However, while those may address the symptoms, bringing more visitors to your site and bringing awareness to your premium offers, these quick fixes don’t actually address the real issue.

Let’s take a step back. For the purpose of this blog, I’m going to assume that you’ve already established your buyer personas. And if you haven’t, well, you’re in big trouble. (Actually, you should just stop reading this blog now and go read this one instead).

Why Aren’t Your Visitors Converting?

You understand your personas, your ideal customers. You understand their pain points, their challenges, their priorities and their goals. You can recite the questions they’re asking, and you have the answers that they seek. But maybe you’re getting ahead of yourself.

Do you know what your buyer personas are asking and when?

Because if you’re answering the right questions, but at the wrong time, you’re not really answering their questions or helping them identify (and then solve) their problems at all. And failing to do so definitely will not help you convert every visitor into a lead.

Strategy 1: Identify the right Stage of the Buyer’s Journey

If someone is visiting your website for the first time, chances are high that they’re still in the first stage of the buyer’s journey: awareness. At this point, they’re not committed. They’re not ready to learn about all the available solutions, and they’re definitely not ready to learn about your solutions specifically. They’re still trying to figure out what the heck their problem is. Is their problem that they’re not satisfying their customers because their technology is out of date? Or is it because they’ve misunderstood their customers’ priorities?

“Do you know what your buyer personas are asking and when?”

It could be either, and before they even want to consider how you can magically fix this problem for them, they need to be able to identify their problem. On their own. So until they’ve come to understand their problem, and the need for a solution, put those MOFU Case Studies and BOFU trials away (no matter how well written or designed they are), and focus on the offers that fit.

Strategy 2: Put your Content in the Right Place

So maybe you have a visitors convert on your offers; that’s fantastic! However, that doesn’t mean that you should assume that the majority of your visitors will convert along this same path. What does this mean? It means you need to understand your visitors’ behavior. Just because you have a group of visitors continuing to progress through the sales process, moving from top to middle to bottom of the funnel content, does not mean that you should put your strongest BOFU offer front and center.

Think in terms of what your first-time visitors want to see and do. Do they want to get on the phone with you and sit through a consultation (aka a cleverly disguised prospecting offer)? Probably not. So does that mean that you should tuck away your BOFU offers and never let them see the light of day? Not at all. But put these offers in the right places, such as in the footer of a longer page (only engaged, curious visitors will scroll that far), or on specific internal pages. Or perhaps as part of a nurturing email workflow or sequence.

As for your hero image? Use that front and center website real estate to showcase your stellar TOFU offers.

Strategy 3: Be Smart About It

What if there were a way you could do both; showcase your TOFU offers to first time visitors, but highlight your BOFU offers for your qualified visitors? What if you didn’t have to give up that hero image space when you could be signing potential customers up for demos?

This goes back to the first strategy I mentioned. Identify the right stages of the buyer’s journey. Know where (and who) your contacts are. For example, if a page is visited equally by first time visitors, as well as contacts that have already converted on a TOFU offer, leverage this information. Let your content, your layout, and your website satisfy the needs of both groups of visitors. Be smart about it.

And use either Smart Content or a Smart CTA. Both allow you to change the page’s appearance based on user-defined contact segmentation. However, Smart Content lets you alter the copy on a page, whereas Smart CTAs let you swap out CTA placement. Both are advantageous, for they create a unique, user-specific website experience, allowing your visitors to see the content and language they want to see, when they need to see it.

What Do You Think?

So, what do you think, is this simple or complicated? Let me know! In theory, it’s not hard. But in reality, I also know it’s not easy. And unfortunately, it tends to take a bit of trial and error before we can see the results of these strategies. But, while you wait for the results to unfold, be sure you follow these three strategies. And you’ll be able to see that coveted uptick in visitor-to-lead conversions.

content-creation

05 May 19:53

No More “Spray and Pray”: A Step-by-Step Guide to Effective Targeted Sales Prospecting

by apowell@hubspot.com (Ali Powell)

target-prospecting.jpeg

Some salespeople view prospecting as a numbers game. They reason that the more emails they send and calls they make, the more conversations they will have, and the more customers they will eventually sign. So instead of spending time customizing and personalizing their outreach for each individual prospect, they mass blast generic emails, and follow the exact same script on every single call.

There are two glaring problems with this, however. First and foremost, this is a terrible experience for prospects -- and this is never excusable in sales. Second, this results in a ton of wasted time in the sales process. Why not reallocate the time spent sending hundreds of emails and making hundreds of calls to random strangers to researching and identifying the people who actually stand the highest chance of becoming happy customers? I would argue that this process is a much better use of your time. As sales reps we only have so much time in a day, so spend it wisely by setting yourself up for better at-bats.

Everyone talks about account-based selling, but no one talks about account-based prospecting. But to be able to sell in a more targeted way, you also must change the way you prospect.

Salespeople, it’s time to work smarter, not harder. By moving away from “spray and pray” and embracing a targeted prospecting process, you will get better responses and see better results with better fit companies.

Not to mention that your company will benefit thanks to you contacting, connecting with, and ultimately closing good-fit customers primed for long-term retention. That’s growing your business the smart way -- not just the fast way. Growth is important for any company, but keep in mind the fact that some (hopefully most) of your calls and meetings today will ultimately turn into closed-won business. Think about what would happen if the companies you're talking to became customers. Would they be successful? Does it make sense to prospect the company?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started with targeted sales prospecting, broken out into three handy checklists.

The Research Phase

Before you can even source companies to prospect, you first have to take the steps to figure out what kinds of prospects are happy with your product once they become customers. Being a great sales rep today is not just about hitting quota by bringing on every and any company you can. It is about bringing on new customers who will likely be the happiest they could be with your product based on your sales process.

Figure out what current happy customers look like. This way, you can target new prospects with similar characteristics who would likely be happy customers if you were to end up selling to them.

Here's what you can do to get started:

  • Talk to your customer service and support teams. Customer service people talk to customers -- both happy and unhappy -- all day long. Pick their brains to uncover similarities among satisfied customers. What makes your customers happy? Who is happiest with your product and why? Buddying up with customer service can be especially helpful if you are new to your company or selling into a new industry, and aren’t as familiar with your ideal fit buyer. 
  • Interview happy customers. Ask happy customers what in particular they like about your product, and take note of features that deliver the most value for them. Try to spot trends in your conversations. In addition, take this opportunity to ask about how well the sales process gels with the actual customer experience. Did they know what to expect when they became a customer, or were they relatively unprepared?
  • Determine what type of prospects you’re best at selling to. Think about what types of buyers you’ve had the most success selling to in the past. For instance, if you come from a manufacturing background and notice that manufacturing customers tend to be happy users of your product, consider making prospecting into the manufacturing vertical your personal specialty. At HubSpot, I have always focused on B2B tech and SaaS companies in the Silicon Valley area. I learned early on to focus on a vertical to do well. Focusing on one or a few verticals will allow you to get really darn good at selling to those kinds of companies and people.
  • Create a persona (or several). Finally, create a persona for each type of buyer you plan on targeting, based on your research. For a primer on personas, check out this post. You will create targeted emails, sequences, and other types of messaging using these personas.

The Connection Phase

Now you know who you want to target, it’s time to identify prospects who fit the criteria and reach out in a smart, research-driven way. Here are a few steps to keep in mind at this stage:

  • Define and track trigger events. In your research, you likely heard happy customers reference a few key trigger events time and again -- they got a new job, their company was acquired, the organization opened a new location, etc. List out the trigger events that make your ideal buyer more likely to buy, and track them for each account you’re working in Google Alerts or in another way. In addition, find out what kinds of triggers make your product or service particularly timely and helpful to prospects. There should always be a reason or reasons that you are reaching out. If you don’t have research and reasons to reach out you should back up and find some.
  • Monitor activity. Keep up with the company’s and contact's activity on social media. An interesting tweet or LinkedIn post is great fodder to base a customized prospecting email on. Note any outreach-worthy behavior in your CRM with the date so you don’t forget what happened when. Use alerts tools to make your life easier.
  • Answer two questions for each account: "Why am I working the company?" and "What do I think I can help them with?" If you can’t come up with a solid answer to both questions, shelve the prospect or do more research. But if you do have answers, write them out in your CRM so you can reference them quickly on a call or in an email. 
  • Send customized emails and make personalized calls. Make the meat of your message a timely, relevant reason why you’re contacting the person now -- for instance, a trigger event or interesting social media post. You’ve chosen to target this account for a reason; make this clear to your recipient. All your research on the front-end identifying good fit prospects goes to waste if you send a bland, generic message. Commit to taking the time to personalize every single time.

The Continuous Improvement Stage

By using the two checklists above, you can transform your prospecting process to be much more efficient, buyer-friendly, and productive. But you’re not done -- you must continuously improve and refine your process over time. Here’s how.

  • Train your sales development rep. If you work in conjunction with an SDR, train this person in targeted prospecting and coach them to ensure they can effectively execute the process. Explain why researching and targeting good fit buyers is a smart approach. I have weekly one-on-one meetings with the SDR I work in which we discuss a few accounts she is targeting. We go over strategy for each account, why she is reaching out, and why she thinks we can help. Finally, I provide coaching and tips to improve her process.
  • Commit to identifying a certain number of accounts a week. Just because you’re not spraying and praying doesn’t mean you should move away from activity-based goals entirely. Keep your activity high by defining a number and sticking to it. Separate your target accounts from inbound leads or leads sourced in other ways by marking them as such in your CRM. 
  • Learn as you go. Despite your best efforts to identify companies that will benefit from your product or service, you’re not going to sell every account you decide to work. Take notes on why certain prospects didn’t buy, and log these notes in your CRM. Then, use them to refine your prospecting process, optimizing it little by little.

Salespeople need to put the buyer first, over themselves and their goals -- always. The spray and pray approach to prospecting is the exact opposite of putting the buyer first.

Targeted prospecting is better for both buyers and salespeople. Buyers win in this kind of prospecting because you reach them at good times when they are more likely to see value in your service or product. Salespeople benefit because they have a strategic and proven method to reach out instead of just hoping something comes from random spraying and praying.

Let me know how this process works for you in the comments or on HubSpot's new Slack channel.

HubSpot CRM

Editor's note: Ali Powell is an inbound marketing specialist at HubSpot. Join the Women in Sales Slack channel to connect with like-minded ladies in sales here.

05 May 19:53

5 New Ways to Get a Better Pulse on Your B2B Customers

by Lucy Zhao

How to Uncover Your Customers Wants and Needs While Improving Your B2B Relationship

Most marketers do a decent job at understanding their key customer personas and how to nurture these leads towards a converted sale.

However, much of the knowledge about your customer demographic is formulated early on at your startup and hardly gets re-visited through the product’s life cycle, unless there are serious implications for revenue.

But customer preferences, just like our own, can change on an annual or even monthly basis.

You should pay special attention to customer preferences because user attrition (or churn) can make or break a business. This is especially true if your B2B, because the customer base is smaller and deal sizes are larger, which means that losing one customer can mean losing a significant part of their total revenue.

Since B2B companies do not have the same level of social media engagement and feedback that B2C companies can deploy, B2B businesses need to be more strategic about capturing useful data and providing low friction methods of gathering customer feedback.

So how do you get a better pulse on your customers?

Here’s a collection of the top five strategies for understanding your B2B customers better:

1. Tracking & Analyzing Customer Inquiry Calls

A lot of businesses are now allowing customers to call and text their business.

Are you one of them?

Allowing for “on-demand” access to your business strengthens your relationship with your customer, thus helping you keep them around longer.

On the B2C side, instant messaging apps like Whatsapp are allowing businesses to interact with their customers directly via the chat app. On the other hand, more B2B companies are deploying “white glove” customer support and sales experiences as a key differentiator in the industry.

It’s more important than ever to understand every call and text from customers to get an accurate gauge of where the knowledge gaps are, what customers are looking for, and how happy they are with your product or service.

Call Tracking Tools

During the sales process, call tracking tools provide users with caller analytics similar to Google Analytics for web traffic.

Call-Rail-Reporting

You can track details from any inbound call to your sales and support agents. A simple call tracking app like CallRail and Call Tracking Metrics, can provide details including the caller’s location, the ad that they’re calling about, and attributed to your ad campaign all in real-time. Agents on the line can also use this information to better prepare for the call to improve customer experience.

