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02 Oct 16:07

How to Use Voice of the Customer in B2B to Improve CX and Increase Engagement

Companies rarely seek direct input at high volumes about purchasing behavior and experiences from the people who know it best: current, happy customers and former, not-so-happy customers. But why oh why?! Nobody knows more about the value or broken promises of products or services than the people who buy them. ... Read the full article at MarketingProfs
02 Oct 16:07

How to Use an Agile Marketing Strategy to Improve Your Marketing Campaigns

As a marketer, you've likely asked yourself or your team how you can best deliver value to your customers. Adopting an Agile marketing strategy might well be the best answer to that question. Read the full article at MarketingProfs
02 Oct 15:58

In Early Markets, Services Can Be a Competitive Advantage

In early markets, customers prefer entire solutions, not best in class point products. These solutions often include significant professional services and education. At the beginning of a new wave, most customers don’t understand the technology well. So, they seek experts to guide them.

Companies that provide services and education often win the early market. They develop customer relationships, reinforce their expertise with a strong brand, define the purchasing criteria in their favor and ultimately grow faster.

In the earliest days of commercial Hadoop, Cloudera educated the market through services. As they grew the user base, they developed subscription products, which now account for about 75% of revenue . In the IoT (internet of things), C3IoT and UpTake have pursued similar strategies. In the cloud native world, Heptio provides consulting and training for Kubernetes, a new infrastructure technology. In each case, the new technology is complex and understood by few.

During this early phase in the market - Carlota Perez calls it the installation phase - professional services is important. Professional services educates new buyers and grows the market. As a market matures and enters the deployment phase, the buyer refines their purchasing decision. They replace pieces of the initial all-in-one stack with best-of-breed point solutions. A few years in, they understand their needs better.

If your startup operates in a new market or champions a new fundamental technology, you have a strategic decision. Do you offer education and professional services at scale?

If you don’t offer those services, you bet that the market will mature quickly enough by itself to create a large market opportunity for you. That enough buyers will self-educate or educate themselves through other means. And, those buyers eventually come to buy your solution at that point. You may have to wait for the market to mature and that timing is difficult to predict. This is a defensive stance.

I believe it’s better to be aggressive: offer PS and education. Instead of waiting, your startup can attack the market opportunity. Selling PS means your startup will find, educate and inculcate new buyers in your philosophies and methodologies. Most of them will choose to buy your software since they’ve asked you to educate them. Revenues will surge, you’ll build a brand, and understand the market in greater depth. You’ll have many more customer interactions. You’ll also influence the speed at which the market matures.

Naturally, there is a tradeoff. Most boards and management teams steer businesses away from professional services. Services revenues are less valuable, less sustainable and consequently less attractive to investors. As a rough rule of thumb, one dollar of software revenue is worth 8x a dollar of services revenue.

But in the early phases of fundamental infrastructure and software shifts, services and education are a powerful tool to shift the competitive playing field in your direction.

Image credit: Rosmarie Voegtli

01 Oct 15:29

How to Use AI to Find Sales Talent and Motivate Teams

by Gerhard Gschwandtner
Here are some ways sales managers can leverage the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to create, keep, and incentivize teams to close the sale.
01 Oct 15:17

How to Succeed at Being an Unapologetic Saleswoman

by Sandler Training

Lorraine Ferguson, Sandler trainer from Albany, NY and author of the new Sandler book, The Unapologetic Saleswoman, shares her thoughts about being a strong, confident woman in the sales profession. Learn the attitudes, behaviors, and techniques of top female sales performers, and uncover the challenge and benefits of saleswomen. 

01 Oct 15:10

Solve, MIT’s take on social innovation challenges, may be different enough to work

by Eric Eldon

Since McKinsey released a report on how best to use prizes to incentivize innovation nearly a decade ago, an entire industry has grown around social innovation challenges. The formula for these “save the world” competitions has become standard. Drum up a lot of buzz around an award. Partner with big names to get funding and high-profile judges. Try and get as many submissions as possible from across the world. Whittle down the submissions and come up with a list of finalists that get to pitch at a glitzy event with a lot of media attention.

On the final stage, based on pitches that last mere minutes, pick a winner that can get upwards of millions in prize funding. Don’t have a software platform to run a challenge of this kind? No worries, numerous for-profit vendors have sprung up that can do all the work for you—for anywhere from ten to a few hundred thousand dollars. The growth has been so exponential that prizes awarded through competitions has grown from less than $20 million in 1970 to a whopping $375 million just four decades later.

But do these prizes get the sort of world-saving results they aim for? There’s little quantified evidence to back that, and some leaders in philanthropy are broadly skeptical.

For its part, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is trying a different approach to innovation challenges with Solve, taking some of what’s worked in these challenges and fusing it with elements of tech accelerator programs, including post-award training that focuses on results.

Solve is entering an already crowded field of innovation challenges. Many of these prizes overlap, with each vying to be the “Nobel” of its field. More prizes means more noise—which has led to a race to offer more money to get attention.

But even private-sector riches do not guarantee that prize money for innovation gets good results. In 2004, Bigelow Enterprises sponsored a $50 million Space Prize but it failed to capture the imagination of space researchers and eventually folded. Back in 2009, Netflix invited outside teams to improve it movie recommendation algorithm by 10% for a $1 million reward. The Netflix Prize led to a race among programmers, only for Netflix to eventually kill the entire plan because it was getting better results in-house.

Overall, the social innovation competitions tend to reward presentation, glitz and charisma, and penalize speaking English as a second language, introversion and inability to make flashy slides.

Solve, which held its third annual finalists event on Sunday September 23 in New York, is setting its own course.

Unlike other contests where questions are internally decided, Solve crowdsources the questions to begin with. Its team takes months to run hackathons and workshops around the world to decide on the four most pressing questions to become the focus of that year’s challenge. This year, the questions focused on teachers and educators, workforce of the future, frontlines of health and coastal communities.

The competition is then opened up to participants from around the world with relatively low barriers to entry, resulting in 1,150 submissions from 110 countries in the last competition round. (That’s at least one submission from nearly 60 percent of all countries in the world!)

The prize recipients of the GM Prize for Advanced Technology. Photo: Adam Schultz | MIT Solve

To qualify, though, participants need to have more than just an idea. They must have a prototype that works, be either in the growth, pilot or scale stage, and be tech-driven. Submissions are then evaluated by judges from across industry, intergovernmental organizations and academia to get to 15 finalists for each of the four challenge questions. These 60 finalists get a full day with judges to be asked in-depth questions and have their ideas evaluated.

The day after, with all the preparations completed, the finalists get three minutes apiece to present on stage. Crucially, instead of one winner, eight finalists are chosen for each of the challenge questions.

Each finalist receives an initial $10,000 prize, plus a pool of hundreds of thousands of dollars provided by partners including General Motors, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Consensys, and RISE.

This year, for example, Ugandan health care startup Neopenda brought in an additional $30,000 in funding through Solve, from a UN program sponsored by Citi. An intelligent messaging app called TalkingPoints, meanwhile, received backing from General Motors and Save the Children to develop its personalized coaching technology for parents and educators. (You can see more details on this year’s winners and prizes here.)

As opposed to being a “one and done competition” where winning the prize money marks the end of the competition, managing director of community Hala Hanna tells me that the real work begins once the Solver teams are selected. Each qualifying Solver team gets 12 months of engagement and support from the organization. “Our value-add is providing a network, from MIT and beyond, and then brokering partnerships,” she explains.

Perhaps the biggest testament to the Solve method getting traction is its funders putting in even more cash in support. At the closing event on Sunday, an upbeat Matthew Minor, Solve’s director for international programs, took to the stage decked out in Solve-branded socks and a broad smile. He announced the winning finalists—and more funding opportunities. Two of Solve’s original backers, the Atlassian Foundation and the Australian government, are continuing to invest out of a standing $2.6 million budget for companies in the workforce track. RISE, a global impact investing fund, is putting an additional $1 million into companies focused on coastal communities.

The Australians have already put in funding to help past winners scale after the program. One of them is Ruangguru, a digital boot camp in Indonesia that gives youth dropouts resources they need to earn graduation certificates. The startup had reached nearly a million Indonesians prior to participating in Solve; through the program and the additional funding, it assisted more than 3 million Indonesian youth by the end of last year. Iman Usman, one of Ruangguru’s founders, tells me that Solve enabled them to enter into partnerships that helped them scale across Indonesia in a way they would have never been able to do on their own.

Solve has also been unequivocally good at ensuring diversity, both in its own staffing and—perhaps for related reasons—in those that are chosen as finalists. Of Solve’s 20 full-time staff, 14 are women, as are six out of the seven leadership team members and—by my count—at least seven nationalities from four continents are represented on staff.

The 33 Solver teams selected at the finals this year hail from 28 different countries, with 61 percent of them being women-led. At a time when the tech industry is struggling to increase diversity, Solve’s emphasis on diversity in challenge design and promotion has led to applicants and finalists that reflect the world Solve aims to help.

Hanna noted that increasing diversity is not as difficult as it’s made out to be. “Honestly, we’re not even trying that hard,” she explained. “So whoever says there are no women in tech, I say, crazy talk.”

The view from the Apella at Solve Challenge Finals on Sept. 23. Photo: Adam Schulz | MIT Solve

Still, Solve does have a few kinks to work out. By taking on extremely broad topics, the competition can sometimes lack focus. Lofty questions mean you can get very disparate answers, making it hard to compare them in a way that feels fair.

And while it’s great that the award monies are not all given to a single winner, it is not quite clear how funders pick the teams that do get funding. 15 qualifying finalists this year ended up winning money awards, some winning more than one, while the remaining 18 qualifying teams went home with the minimum amount. This is because Solve funders get to pick which of the teams that qualify at the finals get their respective monetary prizes. Of course, all 33 qualifying teams equally get to be a part of the Solve class with all the support and training that includes.