Phone Support Inquiry Tracking

For support inquiries, web-based call center apps like Talkdesk and Five9 can help track and monitor your call center efficiencies in real-time.

Each call is recorded on the cloud so that your team can review them anytime for direct customer feedback.

These apps can also provide your team with analytics including call duration’s, speed to answer, and locations of callers for both your entire team and agent specific metrics.

Not only will these analytics give you a better sense of what your customers are asking for, but also give you better insight into how your sales and support teams are addressing customer issues.

2. Lower the Friction of Customer Support Inquiries

Many companies have been built on great customer experience.

And many well known entrepreneurs, including Jay Baer who just came out with his new book, “Hug Your Haters,” have said that we should be talking to our customers every day, especially those who are unhappy with your service.

However, delivering great customers experiences is definitely easier said than done.

Even though we know that great service can reduce customer attrition and extend the lifetime of a customer and increasing revenue, many B2B companies still only provide the minimum support mechanisms, such as email.

Providing information and resources to customers up front can help streamline your support process so that only business critical tickets are submitted.

Fortunately, there are many affordable customer support and feedback tools that can be implemented rather quickly.

Apps such as Olark can sit on your product page and act as the direct portal to your customer support or sales team. Think of it as a chat box for your customers that’s connected directly to a live agent on your support team. Not only are you able to help customers solve issues in real-time, you’re also able to gather data from the platform to find out the most commonly asked questions and concerns so that your team can better prepare for future customer inquiries.

Keep in mind that since this type of customer interaction is extremely low friction, the amount of spam inquiries and poor fit leads may also increase drastically. Manage this by providing your support team with well documented call scripts and templates to common questions. This can help speed up replies and streamline resolutions.

3. Analyze FAQ and Site Searches

Knowing what your customers are looking for on your site is just as, or even more, important than knowing how your customers found your site (i.e., SEO).

To do this in Google Analytics, log in and go to Reporting -> Behavior -> Site Search -> Overview and, if you’ve got search up and running on your site it will look something like this:

Site Search Example

Even though there is a steady trend towards users texting, chatting, and calling businesses, there will always be a significant portion of your customers that only want self-served info such as FAQs, documentation, white papers, e-books, etc.

Customers don’t ask for this type of thing out loud, but it’s your job to see the trend in demand and provide the solution. If 10 people a day are asking the same question in your live chat, it’s time to put up a standalone page that answers that question, and maybe even consider linking to it from the homepage, or menu.

Remember, no matter how well your site is designed, it needs to be constantly updated and improved as more data comes in.

Of course, some businesses may want to keep certain information to direct sales inquiries. But remember to direct them to sales when that is the case. For example, instead of returning “question not found” when a customer searches for volume pricing, you can guide them to a specific landing page with a call to action that indicates they need to contact sales. A kind of “dummy” page that just answers the inquiry with a “call us to find out” answer.

You don’t have search on your website?

There are a few ways you can add intelligent search to your website.

The simplest way is to add customer search engine with a few lines of code from Google. But for better analytics and built in features, you may want to consider implementing Google Site Search or a similar service like Swiftype. Both of these services offer many out-of-box features to help analyze on-site search traffic, but regardless of which type of service you choose, be sure to pay attention to these key features.

4. Build a Community Forum

Providing a medium for customers to voice their opinions is a great way to not only identify issues in your system, but also bring out the champions of your product.

The most vocal customers are typically ones with issues or those who are extremely satisfied. However, these polarizing views can skew your perception of what the customers actually want, need, and most importantly, willing to pay for. Therefore, it’s important to moderate your community forums and provide topics that will help your team answer important product decisions.

For example, FreshDesk has a very active community forum, they have over 1900 feature requests alone. Categories like “feature requests” and “road map” show users that their requests are being heard and when they can expect their features to be deployed.

FreshDesk Road Map

If having a dedicated forum is too much work, then you can always use a tool like Disqus, which seamlessly adds a commenting box at the bottom any page that could drive customer feedback.

For example, adding a commenting box on your company blog can engage your customers in how they felt about your latest news or product release. Allowing commenting on FAQs also helps you identify answers that may be unclear or knowledge gaps that need to be filled.

Just remember, opening up your website to public opinions can lead to spam and nonconstructive comments, so be sure to protect your site by installing an anti-spam service such as Akismet. Similar to the spam filters installed on your browser, anti-spam services pools together millions of site data and analyzes them in real time to identify spam and block attacks to your site.

5. Find Your Net Promoter Score

Find Your Net Promoter Score

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a measurement for customer satisfaction and often referred to as the most important metric for any business.

Even though the NPS is often used for B2C, this metric can also be a key way to help B2B businesses measure customer loyalty.

Typically, each purchase is an opportunity for businesses to ask the all encompassing question of “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?”

However, for B2B sales cycles, it’s likely that you would only have one purchase opportunity in the entire buying cycle to ask this question. Therefore, we must create opportunities to gather this feedback.

The good thing is that there are services that help you survey customers in an user friendly low friction way. Enter Delighted and Qualaroo, these are survey services that allow you to engage your customers and collect feedback quantitatively without the hassle of charting data points yourself.

Delighted is a simple email survey tool that measures customer satisfaction at the critical moments in the customer buying cycle such as post-purchase, after issue resolution, or at whatever event that makes sense for your business.

Qualaroo is a survey tool that sits directly on your website. You can control the questions that you want to ask and the pages that you want to engage your customers.

Both of these applications not only engage your customers in just a few clicks, but it also simplifies your process of gathering the same type of information through direct customer conversations.

Final Thoughts

Getting a better pulse on your customer satisfaction is a no brainer, but it’s also important to first decide what to measure, when to measure, and what to do with all this customer feedback that you’ve collected.

NPS is just one of many metrics that you should pay attention to, but it’s also important to know what is important to your business. For example, successful startups need to be highly focused on what works, so gathering and implementing all customer feature requests can be counter productive to growth.

Another important aspect to keep in mind is who the feedback is coming from.

For most B2B businesses, the person that’s interfacing with your product on a daily basis is likely not the same person that has made the original purchasing decision. And because of this, the person who’s often interacting with your support team can have different incentives for feedback than someone who’s commenting on your new product release on your blog.

This is why it’s important to provide multiple mediums for capturing customer feedback. Support tickets are imperative for direct customer issues, NPS surveys are a good general measure for customer satisfaction, and customer forums can be great for feature requests and issues that you may not have thought of.

Keep in mind, these strategies are focused on feedback efficiency, but there’s a better way: interviewing your customers directly on a regular basis. Platforms like chat and surveying tools can help foster and collect on-going data points, but scheduling calls with your most satisfied (and least satisfied) customers should be part of any customer engagement strategy.

04 May 17:23

What FDR Knew About Managing Fear in Times of Change

by Vijay Govindarajan
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In our work with leaders we’ve found that managing successful transformational change has a lot to do with managing fear. This includes fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of change, or even fear of fear itself. This is especially true when making bold changes — the kind of change that could take an organization to a whole new level of performance, or, out of a paralyzing tailspin. The bolder the change, the bigger the fear, as fear is our resistance to change.

So how do you manage deep resistance to big change in high stakes situations? Great leaders from the past point the way.

Entering office on March 4, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt faced one of the most significant leadership challenges in U.S. history: the Great Depression. Its impact was so vast that it drew the U.S. and then the entire global market into a downward spiral. The nation was gripped in a panic that had people running to the banks to pull out their savings. Leading up to Roosevelt’s inauguration there was yet another run on the banks in February 1933, further eroding the financial system.

Even more remarkable than the scale of the crisis, was that one leader would turn the tide in a matter of days. Nine days after Roosevelt’s inaugural speech, depositors were standing in line to return their cash to neighborhood banks. By month’s end, two-thirds of the hoarded cash had been returned. And financial markets rebounded, with the New York Stock Exchange posting the largest one-day gain in history.

Roosevelt made bold decisions and managed the fear of a nation in crisis. How did he do it?

Break the habit of inaction

Roosevelt responded decisively to the crisis. He broke the habit of inaction by instituting a weeklong bank holiday a day after taking office and managed to coach the nation to let go of their paralyzing fear in a 14.5-minute “More Important than Gold” Fireside Chat on the radio the eve before reopening the banks. These were strategic moves that changed the direction of the crisis. In our work with leaders, we find that strategic decisions fit into one of three categories, or “boxes”:

  • Box 1: Managing the present.
  • Box 2: Selectively forgetting the past.
  • Box 3: Creating the future.

We call this “Three Box Thinking.” Box 1: Managing the present decisions tend to be linear changes. Most large-scale, nonlinear decisions that result in large organizational change fit into either Box 2: Forgetting the past or Box 3: Creating the future.

Roosevelt’s decision to close the banks was both a bold departure from the past (Box 2) — never before had there been a complete stoppage of the U.S. payments system — and an innovative start to a new future (Box 3). Roosevelt later explained it as a “first step in the government’s reconstruction of our financial and economic fabric.”

When leaders make bold Box 2 or Box 3 decisions they often face resistance in the form of stakeholders wanting to keep the status quo. Even if the status quo is getting nowhere.

Tame crocodilian fears

How do leaders like Roosevelt effectively transform resistance to change and inspire the confidence and courage to get others to follow them when they make big Box 2 and Box 3 bets? They explicitly address what undermines courage and confidence: our fear.

In his inaugural address, Roosevelt opened with a courageous declaration to the people of America and of the world in a time of crisis: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Neuroscience now tells us why this was such an effective move. When we’re in the grip of our fears, we are at least 25 times less intelligent than we are at our best. We don’t think straight. And we’ll most likely reject anything that takes us out of our comfort zone. This reaction is well known today as the “amygdala hijack.” It’s when our more primitive, or “crocodilian” brain wired for survival takes over. When our crocodiles are active, we are resistant to change and are operating from a fear of survival. Our crocodiles are trying to keep us safe, at the cost of innovation and change.

Roosevelt didn’t know about crocodilian amygdala hijacks. But he did see fear as one his country’s greatest challenges, particularly in facing the banking crisis.

He skillfully disarmed the nation’s crocodiles by addressing them directly. In his first radio address, he helped people become aware of the crocodilian traps they could fall into that would undermine progress: “It is possible that when the banks resume a very few people who have not recovered from their fear may again begin withdrawals.”

Then he let people know he wouldn’t support crocodilian behavior. “Let me make it clear to you that the banks will take care of all needs except of course the hysterical demands of hoarders, and it is my belief that hoarding during the past week has become an exceedingly unfashionable pastime in every part of our nation,” he told Americans. Neither Roosevelt nor the banks were going to feed the crocodiles.

Tame your own fears to set the stage for others

Leaders develop a Roosevelt-like capacity to tame others’ crocodiles that get triggered by audacious Box 2 and 3 decisions, by first taming their own crocodiles. Roosevelt was struck down by polio years earlier. Instead of giving into despair and fear of the illness, he joined and shortly thereafter bought and led a polio revalidation center, to heal himself and to help others heal. His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, said, “I have never known a man who gave one a greater sense of security.…I never knew him to face life or any problem that came up with fear.” Facing our own fears first creates an environment where others get the courage to face their own.

Playing with “crocodiles” in your organization

Look at any big Box 2 or Box 3 decision facing your team or organization. What crocodiles will the change trigger? Crocodilian fears show up in language familiar to many of us: “we can’t do that; that’s never been done before; we’re going to lose everything; it’s not going to work.” The question is: what to do about it? Here are three strategies:

  • Name it to tame it. Name personal and organizational crocodiles to get them in the open so they’re not running the show. Roosevelt did this effectively when he called out ”hoarders.”
  • Use humor. Don’t be scared of the crocodiles; they’re just pink elephants, illusions. When done skillfully, humor can diffuse tension around fears. Adobe adopted such a strategy when it got rid of one of its flagship cash-cow services, packaged software, to shift completely to software in the cloud. The company made a video poking fun at so-called “Revenue Addicts” who had a hard time letting that part of the business go. It addressed the crocodilian fear-based behavior and freed the organization to innovate ahead.
  • Instill confidence with courage. When we convey confidence through our dialogue and speak with courage, it instills these qualities in others. Roosevelt’s tone and delivery conveyed a sense of safety that approached sacredness. He was straightforward and matter of fact. Such a balanced tone helped to instill confidence in a nation and the world at a time of great crisis. Said Roosevelt on the radio the evening before reopening the banks, “After all, there is an element in the readjustment of our financial system more important than currency, more important than gold, and that is the confidence of the people themselves. Confidence and courage are the essentials of success in carrying out our plan. You people must have faith; you must not be stampeded by rumors or guesses. Let us unite in banishing fear.”

Change management is fear management, and fear management is crocodile management. And if you think, “Well this is great for Roosevelt, but I’m no Roosevelt,” remind yourself that it’s probably just the crocodile talking. And then take action. Box 2 and Box 3 decisions demand firm and direct crocodile management.

04 May 17:22

Sales coaching session with Steli: Selling chemical development services to large organizations

by steli@close.io (Steli Efti)

I recently spoke with the head of business development for a chemical engineering startup focused on helping the pharmaceutical, flavor, and fragrance industries reduce their carbon footprint.

They provide chemical development services, which lead to optimized production processes for chemical compounds of their customers. These are high volume projects, usually starting with a small financial feasibility study. The decision-maker is typically the Head of R&D.

He came to me with great questions about streamlining their sales process, finding mentors, and challenging standard pricing structures. Here’s the results.

How to shorten long sales cycles

The pharmaceutical industry is characterized by slow and deliberate decision making processes. For the chemical engineering startup, a typical scenario looks like this: Once a prospective customer has expressed a general interst in their services, the first task is to identify a suitable chemistry project within the prospect's vast portfolio. This typically requires the involvement of further technical experts, who are additional important stakeholders in the buying process.

The problem: even if the decision maker is on board, this process takes time, often gets too complicated or gets buried in day-to-day business.

Here are three ways to close deals faster.

1. Qualify your prospects early on

You can’t sell a solution if you don’t understand the problem. Your first priority with any prospect is to ask questions that identify their core needs. For example:

  • What are your must-haves, should-haves, and nice-to-haves?
  • How do you see your business growing over the next few years?
  • What do you need from us to become insanely successful?

Qualify your prospect in advance and you’ll reduce the risk of selling your product to the wrong customer.

2. Use the virtual close

The virtual close is a powerful sales strategy in which your customer describes their buying process in detail. This conversation uncovers if there’s real buying intent, creates a roadmap for the sales cycle, and invites your prospect to imagine a future where they’ve become your customer.

Start by saying, “I think we’re a great fit. I’m positive we could offer each other a ton of value and I’m excited to get started. What steps do we need to take to close this deal?”

Then, shut up and listen.

If your prospect says, “I don’t know,” move on. They don’t have genuine buying intent.

But if they engage, ask follow-up questions to uncover more information about their buying process. For example:

  • “Great! Then what?”
  • “And what happens then?”
  • “How does that usually work for you?”

The more time and energy the prospect puts into the virtual close, the more invested they’ll be in your solution. As they become more invested, you’ll gain valuable insights into their buying cycle and can decide whether or not the deal is worth pursuing.

3. Parallelize processes

After the virtual close, you should have a good idea of your prospect’s buying cycle. Most will have multiple steps, like:

  1. Getting approval from stakeholders
  2. Communicating with the procurement department
  3. Addressing security concerns with the IT department
  4. Arranging contracts with the legal department
  5. Finalizing the deal with the accounting department

The process takes so much time because most businesses approach these steps sequentially. You can cut weeks or months off a buying cycle by dividing it into fewer steps that run in parallel. Here’s how you can approach this with your prospects:

“It looks like we’re a great fit. I want to get our product in your hands as soon as possible, so let’s streamline the buying cycle. Can you put me in contact with your procurement, IT, and legal department right now? That way, by the time we have stakeholder approval, we’ll just need to run things through accounting. Sound good?”

In most cases, your prospects will be happy to shorten the process.

How to find mentors

Mentors are one of the most powerful and least utilized sales hacks. Save yourself a ton of wasted time and effort by following these tips to find a mentor for your startup.

You need practical mentors, not inspirational role models

When most people look for a mentor, they try and find the best in the business. They pursue the industry leader who is 5+ years ahead of them, figuring they’ll have all the answers. They won’t.

They’re great as inspiration, but this business hasn’t faced the problems you’re facing in at least five years. The strategies they use are not applicable to your early-stage startup.

Instead of looking for someone light years ahead of you, find a mentor who is just a year or two ahead. Their advice will be relevant and applicable because they’ve been where you are recently. It’s 2016—market conditions are changing rapidly, and the Go-to-Market strategy that another company succeeded with in 2001 probably won’t work for your current venture.

When you say, “This is the problem I’m facing,” they’ll say, “Yeah, we ran into that last year. Here’s what we did.”

Having role models is great, but you need more than inspiration. Find a mentor who really understands the problems you’re facing.

startup-sales-mentors

How to find and recruit mentors

The best way to find mentors is by building an industry-specific network.

Ask your customers, coworkers, and acquaintances for connections. Say, “I really want to meet people in my industry who are doing amazing things. Do you know anyone I should meet?”

Value should always be a two-way street, especially in a mentorship relationship. When you find someone you want as a mentor, find a way to provide value to them before asking for help.

Should you transition from hourly rates to value-based pricing?

For most large organizations, hourly pricing is the standard. They expect to be able to approach their purchasing department and say, “We need to buy X hours of Y.”

Many startups are trying to challenge that expectation by transitioning from hourly rates to a value-based pricing model. They’re facing a lot of resistance from larger organizations and are starting to ask, “Is this worth it?”

Closing deals is hard enough as it is. If you’re facing that sort of resistance, ask yourself, “Do I really want to complicate the buying process further by forcing a foreign payment structure on my prospects?”

In most cases, the answer will be “no”. Your want to remove friction, not create it.

But if you’re set on value-based pricing, here are three ways to make the transition easier for your prospects:

  • Find a way to express your value-based model in terms of hourly investment.
  • Make the change less dramatic and more gradual by switching from hourly to daily, and from daily to value.
  • Onboard your customers with an hourly rate. Once you’ve demonstrated the value you provide, transition to a value-based pricing model.

If you’re going to change your payment model after establishing a customer base, check out our article on how to change your pricing without losing customers.

Difficult doesn't mean impossible

Challenging the status quo is never easy, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Find a mentor who can help you streamline your sales process and continually provide more value than you demand. Stick to those principles and you’re on the path to success.

Recommended reading:

Sales kung fu: How to “virtually” close every single customer by asking this powerful question
If you only ever learn one sales strategy, let it be the virtual close. Learn more about how to close deals by walking your prospect through their buying cycle here.

How to successfully increase your SaaS prices
Whether you want to make a dramatic shift like DexLeChem or you just want to make a minor change to your monthly fee, make sure you know how to handle a price structure change.

13 killer B2B sales questions to close more deals
Listening is the most powerful skill in any sales conversation. Whether you’re prospecting, qualifying, or closing, being able to ask the right questions is vital to your success.

04 May 17:12

What Is Your Hardware Business Gross Margin?

by Brad Feld

I’m seeing an endless stream of hardware-related companies these days. In our world, we are focused on software wrapped in plastic, a line I think I first used some time in 2012. If you understand our themes, it fits squarely within human computer interaction for us.

There was a point in time – probably less than six years ago – where very few VC firms would even consider an investment in a hardware related company that was aimed at consumers. Every financing for every company we’ve invested in this area has been extremely difficult. We were not the first, nor are we the only, but in 2010 it was a very large, very dusty, and very dry desert landscape.

Suddenly, hardware related startups are all the rage.

While there has been more clarity on the core long-term economics of a hardware business, I continue to be baffled about the lack of understanding – by both VCs and entrepreneurs – of the core economics of a business like this at scale. A few folks, like our friends over at Bolt, have written great blog posts on this, but I fear that they are being overlooked, unlike the 3,671 blog posts on SaaS software, especially around SaaS metrics.

I was listening to a panel recently where several hardware entrepreneurs were discussing their businesses. I asked a simple question: “How do you think about your gross margin?”

The answer was all over the place. There was a lot of focus on current gross margin %, vagueness about how to compute gross margin, and discussion on subsets of cost inputs. There was no consistency in definition or view, especially at different scale points of the business. I could tell the panelists were uncomfortable with the discussion and the audience seemed to want to just move on and talk about something else.

I expect over the next year there will be 174 VC-based content marketing posts about how to build a successful hardware business. If they emulate the 3,671 posts about SaaS-based businesses, there will be plenty that discuss gross margin and how to think about it. Hopefully they’ll include a bunch of derivative metrics around pricing, BOM, shipping, and channel mix. Maybe they’ll even include information at different scale points of the business and tie the metrics to marketing and sales expense.

For now, if you are a founder building a hardware-based business, I encourage you to get to know other founders who have built successful hardware-based businesses at scale and go deep on the financials of their journey. You might be surprised how little equity is actually required to build a marketing-leading, cash flow positive, high growth, hardware related company.

The post What Is Your Hardware Business Gross Margin? appeared first on Feld Thoughts.

04 May 17:12

The World Bank just issued a warning that's going to rattle global economies

by Christopher Woody and Reuters

Water drought Nicaragua Latin America

Economies across large swathes of the globe could shrink dramatically by 2050 as fresh water grows scarce due to climate change, the World Bank reported on Tuesday.

The Middle East could be hardest hit, with its gross domestic product falling as much as 14% by 2050 unless steps are taken to significantly reallocate water, the Washington-based institution said in a report.

Those measures could include efficiency efforts and investment in technologies such as desalination and water recycling, the World Bank said.

Global warming can cause extreme floods and droughts and can mean snowfall is replaced by rain, with higher evaporation rates, experts say.

It also can reduce mountain snow pack that provides water, and the melting of inland glaciers can deplete sources of runoff, they say. A rise in sea level can also lead to saltwater contaminating groundwater.

"When we look at any of the major impacts of climate change, they one way or the other come through water, whether it's drought, floods, storms, sea-level rise," Richard Damania, World Bank lead economist and lead author of the report, told reporters, according to Reuters. 

"Water is of course at the center of life, but it's also at the center of economic activity," Damania added.

Fresh water drought Cambodia Asia

Fresh-water shortages could take a toll on economic sectors ranging from agriculture to energy, the World Bank said, and rising economies such as China and India could be hard hit.

In the Sahel belt that stretches across Africa below the Sahara, GDP could well shrink some 11% with water scarcity, the World Bank said, noting that a similar impact would be felt in Central Asia.

But measures to reallocate fresh water could show gains in some regions, the bank said. A shift in allocation could lead to GDP growth of about 11% by 2050 in Central Asia, the bank noted.

The World Bank also advocated pricing water consumption, a proposal that has stirred controversy and is opposed by those who do not think water should not have any price tag.

"If you're making money out of water, particularly if you're using a lot of water as a commercial user, then it's reasonable to suggest that you pay minimally enough to cover the cost of providing you with that water," Damania said.

"This might well mean free water if you are exceedingly poor," he said.

South Africa fresh water drought

About one-quarter of the world's population, or some 1.6 billion people, live in countries where water already is scarce, according to the World Bank.

Millions in peril

Water scarcity would not have the same impact across the globe, and Western European and North American economies would likely be spared, according to World Bank models.

But while those regions may escape the worst effects of water scarcity, populations within them will likely suffer from climate change, which would have economic consequences for those countries.

Along the US Gulf coast, some people are already being relocated because of rising sea levels and other changes related to shifting climate.

Isle de Jean Charles, a low-lying island off the coast of Louisiana, has seen its land area reduced from a size of 15,000 acres in the middle of last century to a strip of land about 320 acres in size now.

isle de jean charles

The US government has set aside $52 million to help the few dozen residents of Isle de Jean Charles resettle (though some of those residents may resist leaving), but the island's fate augurs poorly for other, more heavily populated regions of the country that sit near or below sea level.

"If you have a hard time moving dozens of people, it becomes impossible in any kind of organized or fair way to move thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or, if you look at the forecast for South Florida, maybe even millions," Mark Davis, the director of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy, told The New York Times. 

Last month, 175 nations signed a deal reached last year in Paris to slow global warming and cut greenhouse-gas emissions. 

(Reporting by Sebastien Malo and editing by Ellen Wulfhorst for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters.)

SEE ALSO: Israel's revolutionary water management methods aren't going to be enough to solve California's devastating drought

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: 4.2 million Americans could be displaced by rising sea levels this century — see if your county is at risk

04 May 17:12

[Podcast] Episode 020: All about content curation with the Curate team

by Tom Tate

Over the past few months, we’ve been working to develop and release our third mobile app, Curate. (Curious about it? Listen to this podcast episode and then check out our announcement post from earlier today.)

Curate lets you build an email newsletter using curated content. But what exactly is curated content?

In this episode, I host a roundtable with our content marketing expert Kristen Dunleavy, user experience guru Grace Stoeckle, and iOS development team lead, Andy Obusek, all about, you guessed it, curated content.

At AWeber, we believe in the power of email to connect people in remarkable ways; to build strong relationships in the inbox – the kind of relationships that grow your business. If you are struggling with what to write in your emails, or finding ways to provide added value to your subscribers, this episode is a perfect introduction into an effective strategy that you can add to your email marketing repertoire.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What is content curation?
  • Why curated newsletters are so effective?
  • What are some tips and tricks for creating engaging curated content?
  • What tools can help you find and publish curated content?
  • And much more…

This episode was recorded live on Blab.im. You can watch the recording here!.

Listen below:

Here are a few links referenced in the episode:

Click here to download this episode directly. (MP3)

Have a question about email marketing? Leave us a message at aweber.com/podcast.

Friendly Podcast Disclaimer: We like to include this little note on each episode’s post because we provide educational content and frequently interview guests on this podcast. The views and opinions of any podcast guest are their own, and does not necessarily reflect the views of AWeber. Marketing best practices and advice can change based on regulations, trends and market conditions. Therefore, any older episodes may contain information most relevant at the time of publication. We hope you enjoy!

The post [Podcast] Episode 020: All about content curation with the Curate team appeared first on Email Marketing Tips.

04 May 17:11

3 Principles of Lean Marketing

by Robert Allen

To succeed your start-up must be lean. These are key principles to apply to marketing

Around the world, thousands of new businesses with exciting new ideas for original products start up every day. To say most of them fail is an understatement. The reality is the vast majority fail. Yet some go on to transform the way we live, eat, shop, work and pay for things. Start-ups are remaking the modern business landscape by disrupting established players. It's an exciting time to work for a start-up, or even better to be a founder. However, that doesn't change the incredibly slim odds of success.

Why do Start-ups fail?

Start-ups fail for all sorts of different reasons. But they all suffer from a set of problems which more often than not are the primary reason for their failure. Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, David Collis, outlines these problems as suffering from a shortage of:

  • Money
  • Talent
  • Intellectual Property
  • Access to distribution

But most importantly of all he argues that start-ups need a strategy which helps entrepreneurs concentrate on what they do best, and avoid costly mistakes by knowing what no to do. The most common way start-ups fail is by failing to do this, as by doing so they leave themselves open to cost over-runs, poorly managed teams or unaccountable divisions. There are plenty of examples to point to of start-ups that have burned through their capital at a rate of knots and subsequently gone under. Sometimes these were businesses with innovative products that could have cornered the market, but failed because they lacked a proper strategy or cost discipline. We've seen some spectacular blow-outs in the past few years. In 2011, solar power tech start-up Solyndra filed for bankruptcy, after burning its way through $1bn in venture capital funding. And Better Place, a start-up provider of battery stations for electric cars, shut down in 2013 after losing $850m. In silicon valley 'Burn Rates' (Californian for how much cash they're losing) are currently at their highest since 1999, on the eve of the dot-com crash. So how can you avoid the losses piling up at your start-up, and instead manage the difficult transition to profitability?

Fundamental principles

The idea of running a 'lean' start-up is that you constantly learn and apply these lessons to the business, rather than focusing on implementing an overall plan that is conceived years before the implementation date and can quickly become out of date in a fast moving industry, particularly in the unpredictable world of start-up development.

lean start up

In his classic book 'The Lean Start-up' which fuelled the interest in 'lean marketing and analytics', entrepreneur Eric Ries puts forward 5 key principles which inform the lean start-up method:

  1. Entrepreneurs are everywhere.
  2. Entrepreneurship is management
  3. Validated learning
  4. Build-Measure-Learn
  5. Innovation accounting

These concepts are useful and make for great reading, but they're also top-level advice and can be hard to apply in practice. We recommend using them as a top level framework, but when it comes to making day to day decisions to keep your strategy on track and keep your start up lean, we recommend these additional key points from David Collis writing on Lean Strategy in the March 2016 Harvard Business Review. These relate to marketing decisions of new product development, lean testing through market research and distribution.

1. The opportunity cost of doing A is that you cannot also do B, and decisions are interdependent

In a small business with limited resources, committing to building one feature will mean others can't be developed. It may sound obvious, but to avoid cost overruns, delays and growing flabby, you need to always consider the flip side of every decision. If you tell your dev team of three coders to build an extra feature into the new app your building, you must make that decision at the cost of other features. That may well mean it is the wrong decision.

There are plenty of start-ups which have tried to develop products which do too many things and then flop. A great example of a start-up that learnt these lessons and did the opposite is Instagram. They originally built a mobile app-based social network which was built around checking into locations, making plans with friends and sharing experiences. They quickly realised users loved using it to share photos, but not much else. Instead of devoting resources to improving the features the app was originally built around, they scrapped all the features except photo sharing and built the best app they possibly could just around that.

They could have said let's try and make the best possible photo sharing app AND make the check-in features better. If they'd done that their resources would have been spread too thin and they probably wouldn't have been able to perfect the photo sharing element and Instagram would in all likelihood have been a flop. By realising the opportunity cost of trying to do both, they successfully pivoted in what later proved to be the right direction.

2. Simple Market tests can be useful, but can't always be relied on

Developing a product by coming up with a quick prototype, testing with users using a service like UserTesting.com or WhatUsersDo , going back to the drawing board and redesigning based on how users actually interact with a product or service is a great idea and a key part of the learn-startup approach. Doing away with it because it is slightly flawed would be folly. Yet it is important to recognise some of its limitations.

Market viability can also be tested through creating landing pages and then advertising a forthcoming proposition through targeting in Google AdWords or social media - another example of lean marketing to support a startup.

Sometimes quick, cheap experiments offer answers which don't fully reflect how the market will actually respond in the long term. Sometimes customers need time to appreciate the value of a new product, and vice versa, sometimes initial usage is a poor guide for future usage, as sometimes fleeting gimmicks lead to a rush of users which quickly dissipate. Groupon is a prime example of this. Massive early take up quickly dissipated when customers found that repeated use was uneconomical. Try to avoid relying on simple A / B tests, and where possible start up genuine conversations with users and generate qualitative feedback.

3. Align the entire organisation

Start-ups have an advantage over the larger businesses they compete with in that they are more agile and can align the whole organisation to a given goal across marketing, sales and operation, which can be next to impossible in big companies. Every decision can contribute to the end goal if planned out right. From the type of people you hire, the way people are rewarded, the KPIs used, the IT systems like CRMs or Project management systems. If the end goal requires a product built with collaboration between many different teams, you can configure the whole organisation, even the layout of the building, to maximise collaboration. Similarly, if you find there are activities which are not contributing to the overall goal, then removing them can help boost efficiency and save money.

Of course, these three principles aren't the only ways to keep your start-up lean and ready to take on the established opposition. But we felt that this guidance from David Collis are useful principles to bear in mind when marketing and new product development decisions about the directions of a start-up or larger business.

If you have experience in using lean marketing techniques to grow startup businesses or apply to larger companies and have any principles to add, let us know in the comments.

Download Expert member resource – 7 Steps guide to digital marketing for startups, small and mid-sized businesses

This guide is for you if you’re looking to expand a small business using the power of low-cost or no-cost digital marketing techniques.

Access the Complete digital marketing for startups, small and mid-sized businesses

04 May 17:09

What Buyers Value: Don’t Make This Mistake!

by PFPS

Asking questions reveals what buyers value and to what degree.

Questions about what buyers value should be routinely asked to confirm that what was important is still important. A proactive seller who identifies a new value early on has the advantage of being the first seller with a chance to meet the needs driven by this new value paradigm. On the other hand, a seller who misses a change may be left out in the cold when the buyer moves on to work with another seller who identified what buyers value and created a solution supporting the new value.

A Hard Lesson to Learn about What Buyers Value

To illustrate how this can happen, put yourself in the shoes of a sales rep who worked with the same account for nearly 15 years. The seller believed she knew the account better than anyone. She visited frequently and had established an ease and comcover for site 2015fort level with the buyer. She sheltered the account from sales blitzes and “mandatory” add-ons, defended the account against price increases and promotions, and maintained the status quo in every possible way.

This seller genuinely felt she was meeting the needs of her long-term customer. But by shielding the customer from new information and continuing to operate on old assumptions, the seller lost the account. She was blindsided when she stopped by one Tuesday afternoon, just as she had on every Tuesday afternoon for many years. The buyer was apologetic and tried to let her down easily by saying “We needed some fresh ideas and a new way of doing things. We’re switching to your competitor because they offer expedited delivery and different packaging sizes.”

Stunned, the seller could only say “We offer those things, too, but I know saving money is important to you so I never bothered you with those pitches.”

The buyer’s response was delivered in a disappointed and scolding tone. He said “You know we’ve always liked doing business with you. But who are you to make decisions like that for us?”

What was valued had changed for the buyer. The seller had become complacent and hadn’t checked in to understand emerging needs or to understand how what was valued had changed in the face of new competitive pressures. Her intentions may have been good, but her actions hurt her customer’s business and cost her company (and her personally) a major account that should have been a lifetime customer.

Sellers who keep abreast of what buyers value make it clear, over and over again, that they respect and are attuned to what their buyers care about most. This creates trust and connection. It also differentiates the seller and reveals new opportunities for additional sales. If a seller does not know what a buyer values, the seller is destined to make costly errors. Understanding what your buyer values is not optional.

Next Steps:

  • To learn more about DISCOVER Questions® and how to get connected in meaningful ways with your buyers, order your copy of this bestseller from Amazon.com
  • When you need sales or management coaching, customized sales training, or a dynamic speaker call us at 408-779-PFPS or book an appointment with Deb.
  • Check out these resources for sales managers and front line sellers. New webinars, infographics, research, podcasts and more added every month!

BlogAward

The award-winning CONNECT2Sell Blog is for professional sellers who believe, as we do, that Every Sale Starts with a Connection.

Deb Calvert, “DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected” author and Top 50 Sales Influencer, is President of People First Productivity Solutions, a UC Berkeley instructor, and a former Sales/Training Director of a Fortune 500 media company. She speaks and writes about the Stop Selling & Start Leading movement and offers sales training, coaching and consulting as well as leadership development programs. She is certified as an executive and sales coach by the ICF and is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®. Deb has worked in every sector and in 14 countries to build leadership capacity, team effectiveness and sales productivity with a “people first” approach.

 

 

 

The post What Buyers Value: Don’t Make This Mistake! appeared first on People First.

04 May 17:09

Who’s Buying? Identifying the Right Stakeholders in Your Deal

by Jakob Soderberg - Arpedio

This is the first in a series of guest posts by Jakob Soderberg of our partners Arpedio.

Who’s buying your solution? If you answer this question with one or two titles, there’s a good chance you’re wrong.

Decisionmaking_Group.jpgHow buyers buy has fundamentally changed. Sales professionals are no longer selling to one or two high-ranking executives. The average buying group has evolved to multiple stakeholders* from various parts of the organisation. A buying group today could include a CXO, a departmental executive, a compliance manager, an IT security manager, a procurement manager, a marketing executive, and others.

Think about that for a second. As a sales professional, you’re no longer selling to the CXO or VP of X. You’re now selling to a much larger group of individuals, each with their own motivations, concerns and priorities. And that group changes from organisation to organisation.

That’s a pretty significant shift – one that underscores an urgent question: how do you know who your stakeholders are in any given deal? Furthermore, who among these stakeholders will help you move the buying group towards consensus?

There are several steps in this process (covered in detail in this white paper), but let’s focus on the first three steps to get you moving in the right direction:

1: Find who’s willing to talk and share pain. Who’s willing to share information beyond what’s covered in an RFP, and to speak deeply about the pain your solution can remedy? Because these people have a strong connection to the problem, they will most likely be involved in finding a solution.

2: Discover how buying and change has happened in the past. If you want to know how an organization will buy your solution, do some historical research. What is their track record of buying solutions of similar size/scope? Who was involved? What conversations and meetings had to happen beyond what’s scoped out in the formal buying procedures?

3: Identify the mobiliser(s) willing to steward the group to common ground. Who is most passionate about the problem and willing to challenge the status quo to solve it? This is the person you will partner with to create a plan for building consensus across the group, and they will require a lot of focus and attention in the selling process. Selling begins once (and only once) this person has been identified!

Identifying the right stakeholders requires discipline. Salespeople will be tempted to “sell” to the stakeholder as soon as they smell pain; it’s a behaviour that’s been ingrained in most of us in the profession. Unfortunately, it can also be the kiss of death.

Instead, sales professionals need to listen and dig deep into the stakeholder’s perspective. How will this person be judged in their role in the buying group? Are their perspectives out of alignment with the rest of the group’s vision? If so, how and why? What are their thoughts on alternative solutions? You have to have the empathy and discipline to listen without interrupting too early to push your offering.

Yet, the pay off will be well worth the effort. Some fundamentals have changed, but one has not: targeting the right people.

Want to learn more about identifying the right stakeholders in a deal? I suggest you start by downloading Arpedio's latest white paper, “A Definitive Guide to Pain-free Stakeholder Management.”

*According to recent research published in "The Challenger Sale", the average number of key decision makers in complex B2B buying decisions is 5.4 - and rising

This article was originally published on the Arpedio blog.

 

04 May 17:08

How to Design a Sales Coaching Framework

by Tamara Schenk

himdks_0cse-sylvain-guiheneucImagine salespeople have to learn a new skill, for instance, how to apply newly developed value messages in different customer interactions. In this case of behavioral change, a training session can only be the beginning of a longer journey. Lasting behavior change requires ongoing reinforcement.
This is where coaching comes into play. And frontline sales managers.

Coaching has to be formalized to be effective

At CSO Insights, we define coaching as a leadership skill to develop each salesperson’s full potential. To be effective with coaching, world-class performers build on coaching frameworks. Our 2015 Sales Management Optimization Study showed that a discretionary or informal coaching process did not have a significant impact on win rates, but a formal coaching process did: by nine percent. Ambitious sales leaders know immediately what a nine percent better win rate would mean in their organization. They also know that their frontline sales managers’ ability to coach is a critical element to sustainable sales performance. And yes, they also know that a formal approach to coaching is the differentiating element to become world-class.

Sales Coaching Framework Defined

The CSO Insights Sales Coaching Framework sits between the customer’s journey and the sales professionals’ journey (sales process). It requires that the customer’s journey has already been mapped to the organization’s sales process. For each gate on the customer’s side, there has to be an equivalent step on the internal side. This mapping is a key prerequisite to creating a coaching framework and the related coaching assets such as coaching guidelines, questionnaires for various buying situations and coaching training sessions for sales managers. Our coaching framework consists of four coaching layers, each corresponding to a different coaching area.

  • Lead and Opportunity Coaching: The coach and sales professional examine a lead or opportunity to determine where it is along the customer’s journey and to identify activities that will keep the deal flowing through the funnel toward a successful conclusion. The earlier the coaching begins, the more valuable it is. In the awareness phase, sales managers can help the sales professionals get better at identifying and addressing opportunities, and they can coach them to develop and execute winning deal strategies. Plus, they can spot areas where the sales team needs to stop investing time and effort in deals that cannot be won or will require more resources than they are worth.
  • Funnel or Pipeline Coaching focuses on the structure of a salesperson’s or the sales team’s funnel, identifying the most valuable deals that can be won and helping to manage risks and allocate resources accordingly. Funnel coaching also helps the salesperson understand how the shape of their funnel translates into quota attainment and determine how best to improve their funnel performance. During funnel coaching, the sales managers must assess the types of opportunities in the funnel, e.g., many small opportunities or fewer large volume deals, as well as the assumed close dates, stages, and risks of each opportunity. Most importantly, the coach must weigh the value of the opportunities against their probability of being won. Clearly, this coaching area builds on opportunity coaching and can only be successful if there is clarity at the opportunity level.
  • Coaching on Skills and Behaviors: In today’s complex selling environments, customer behaviors are constantly changing. As a result, salespeople often have to make significant changes to their selling skills and behaviors. For example, the transactional, product-oriented approach no longer works in many selling scenarios, and sales professionals must adopt a value-based approach that focuses on the customers’ business outcomes. This is an area where sales managers should work closely with the enablement teams. Creating value for prospects and customers requires tailored value messages that are tied to the customer’s journey phase, buyer roles and their business challenges and goals. Enablement’s job is to provide these value messages and the related training, but sales managers must also coach to reinforce what has been taught to ensure adoption. This requires coaching on leads and opportunity and coaching on improving the sales professional’s messaging skills.
  • Account Coaching is often overlooked, but it is equally important if an account strategy is in place. It’s mainly about coaching on identifying new business opportunities within the account (lead identification) and mapping the account strategy to the current achievements within an account (also from a customer’s perspective) and making adjustments or changes to strategy, focus area, relationship development, etc. The frequency of account coaching sessions depends on your and your customers’ specific rhythm of the business.
  • Territory Coaching is even more overlooked, but equally important in the case of a territory strategy. It’s more than saying “work your territory.” Instead, territory coaching is all about focus: focus on the right targets and customers, and on the most relevant buyer roles. Also, in territory coaching, lead identification plays a key role. As soon as leads are qualified, they are coached by the overall lead and opportunity coaching process as mentioned above.

As soon as such a coaching framework is defined, the missing coaching assets for both content (coaching guidelines, coaching questions, coaching learning content, etc.,) and training (that make up a strategic frontline sales manager development program) have to be created.

Going Forward

In an ideal world, sales leaders understand the huge business impact of their frontline sales managers when it comes to execution, performance, and transformation.
And that’s why they invest not only in their sales managers’ coaching capabilities but also in a scalable platform for performance and productivity that includes a coaching framework as a critical component.

Related blog posts:

How World-Class Frontline Sales Managers Coach Differently To Drive Performance

Frontline Sales Managers: What Are Their Key Capabilities?

Frontline Sales Manager’s Mantra: Managing Activities and Coaching Behaviors

The post How to Design a Sales Coaching Framework appeared first on Sales Enablement Perspectives.

04 May 17:08

113 of the Best Lead Generation Tools and Resources

by John Jantsch

113 of the Best Lead Generation Tools and Resources written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

tools

I know, monster list posts are so last year, but I wanted to put together a resource that could be a bit of a guide as you navigate all of the various platforms, networks, and channels available today.

As I’ve written in the past, I currently point to sixteen distinct growth channels and have grouped the tools and resources by channel to make it easier to navigate.

Now, before you go into a click-induced coma, understand that my belief is you should be going as deep as possible in one or two channels and looking towards new channels as a way to amplify where most of your awareness and customers come from today.

If most of your clients are generated by way of referral, then by golly start there, build multiple referral programs and look to use channels such as partnering and content to amplify how you get referrals. Teach referrals to your customers and offer to teach referral generation to their customers in B2B settings.

In each of the channels below I’ve listed some of my favorite tools and then linked to article and resources where you can learn more about the topic in general.

So, don’t think of this post simply as a list, look at it as a table of contents to your education on the subject of Lead Generation and Conversion.

Have fun!

1. Referral Marketing– This includes intentional word of mouth activities, viral tactics as well as intentional referral generation.

Tools

  • Ambassador   – Online referral program, starts at $200/mo.
  • Extole  – SaaS platform w/optimized sharing & custom codes.
  • Referral Candy – Easiest way to add refer-a-friend to your store.

Further Reading

2. Public Relations– This includes activities aimed at receiving coverage in traditional media outlets.

Tools

  • Prezly – Create your own press room in minutes, with a chosen url and embedding features. Enhance your brand’s identity with color options and logo/photo uploads.
  • TrendKite – Easily measure the impact of news on your brand with custom dashboards.
  • HARO – Help a Reporter Out is a great way to get linked to reporters looking for sources
  • Instant Press Release – Tool that helps you write and format your press release.
  • PRNewswire – Press release distribution service.

Further Reading

3. Online Advertising– This includes the use of pay-per-click platforms, social networks, display ads and retargeting

Tools

  • AdEspresso – The easiest online tool to manage and optimize your Facebook Advertising Campaigns.
  • Marin Software – Optimize your Search, Social & Display ads across channels and devices.
  • GoogleAdWords  – Advertising service for businesses wanting to display ads on Google and its advertising network. The AdWords program enables businesses to set a budget for advertising and only pay when people click the ads. The ad service is largely focused on keywords.
  • AdRoll – Retargeting platform, making retargeting simple and profitable for companies and agencies of all sizes.
  • WordStream – Service that manages PPC campaigns, but great info too.

Further Reading

4. Offline Advertising– This includes advertising in offline print and broadcast outlets such as magazine, TV and radio

Tools

  • Postcard Mania – Great online tool to create offline direct main campaigns.
  • Vista Print – The leading online printing and promotional products provider.
  • Canva – Easy & free do-it-yourself creation of flyers, business cards, etc.
  • Jelli – Self-service platform specifically designed for broadcast audio advertising; the easiest and fastest way to buy radio ads.

Further Reading

5. Content Marketing– This includes publishing, optimizing and sharing educational content that draws search traffic, links and subscribers

Tools:

  • BuzzSumo –  Search tool that tracks content on all social networking sites and ranks them based on the number of shares on various social media platforms.
  • Quora –  Identify trends from consistently asked questions to inform your content creation efforts.
  • Buffer –  Use Buffer to schedule your content across Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for posting at the best times optimized for your account or at the times of your choosing.
  • CoSchedule – Editorial calendar that plugs in to WordPress.
  • DivvyHQ – Full featured editorial calendar for managing all content and content teams.

Further Reading:

6. Sales Playbooks– This includes the creation of specific actions aimed at mining, generating, nurturing and converting leads

Tools:

  • Nimble – One of the best social selling CRM tools.
  • Pipedrive – Visualize your sales pipeline and keep the line moving.
  • Contactually – Tool that helps you stay in contact with your most important relationships.
  • Kite Desk – Describe your ideal prospect and get leads.
  • AeroLeads – Prospect Generation Service provides you a processed list of prospects with valid email IDs.

Further Reading:

7. Email Marketing– This includes the use of targeted and automated email campaigns based on conversion actions

Tools:

  • Aweber – Features auto-responders and allows you to broadcast messages, run reports and manage subscribers.
  • MailChimp – Probably the easies and most widely integrated email provider.
  • ConvertKit – Provides InfusionSoft like automation capabilities without the InfusionSoft price.
  • ActiveCampaign – Fully integrated solution for intelligence-driven marketing and sales.
  • Wishpond – Lead generation platform with variety of tools from contest management to drip email campaigns, pop-ups, etc.

Further Reading:

8. Utility Marketing– This includes the creation of useful tools that stimulate traffic, sharing and brand awareness

Tools:

Further Reading:

9. Influencer Marketing– This includes the practice of building relationships with individuals and outlets that can influence pre-established communities

Tools:

  • Followerwonk – Tool that allows you to target Twitter followers by topic.
  • BuzzSumo – I use this to find people writing great content that gets shared and who shares it.

Further Reading:

10. Search Engine Optimization– This includes on page and off page optimization activities aimed at generating organic search engine traffic

Tools:

  • Moz –  Inbound marketing and marketing analytics software subscriptions.
  • SEM Rush – Find profitable key words.
  • SpyFu – Download competitors’ profitable key words.
  • Ahrefs – Combination tool that allows you to work on your own SEO and spy on competitors.
  • Raven Tools – Suite of SEO and online marketing tools.

Further Reading:

11. Partner Marketing– This includes co-marketing activities run in collaboration with strategic marketing partners

Tools:

  • BNI – World’s leading referral and networking organization.
  • Co-marketing agreement – Tool for creating agreements with partners from Rocket Lawyer.
  • Zift Solutions – Empower Channel Partners with Through Partner Marketing Automation.
  • Impartner – Impartner PRM is the industry’s only turnkey PRM solution which can help companies have a new system up and running in 30 days.

Further Reading:

12. Social Media Marketing– This includes the act of building engagement on established platforms and networks such Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as well as targeted industry platforms

Tools:

  • Buffer – Great for sharing across platforms and my daughter works here so go buy this!
  • Social Mention – Real-time social media search and analysis.
  • AgoraPulse – Full social media management tool.
  • Socedo – Socedo discovers the social prospects that match your custom criteria then further qualifies them via predefined engagement workflow.
  • Follower Wonk – Dig deeper into Twitter analytics to see who your followers are, where they are located and how often they tweet. Find and connect with new influencers in your niche.

Further Reading:

13. Online Events– This includes events such as webinars, demonstrations, and workshops conducted using online tools

Tools:

  • Zoom – Lightweight online video chat platform for hosting meeting.
  • GotoWebinar – The tool for online meetings and webinars for big audiences.

Further Reading:

14. Offline Events– This includes events such as workshops, demonstrations, seminars, trade shows, showcases and customer appreciation events

Tools:

  • Eventzilla – Lets you setup a custom event registration page and sell tickets or accept registrations online in less than 5 minutes.
  • MeetUp – World’s largest network of local groups. Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face.
  • Eventbrite – Makes it easy for event organizers to sell tickets and manage registrations.

Further Reading:

15. Speaking Engagements– This includes the appearance of company representatives in sponsored speaking engagements at events such as industry conferences

Tools:

  • MindTools – Course on public speaking.
  • TED – Some of the best examples of short, impactful talks.
  • Toastmasters – Local groups that meet to practice public speaking.
  • SlideShare – Online portal for slide presentations.
  • Lanyrd – Tool for discovering professional events.

Further Reading:

16. Community Building – This includes the intentional act of building and facilitating a community around a shared interest or topic related to the organization’s industry.

Tools

  • Intercom.io – Tool that lets customers communicate from your website.
  • Delighted – Great tool for gathering feedback from your customers.
  • Ning – Build your own community platform.
  • Facebook Groups – A Facebook feature that makes it easy to build a community on Facebook.

Further Reading

04 May 17:08

The single most important thing you can do to become a successful salesperson

by Eugene Kim

tommy boy sales pitch

Most people think sales is more art than science. But those at the top of the game are increasingly relying on technology to get an edge.

According to a new LinkedIn survey called "State of Sales 2016," an overwhelming 82% of the top performing salespeople cited sales software, like CRM or social selling tools, as "critical" to their ability to close deals. 

Almost all of them said they spend hours in some sort of sales-related software.

The survey asked 1,017 sales or business development professionals in the US.

"Individuals are recognizing the lift they get out of technology, but companies are also starting to recognize the impact of wrapping the sales process around it, in order to make sure that people are using it," Justin Shriber, Head of Marketing for LinkedIn Sales Solutions, told Business Insider.

That means salespeople no longer just rely on wining-and-dining tactics to lure prospects into buying their product. Instead, they go through LinkedIn profiles to learn more about potential buyers while joining certain groups to find more leads. They use Twitter and Facebook to gain real-time insights into what they are interested in, and keep track of their contact hisotry with a variety of CRM software like Salesforce. Some of them might even use more sophisticated tools, like Insidesales.com, to predict the best time to make a sales call.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • More than 70 percent of sales professionals use social selling tools, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, making them the most widely used sales technology.
  • Millennials are 33 percent more likely to use sales intelligence tools than industry peers aged 35­ to 54.
  • Ninety percent of top salespeopleuse social selling tools, compared with 71 percent of overall sales professionals.
  • 26 percent of email tracking tool users spend 3 to ­5 hours using these tools.
  • One ­third (33 percent) of CRM users spend 3­5 hours using CRM tools. Almost one quarter (24 percent) spend more than 10 hours per week using CRM tools.

The results are not too surprising given the trend has been building up for a few years now. LinkedIn's Shriber said he's seen technology and software play a bigger role in sales for at least the past 5 years.

In fact, sales software has become one of the most heated battlegrounds for tech companies lately. According to a recent WSJ article, companies are spending $23 billion a year on sales software, while startups in this space have amassed roughly $400 million in funding in the last two years. It's not too surprising that Salesforce, one of the fastest growing CRM software makers in the world, has more than doubled its stock price over the past 5 years.

And don't expect a slowdown in this space any time soon. As the survey showed, sales reps are more likely to rely on technology the younger they are, and could make sales software the norm as they grow into more senior roles. 

"This is just going to become tablestakes — it won’t necessarily be an advantage but anyone who doesn’t embrace it will be in a tremendous disadvantage," Shriber said.

SEE ALSO: Salesforce's most successful salesman made tons of money by following this secret playbook

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: EX-UNDERCOVER DEA AGENT: What I told my friends and family about my job

04 May 17:08

21 Signs Your Buyer Is a Poor Fit [Sales Process Checklist]

by dtyre@hubspot.com (Dan Tyre)

signs-your-buyer-is-a-bad-fit.jpg

“Buyer beware.”

We’ve all heard that expression before, and unfortunately, it’s because buyer-seller relationships haven’t traditionally been great. Old-school salespeople often used aggressive and selfish tactics to win business and then disappeared like Sasquatch in the Canadian mountains, so savvy buyers knew they had to do due diligence to make sure they weren’t being scammed.

But in the age of inbound sales, more and more salespeople have started reforming their behavior. “Seller beware” is becoming the new norm.

In modern sales, the impetus is on the salesperson and vendor to choose the right type of client. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do and in the 21st century, you are only as good as your public persona. This sets the foundation for a long and healthy relationship, ensures you’re building a quality customer ecosystem, and decreases churn. That’s why I’m not the biggest fan of the one-call close.

Every new customer you bring on who isn’t the right fit presents a churn risk. And if they don’t follow through, take direction when it comes to implementation, or see value from the product, their bad customer experience reflects poorly on you and your company.

Some legacy salespeople think this is a crazy attitude. They’re trained to sell to anyone who wants to buy and facilitate a quick buying process. But as inbound salespeople, we know who our products are made for, and we should only be selling to customers who are going to leverage value over time.

Salespeople who adhere to the inbound sales process should be careful to continuously assess their prospects at every stage of the process so they can provide the best outcome for their prospect and their company. Some of the characteristics and behaviors that define a good-fit buyer are obvious, while others are a bit more nuanced. Here are 21 indicators that you should disqualify a buyer for being a poor fit, aligned with each step of the inbound sales methodology pictured below.

inbound-sales-methodology.png

Identify

In this stage, salespeople do research to start the sales process with prospects who seem like a good fits. Disqualifying at the Identify stage is largely a function of making sure you’re targeting the right leads and is broad-based, so in most instances you’re making an educated guess.

Signs You Should Disqualify

  • Company size is much larger or smaller than your typical customer
  • Company revenue is much higher or lower than your typical customer
  • Vertical market (i.e. industry) does not fit your target market
  • Vertical market does not operate like your target market
  • Prospect is not in your sales territory
  • Prospect is not in a time zone or country that your country can support

Connect

The Connect stage is the first time you’ll speak with prospects. The goal of this stage is to understand if your specific point of contact is the right person to speak to, if they have a perceived need, and if the need is going to be addressed (or if the company is still in the educational phase). 

Signs You Should Disqualify

  • The prospect is discourteous, rude, and purposely makes interaction difficult
  • The prospect responds with emotions rather than facts (this can be a negative or positive response, but usually indicates that the prospect doesn’t know enough about company priorities to make a decision)
  • The prospect is impulsive and goes from extremely excited to apathetic and back again
  • The prospect doesn’t want to answer any of your questions
  • The prospect wants to run the sales process themselves and won’t compromise on anything

Explore

During the Explore process, a salesperson’s goal is to understand the nuances of their buyer’s goals, plans, and challenges. Start looking for alignment between your prospect's goals and your capabilities. You should also continue probing into whether your prospect is the best point of contact.

Signs You Should Disqualify

  • The prospect makes untruthful or conflicting statements that don’t add up
  • The prospect is unwilling to take direction and seems competitive, rather than willing to work with you to form a plan
  • The prospect doesn’t have the resources to successfully implement your product (time, money, or staff)
  • The prospect is very disorganized and can’t spend time with you
  • Your product is needed but isn’t a company priority right now

Advise

During the Advise stage, salespeople take all the information they’ve gathered during the sales process and present a customized plan tailored to the prospect’s specific needs and goals. Look for signs that your prospect is or isn't ready to approve the deal, and whether they'll be successful if they do.

Signs You Should Disqualify

  • The prospect suffers from “magic wand syndrome” and doesn’t realize that implementing your product will take work
  • The prospect doesn’t follow your direction (e.g. you ask them to read a specific piece of content or do an exercise to teach them something, and they don’t do it)
  • The prospect cancels meetings with short or no notice multiple times
  • The prospect seems to be going through the motions and isn’t really willing to follow your lead
  • You have to go over the same material more than three times before your prospect “gets” it

It takes an experienced salesperson to recognize when they should disqualify a deal. Almost all prospects will show some of these indicators, so it’s up to you to chalk it up to a lack of expertise or nervousness versus an actual poor fit. The key is to be 100% transparent, have open conversations with your prospects, and set expectations at every step of the process.

HubSpot CRM

04 May 17:07

Account-Based Marketing: New Buzzword or New Reality

by Dave Sutton

What percentage of leads generated by your marketing efforts turn into customers?

“Lead generation has been a success criterion for marketers for some time, but what we don’t hear about is that less than 1% of those leads become customers,” said Sangram Vajre, CMO of Terminus and early Account-Based Marketing pioneer, in a recent conversation about Account-Based Marketing.

If you’ve ever thought, “If I generate more leads, then our revenues will grow,” you share the mindset of many marketers in the B2B space. In theory, the philosophy is sound: pour leads into the top of the funnel and eventually sales will come out of the bottom. In reality, sales reps ignore 50 percent of marketing leads, making it difficult for marketers to reliably benchmark lead conversion KPIs.

So, what happens? More often than not, it’s the “leaky bucket” syndrome, due to a misalignment of sales and marketing— siloed technology, poor communication, inconsistent messaging, and lack of process integration.

Does this sound familiar?

Marketer: “What accounts are you working on? We’d like to help you close them.”

Salesperson: “I’m already engaging with the prospect. Thanks, but no thanks. I’d prefer if you didn’t interfere with my sales process.”

via GIPHY

If your job as a marketer is to provide your salespeople with new leads as well as “air cover” to keep your brand top of mind for prospects, this can be an incredibly frustrating conversation.

Account-based sales have been around for decades: a salesperson is given a list of accounts and is tasked with generating interest throughout an organization. With an average of 5.6 people needed to sign off on any given purchase, it’s an exhaustive, hands-on process. This often requires several 1:1 meetings with key stakeholders, dozens of emails, multiple calls, online and in-person demos, and occasional ‘wining and dining.’ It’s a high-cost, high maintenance process bound to a single salesperson’s efforts. And in the meantime, while your salesperson is meeting with an organization’s CMO, its CTO could be learning about your competitor’s product.

Enter Account-Based Marketing: “A strategic approach that coordinates personalized marketing and sales efforts to open doors and deepen engagement at specific accounts,” as described by Marketo co-founder Jon Miller.

The emergence of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) technology has facilitated alignment of sales and marketing efforts across the organization. The first benefit of ABM is that it engages key stakeholders in net new accounts, accounts already in the funnel, and existing customers. Vajre refers to this as the “Yellow Pages.” Your sales department knows which companies fit the ‘sweet spot’ and, once you have that list of companies — as well as relevant purchase decision-makers — your marketing team can start to build the customer personas within those select companies. This enables your sales and marketing teams to understand which channels are best to reach prospects on their terms, making the overall process less interruptive and more meaningful.

“Don’t count the people you reach, reach the people that count.” — David Ogilvy

Another benefit of ABM is the ability to create specific content, offers, and messages that are delivered through relevant channels to each stakeholder involved in the purchase-decision process within an account. Marketing guru and The Futures Company’s Executive Chairman J. Walker Smith recently shared his sentiments with us on why ABM works: It focuses on building the right relationships through consistent messaging.

“Every company is in the business of solving a problem. ABM helps with this because it gives you the chance to build relationships with clients. Relationship selling comes down to two things: One, figure out what the client thinks their problem is; and, two, try to tell your client what their actual problem is,” Smith said.

This approach guides prospective as well as current clients to the decision stage. Walker referred to it as, “gaining the authority to guide the writing of the RFP.”

Not only are experts touting the benefits of ABM, but business results also show the impact of effective ABM:

1. B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing achieved 24% faster 3-year revenue growth and 27% faster 3-year profit growth.

2. 80% of marketers surveyed by ITSMA reported that their ABM initiatives gave them the greatest ROI.

3. 91% of those marketers report being “tightly” or “somewhat or moderately” aligned with sales.

4. 84% of marketers say they find significant benefits to retaining and expanding existing client relationships through ABM.

5. 90% of marketers viewed ABM as a must-have.

“Don’t just generate leads; instead, focus on what drives the bottom line.” — Sangram Vajre, CMO, Terminus

These stats reveal the impact of ABM and what it can do for the bottom-line, but what’s most important is to ensure that it’s the right approach for your organization. Here’s how: 6 Critical Things to Consider Before Chasing Bright Shiny Objects [Inc. article].

04 May 17:07

How to Build a Modern Marketing Organization

by Brandon Gains

modern-marketing-organization-header-graphic-1200

Executives that organize the most productive and profitable marketing departments focus on data and consumer insights. Due to the rapidly changing pace of technology platforms an effective structure should always allow for flexibility and growth.

Leaders today organize teams around disciplines and skills. But some are tossing aside conventional arrangements, making new paths for more fluid workflows.

After we discuss the latest successful trends in marketing structures, we’ll dive into how various companies are laying out their own marketing departments. When laying out budgets for events, tools, content marketing, and advertising there is one guiding principle: how does this bring us closer to our consumer?

Organizing For Growth

What is the ideal structure for a marketing department? Sadly, no clear-cut answer exists. But the savvy leaders are asking:

“What values and goals drive our brand strategy?”

“What capabilities do we see driving marketing success?”

“What structures and ways of working supports them?”

Structure is going to follow strategy – rather than the other way around.

Marketing is now more holistic than ever. For brands to be effective with consumers, they are engaging in a total transfer of their internal culture. While many large companies say “good ideas can come from anywhere,” typically ideation arrives from brand managers and top execs that steer the dominant media channels.

The high-performance marketing leaders of today don’t align their department activities with company strategy. Instead, they are active in creating that strategy. A survey by Harvard Business Review found that from 2006 to 2013, the influence of marketing on strategy development increased by 20%.

Companies like Motorola are combining department functions under a single leader. Eduardo Conrado is now the senior VP of both marketing and IT. This way the tech leader is able to seamlessly influence the relationship between brand image and developing technology.

Visa did something similar with their new CMO, also appointing Antonio Lucio to HR leader after one year. This way Lucio could tighten the alignment between the strategy and personnel.

We all want a marketing organization to be flexible, responsive, and consistent when moving towards set goals. Rethinking the structure depends foremost upon how to deliver customers the experience they crave while meeting their needs and wants.

Big Data and the Customer Experience

Big data allows companies to guide strategy with consumer insights and build structures around channels that directly cater to consumer needs. What buyers are doing is obvious – but why they’re doing it will inform tactics and departmental optimization.

Consider framing processes around consumer’s basic drives – such as desires. To achieve goals, find a partner, and nurture a child (for example) are “universal human truths” that must be responded to in order to keep user business.

A multi-touch buyer’s journey is going to require inputs across all marketing departments – but which channels see the most use (and the most funding) is a matter of how your brand engages its target audience. A powerful and clear brand purpose will align an organization and enable the most consistent messaging throughout touchpoints.

Top brands are building themselves in the image of big data information. This enables them to deliver the three important manifestations of their brand to consumers with ease:

  • Functional benefits – why a customer buys the brand (Starbucks coffee gives me a boost).
  • Emotional benefits – how it satisfies the customer’s emotional need (coffee can be a social activity).
  • Societal benefits – what use it provides in context of the larger group (I like to drink fair trade coffee, it’s better for the growers).

Let’s look at a few examples of how to structure your segments and channels to best align with customer engagement.

The Inner Circle Model

Some companies use their organization and budgeting to deepen the customer relationship by leveraging what they know to better personalize offerings for customers. Others focus upon the breadth of their relationships by increasing their overall touchpoints.

Either way, knowing who your customers are and what they want is top of the pyramid. Or in the case of this graphic, the core layer of the company onion:

2-inner-circle-model-marketing-organization-structure

(Source)

This graphic communicates just how important customer understanding and segmentation is to marketing organization. Every circle is a department with distinct function that depends upon the information available from customers. Here, the focus is making customer information and engagement a core, cultural value and structuring outward.

For example, the “Content, Tools, Experiences” circle sits within the “Reach” circle because these interior efforts inform and influence those of the outer sphere. CTE would usually be called inbound marketing. It is more reliant upon customer data and is therefore closer to the consumer insights.

The “Reach” (typically outbound marketing) team is a department of experts who understand traditional media, social, search and other paid channels. This department bases its activities off of its counterpart, filling the gaps and supporting the channels that bring in more information.

The Task Force Model

Some companies are removing the middle layers of management and creating “centers of excellence” that guide strategy and inform best practices while creating flexibility in resources. These brands choose not to categorize marketing roles by title, instead painting functions as one of three broad types:

  • “Think” marketers – who apply the analytic capabilities for data mining, media-mix modeling, and ROI optimization.
  • “Do” marketers – who develop content and design and lead production.
  • “Feel” marketers – who focus upon consumer interaction and engagement, roles such as customer service, social media, online community management.

Liberty Global, an international media company, uses the task force organization at specific customer engagement points – such as billing. Teams are lead by managers of marketing and non-marketing functions, allowing an agility to draw from different talent pools to tackle a strategy. This requires a confident leadership, one that believes local marketing understands global strategy and that global marketing understand the local marketing reality.

3-think-marketing-organization-structure 4-task-force-marketing-organization-structure

(Source)

This model makes budgeting simple. By allocating funds by areas of primary engagement, brands like Liberty are able to dispense resources to those areas that have shown previous need. If percentages should shift, so does budgeting.

By calculating the touch points within a buyer’s journey and adding them together, your brand can use this model to determine the proper balance of marketing personnel (and the segments they service) in the organization.

An Inbound Marketing Model

Ultimately, your organization is comprised of goals, products, customers, and proven channels. Making sure that each significant division has a leader to regulate the budget and activity can be great for focusing teams on different areas of specific customer engagement.

Below is Hubspot’s marketing organization chart:

5-inbound-marketing-organization-structure

(Source)

How to Budget

Iowa State University, and Entrepreneur magazine, recommend that start-up businesses devote around 20 to 30 percent of their annual budget to advertising and marketing during the first and second years. Established businesses should find that 7 to 10 percent of a total budget will be enough.

The budget is split between:

  • Brand development costs – all the channels you use to promote your brand such as your website, blogs, sales collateral, etc.
  • Costs of promoting your business – campaigns, advertising, events, etc.

Budget for Tools

For a companies like Hubspot, a tools budget is essential:

“Tools abound to help PR practitioners not only create and distribute great content and find and target key stakeholders, but to ultimately measure reach and effectiveness. The key is making sure you’re laser-focused on who you’re setting out reach and influence, then ensuring that your budget supports how they’ll most likely want to receive (and share) your key messages.”

“As the media and digital landscape evolves at breakneck speed, continually reassessing the tools, services, and programs you’re employing is a great way to determine real-time ROI of your overall spend. Today’s measurement tool may be worthless to you tomorrow.”

Nathaniel Eberle, HubSpot’s Director of PR & Brand

Budget for Content Creation

Budgeting for tools goes hand-in-hand with content creation. Curata tells us that 76% of marketers saw an increase in customer engagement as a result of content marketing. Fortunately, content marketing is a relatively cheap aspect of a marketing budget with high ROI per lead.

6-cost-per-lead-marketing-organization-budgeting

(Source)

To budget for content creation, consider that you will want a great deal of original content. With more than 2 million blog posts being pumped out every day, creating the best content is the best way to drive traffic and increase conversions with your customers.

A steady stream of quality materials, from paid research, infographics, whitepapers, to blog posts will bring your target audience directly to you.

The Content Marketing Institute found that 25% is the average spend for a content out of an entire marketing budget. CMI also found a correlation between content marketing effectiveness and the more a company spent on content marketing.

Budget for Advertising

To ensure your content creation budget is well spent, ads will be helpful in generating awareness for your brand and providing targeted lead engagement. Putting promotional dollars into LinkedIn, Facebook, Slideshare, etc. will help your content find its ideal audience.

How much you spend on ads will also be determined by who you’re targeting. Executives will respond to direct mail and cold calling, as will most older prospects and young professionals, but otherwise traditional advertising like TV, radio, and print ads can be very expensive.

What portion of the budget was used for these outbound channels has now shifted mostly to inbound. But cold calls and direct mail do generate immediate results – unlike lead nurturing – so there’s value to be had.

Budget for Events

As a cost of promoting your brand, a budget for an event can include everything from paid speakers, promotional materials, entertainment, name badges, giveaways, decor, hotels, and more.

As an outbound function that supports customer retention, allows you to demonstrate thought leadership, generates quality leads, and allows for customer one-on-one time, events are best done well and on select occasions. Understanding events as satellites to larger marketing efforts should help you budget accordingly.

Key Takeaways

Structuring a modern marketing organization requires some creativity. It asks you to weigh and consider every aspect of marketing: customer data, engagement channels, creative production – then decide which areas deserve the most funding and personnel. I strongly recommend using customers as the center for all these initiatives to give you the flexibility you need to assign projects across your organization.

content-upgrade-marketing-org-salary-guide-770

04 May 17:06

STAHP the Email Blasts! Why You Should Use Email Nurturing

by Keely Bailey

Every day, I go through my email and delete email blast after email blast. With every email I send into trash without opening, I think, STAHP, STAHP, STAHP! Your leads are probably doing the same if you are taking the blast approach instead of a nurturing campaign.

According to Forrester Research, companies that excel at email nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost. By using marketing automation software, it’s possible to create effective B2B email campaigns that keep prospects and customers engaged by providing them with the most relevant information when they want it.

When you practice email nurturing, you S.T.A.H.P. Here’s how you Strategize, Target, Adapt, Humanize, and Progress your emails with nurturing campaigns and leave those blasts to the past.

Strategize

How much strategy goes into an email blast? Not much it seems. It’s an easy way to get your message out there, sure. However, email nurturing allows you to be more strategic in choosing when those messages are delivered. On a basic level, you can use the appropriate marketing software to make sure that clients do not receive too much email too frequently, setting limitations such as one message per week so that they don’t feel bombarded. On a more advanced level, nurturing emails can be delivered via marketing automation software after certain triggers, such as the client downloading something from your site. This may trigger an email confirmation of the download, additional information about the download, or additional calls to action as you see fit. Thus, the customer receives relevant, useful information exactly when they need it.

Target

One of the best parts of email nurturing is that marketing automation software allows you to customize messages to clients that you have separated into targeted lists. Clients are likely to delete that email blast they feel is generic and that doesn’t offer content that is uniquely valuable to them. Conversely, relevant emails to targeted groups improve revenue. In fact, Juniper Research discovered that relevant emails “drive 18x more revenue than broadcast emails.” (Broadcast emails is the marketing euphemism for the dreaded email blast.) This is due to targeted, email nurturing makes clients feel like they are in a relationship with a business that understands their unique needs.

Adapt

Perhaps the best reason to use email nurturing is that the more you use it, the more useful it becomes. The practice helps you to collect data which, in turn, helps you create more effective email campaigns. For instance, you may start by sending lapsed customers a light-weight engagement email that contains at least three different links they may click on.

Use your marketing automation software to monitor the actions they take, and assess the needs they are expressing based on what they click. With this information, you can begin segmenting this client list and sending customized content to different groups, moving from the initial lightweight engagement to later attempts to convert them once again. Collecting this data will help you refine future email nurturing campaigns and to adapt your email marketing to the exact needs of your specific audience.

Humanize

These days, the first interaction someone will have with your business is going to be online. More times than not, prospects feel like they are talking to a machine. You don’t have to lose that personal element of a handshake (or a high-five). Email nurturing puts the human touch back into your business while staying organized. Hand in hand, you get to know one another as you guide your prospects down the sales funnel. They receive a personalized email campaign and you take that relationship to the next level by building trust. Busting down their door with an email blast kills your online humanity

Progress

Sending nurturing messages using marketing automation software allows you to create a more natural progression through the conversion of a client. In conjunction with the criteria your sales team has set for sales-ready leads, you can strategically offer things like free trials or software demos to customers after their initial conversion. In this way, entire email nurturing campaigns can be customized to bring customers fully through the sales funnel by continuously offering them both educational content and relevant tools based on their specific needs.

Your leads and prospects are wanting the same personal service they would receive if you took them out to lunch. Nurturing your leads with a marketing automation tool allows you to build better relationships and close more deals by giving you insight into what your prospects and customers need.

03 May 22:32

Understanding the Importance of a Champion in the Complex Sale

by Alyssa Drury

sales championIf you could pitch your product or service to anyone at any level of a company, who would you choose?

You’d have difficulty finding an enterprise salesperson who wouldn’t include the word “chief” in their response to this question. There is no doubt that C-level executives seem like the end-all-be-all for sales pitches; if a rep can get to this level, it’s a done deal. But pitching to the C-suite isn’t always the most effective route when it comes to selling a product or service. As Rob Reed, founder of MomentFeed, said in a recent Forbes article: the most successful executives set the strategy and vision, supply the resources for their teams to execute, and then get out of the way. The issue with targeting these executives when selling your product or service is that if your product disrupts a process from the top-down, there is little to no incentive for that product or service to succeed. As Reed says:

“When the CMO brings a tactical solution to her team that requires execution, the incentives are completely out of alignment. The CMO could think it’s the best thing since product placements, and it very well could be. But her team has very little incentive to make it succeed. Because if it’s successful, the CMO is the hero both internally and externally. No one’s getting a promotion.”

The idea is to build a case from the inside-out, because if your product succeeds, the C-suite executive will be a hero by default. What you need is a champion:

Cham·pi·on: 1. (n) Someone or something that has beaten all other competitors in a competition; 2. (n) A person who enthusiastically supports, defends or fights for a belief or principle.

When your champion is someone outside of the C-suite, you have the opportunity to make that person a hero internally if your product or service succeeds. This not only makes your champion look good, but it also makes the C-level executive look good—everybody wins. The key is to identify someone who reports directly or indirectly to the C-suite and build them up to becoming your champion.

Identifying your champion is only part of the challenge. Depending on the nature of your product, champions can come from many parts of the organization, and if you’re selling to complex organizations it varies greatly from one to another. Below are four keys to finding a champion and ensuring that you succeed in executing the sale together.

  • Understand your champion
    The best champion is someone whose day-to-day is most significantly benefited by your product or service. If your product can make a good portion of their job easier, more streamlined or more efficient, the champion will have more incentive to be supportive and involved in the sales process. Once this champion and their role is identified, it’s important to understand who he or she is as a person. In a recent post on LinkedIn Pulse, Jill Rowley refers to this as knowing your buyer and knowing your buyer’s reality. Some questions Jill suggests that you should be able to answer before contacting the buyer:
    • How does the buyer think and communicate?
    • What does he or she value?
    • Do you have any mutual connections, groups or interests?
    • What is his or her industry like? What are the politics like at the company?
    • How complex is their organization? How many decision makers are typically involved in a purchase process?
  • Provide the champion with relevant supporting materials
    Once you’ve identified your best champion, you should knock their socks off with not only your knowledge and preparation, but with highly targeted content that will help him or her spearhead your product’s initiative. This content should clearly explain how your product benefits the champion in his or her role specifically, and should include ROI information and other metrics that make a case for your product.
  • Help the champion cater to other stakeholders
    In today’s complex buying cycle, it’s likely that there are multiple decision makers involved in the purchase process. In order for the sale to succeed, reps and their champions must address the needs and goals of every stakeholder on the buying side. Sales reps can again do this with highly targeted sales content that explains their product’s benefits in terms of each stakeholder’s role and responsibilities. The goal is to anticipate the questions decision makers from various roles will ask, and be prepared with specific content to answer those questions. This builds your trust with each stakeholder, makes your champion look good, and increases the chances that your sale will make it through to purchase.

Most of the time, a purchase decision ends in the C-suite. It’s beneficial for your sale to begin and grow through a champion at a lower level, because it provides more incentive for the sale to occur and product or service to be properly implemented. The C-level executive is simply looking to set the strategy sign off on the necessary resources, and then let his or her team execute successfully, while a champion has the motivation and incentive to see the project through to the end. Having a deep knowledge of your champion and other decision makers, and coupling this knowledge with highly targeted, contextually relevant content to support each stakeholder, will help turn your champion into an internal hero.

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03 May 22:31

3 Ways to Segment Your Lists for Better Results

by Zach Heller

Regardless of whether you use email, phone calls, or direct mail to follow up with people on your marketing lists, you can get better results through segmentation.

Segmentation is the practice of grouping individuals into buckets based on common attributes. Doing this allows you to tailor messages more directly to those individuals rather than creating a message broad enough to apply to the full list.

Here are three ways you might consider segmenting your list for better ROI:

  1. Based on location. When you segment based on location, you can do a few things that will help you connect more directly with prospects. First, you can time calls and emails appropriately based on time zone. Second, you can use language and imagery in emails and postal mail that corresponds with the area someone is located. Third, if you have physical locations, you can tie promotions to the prospect’s nearest store.
  2. Based on gender. Most companies target both men and women with their marketing programs. But studies have shown that men and women respond differently to different types of promotional message and offers. By segmenting your list, you can target one message or theme to women and another to men. This can work in emails, calls, and mailings.
  3. Based on product interest. If you know what your prospects are interested in, or you are putting together a campaign to existing customers, you can use their product interest to your advantage. Create separate offers for each product or product category that you offer. That way you are offering the “right” product to the “right” audience, increasing the likelihood that they will act on your offer.

There are an infinite number of ways you can break your lists down into smaller and smaller segments. The key is to find the optimal number and size of your segments so that you are maximizing your ROI.

03 May 22:18

Rio city council commission formed to probe Olympic projects

by Jenny Barchfield

Brazil's athlete Hudson Alves rappels down in front of a huge Brazilian flag, carrying the Olympic flame in a lantern during the torch relay in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, May 3, 2016. The three-month torch relay across Brazil will end at the opening ceremony on Aug. 5 at Maracana stadium in Rio. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio de Janeiro's city council set up a commission on Tuesday to investigate whether the city's Olympic projects were tarnished by corruption.

The five-member commission will have up to six months to examine contracts and other documents related to the stadiums, highways and other projects tied to the Aug. 5-21 games. The group is also expected to hear expert testimony on whether the structures are technically sound, members said.

The councilman behind the initiative, Jefferson Moura, said it had grown out of the so-called "Car Wash" probe into a massive corruption scheme centered around Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company.

Under the scheme, top construction firms paid billions of dollars in bribes for inflated contracts with the oil giant, with some of the money ending up in the coffers of parties from across the political spectrum.

Brazil is spending around $10 billion, in public and private money, to prepare South America's first Olympics, with many of the same construction companies ensnared in the Petrobras scheme also behind Rio's Olympic projects.

At Tuesday's session — which coincided with the Olympic flame's arrival in Brazil — the commission members pledged to work swiftly and impartially, saying they owed it to taxpayers.

Moura initially hailed the commission's formation as "a victory of transparency."

However, he soon became pessimistic about its chances of success after Tuesday's session saw the other four councilmen on the commission - all members of Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes' PMDB party - vote as a block to award its two top roles to party members, and not to Moura.

"I think that the commission got off to a terrible start," said Moura, adding that the choice of its president and scribe suggested the group's investigations would ultimately "lead to nothing."

Paes, the most visible face behind the Olympics, has repeatedly stated that Rio's Olympic projects are a model of transparency, insisting they're free from the kind of graft that tarnished Petrobras-related projects.

The commission's newly-appointed president, Atila Nunes, echoed Paes' sentiments, saying the international scrutiny of the Olympic projects helped guarantee they are free from corruption.

"We are confident to continue, now with the tools that the committee will provide, the supervision and control of these constructions," he said.

The establishment of the commission comes on the heels of the deadly collapse of part of a three-month-old elevated bike path that had been hailed as among Rio's top Olympic legacy projects.

Two people were killed when an approximately 35-meter-long stretch of the bike path gave way on April 21, apparently after it was struck by a powerful wave.

Critics have suggested the accident may have resulted from poor planning or shoddy construction — both perennial problems in Brazil.

The project, initially budgeted at 35 million Brazilian reais ($10 million), ballooned by around 30 percent to 45 million Brazilian reais ($12.5 million) and was delivered six months late, according to the Rio's O Globo newspaper.

The commission members said they would devote special scrutiny to the bike path project.

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03 May 22:07

Humans only able to maintain five relationships in their inner-circle, 150 in their outer-circle: study

by Spencer Van Dyk

A professor of evolutionary psychology says human beings cannot maintain more than 150 friendships — or five close friendships — at any given time, and claims he has proven it using phone call data sets in his new study.

Robin Dunbar came up with his theory of Dunbar’s Numbers in the early 1990s. The idea is that humans cannot have more than 150 friends due to limitations of brain size, attention span, and the amount of time to nurture close friendships.

Now, Dunbar says he has proven his theory using data from the phone records of almost 35 million users and six billion calls. According to his study, released in April, despite having greater access to each other and more social media contacts, people communicate with those in their inner-circle — on average, four people — at a greater frequency than those who better fit the description of acquaintance.

The study used algorithms to group calls based on Dunbar’s hypothesis and found there was “strong evidence for the existence of a layered structure” between call frequency and how strong the relationship was.

In other words, the frequency of communication lessens the more friends a person has. The study also states, although someone may have hundreds of friends, they would only rely on a select few in times of crisis.

“The social brain hypothesis predicts that humans have an average of about 150 relationships at any given time,” the study states. “Within this 150, there are layers of friends of an ego, where the number of friends in a layer increases as the emotional closeness decreases.”

In an era of social media, therefore, more friends and followers does not translate to close real-world bonds, according to Dunbar. Regardless of the number of friends and acquaintances, Dunbar says the study proves that layers of contact and closeness still exist.

03 May 21:55

The Blog Post Checklist for Cranking Your Search Ranking

by Barry Feldman

blog-post-checklist-seo

SEO has hit the fan, man. Hmm. What?

I mean, if you think you have foolproof tactics up your sleeve and magic linking techniques in your back pocket for optimizing your content, I’m sorry to inform you that your sleeve and pocket are see-through.

In 2016, you can’t hide your tricks. The search gods see all. And they don’t look kindly on your 2010-era SEO.


The search gods see all and they don’t look kindly on your 2010-era #SEO says @FeldmanCreative
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Google and the other search engines you care about are now good at sniffing out evidence that shows readers get value from your pages.

Focus on 3 tactics that work

I learned most of what I know about optimizing web content for search from (1) listening to my mentor and friend Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media, and (2) practicing his lessons.

With Andy’s permission, I’ve revisited his remarkably helpful post, Web Content Checklist: 21 Ways to Publish Better Content, and produced an infographic based on it.

As you’re about to see, Andy delivers 21 tips to cover the three ways you can optimize your content and crank your rank.

  1. Indicate the relevance of your article to the search bots.
  2. Tap human psychology to increase clicks, reads, and social shares.
  3. Feature compelling media to improve the quality of your content.

3 ways to optimize #content: Relevance, tap human psychology, & feature compelling media says @Crestodina
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With a huge thank you to Andy, a 2016 Content Marketing World keynote speaker, and my partner in design, Visme, I present the 21 Point SEO Blog Post Checklist: Cranking Your Ranking.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
Creating Content for Google’s RankBrain

21 POINT SEO BLOG POST CHECKLIST

Conclusion

As you can see, the first five tips focus on the more technical (traditional) tactics around SEO. Six years ago, that list would have been longer, referencing keyword frequency and much more. Today, though, search engines are smarter – they look for content that truly fulfills what searchers are looking for. That’s why it is equally, if not more important, to ensure that you focus on the 16 other tips that relate to content quality.


Search engines look for #content that truly fulfills what searchers are looking for says @FeldmanCreative #SEO
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HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
A Nutshell Guide to Proper Keyword Research

Make plans today to hear the originator of the 21-point checklist, Andy Crestodina, and other insightful experts at Content Marketing World 2016 this September. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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