Another kink is the audience choice award—selected through open online voting prior to the finals—but not tied to any clear concrete benefit. Take the example of Science for Sharing (Sci4S), a Mexico-based startup that trains teachers to better engage students in STEM and has already reached nearly a million children across Latin America. It garnered 419 community votes in the Education Challenge, more votes than any other participant in the category, and handedly won the audience choice award. Ultimately, Sci4S was not selected as a Solver team. Another education startup, Kenya-based Moringa School, only got two votes but was selected. While Moringa and others were compelling and qualified in their own right,  it’s still hard not to think that Sci4S should have focused all of its time on its presentation and ignored the audience vote.

All in all, Solve does get a number of things right where other innovation challenges have failed. Instead of anointing one winner for the entire competition, it selects a class of dozens—reflecting the simple fact that the world’s most intractable problems are not going to be solved by any singular idea. Unlike many challenges put on by educational institutions and open only to their own students, Solve opens its doors wide. And winning at the finals doesn’t end your connection with MIT, it only starts it, with all qualifying finalists getting a year of individualized support, training and mentorship.

Done right, prizes can be effective at incentivizing startups to focus on pressing societal issues that can truly benefit from tech-driven solutions. But prizes for the sake of prizes can add to the noise and dissipate scarce public resources and entrepreneur attention. In the increasingly crowded world of innovation challenges promising to change the world, MIT’s Solve is a step away from the noise and towards effective prize granting.

01 Oct 15:10

Pop-ups Packing Serious Punch

by Dean Mackenzie

Things that annoy you are everywhere in today’s life.

Slow wifi speeds bring your YouTube video to a stutter. Traffic lights waste 10 minutes of your life before they reluctantly change. Dog poop plagues your front yard AGAIN, even though you told Mrs. Barrett just last week to damn well clean up after her “Buttercup”.

And one of those things we’d also add to this almost infinite list is the website pop-up. Those annoying boxes you swat at when first arriving (or trying to leave) a website, however, are a marketing essential.

They’re a popular mechanism to nudge people onto your email list, where you can build a relationship that delivers more content, more value, promotions and offers to them, in the hopes of eventually making them a customer.

Sumo reports their studies reveal the average pop-up conversion rate is just 3.09%, while the top performers convert at 9.28%. That’s a huge difference, and one worth trying to make your pop-up as “opt-in worthy” as you can.

So what makes one pop-up annoying and ineffectual, and another still annoying but effective as hell? No two pop-ups are the same, and the elements that make one convert like crazy and the other gathering virtual dust can be subtle or massive.

Let’s look at a few examples of punch-packing pop-ups and why they work so well.

1stdibs

(Source: 1stdibs)

Pop-up: This pop-up displays against products you’re browsing, offering to send you updates if the item goes on sale.

Why it packs a punch: A solid lead magnet, like content or a promotional offer, are good ways of getting people to opt in. But 1stdibs goes one better and offers something ultra-specific: updates on the product you’re looking at right now. Sure, it’s not going to get everyone. But if you see something you like and want to know if it hits a price you like, opting in is a no-brainer.

Brian Tracy

(Source: Brian Tracy)

Pop-up: Offering free content is one of the most popular ways of enticing people to opt into your list. Brian Tracy’s opt-in is no different, with the typical free ebook.

Why it packs a punch: The book is perfectly suited to one of the big target markets the business sells to – people interested in personal development. But it’s the headline that really rocks. It’s bold; it’s confronting, it takes no prisoners. “Do you want to be more successful?” is a question with only one answer… and one action to take as a result: signing up.

Conversion XL

(Source: Conversion XL)

Pop-up: Conversion XL is about two things. 1. Delivering Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) services to help businesses make “tons more money” and 2. Teaching marketers the secrets and skills of CRO with various courses. This pop-up serves the second.

Why it packs a punch: A big, bold promise consistent with their brand. It’s not a challenge, like the Brian Tracy pop-up. It’s not a fun little poke like Monday.com. The big promise is backed up by bullets that flesh out those “essentials” from the headline. Plus, we have no doubt this pop-up performed best from the split testing that is the CRO expert’s bread and butter.

Monday.com

(Source: Monday.com)

Pop-up: Monday.com is a planning, organization & collaboration SaaS app, and like many of its SaaSy fellows, offers a free trial for people who sign up.

Why it packs a punch: Testimonials are a huge part of any modern marketing machine, and this is a 5-start, A1 example of making the most of one. Along with the testimonial, some nice little touches round out the pop-up: the “30,000+ teams” social proof just above the opt-in form and the cheeky “No thanks, I hate hugs” opt-out link below.

* * *

Have you got pop-ups on your website? How are they converting for you? And have you got ideas on how to push your opt-in rate higher and squeeze some business benefit out of the annoyance factor your visitors suffer through?

01 Oct 15:09

New Technologies Impacting the Smart Factory

by Peter Brown
The electronics influencing changes in manufacturing — from robotics to the IIoT to 3D printing and laser marking and engraving.

Not all factories are ready to go the way of lights-out manufacturing, where autonomous robots occupy a factory and don’t require lights at all; where it is just rows of machines functioning in the dark.

But that doesn’t mean technology isn’t changing and influencing the way a modern factory operates and what products it can create. From the industrial internet of things (IIoT), to 3D printing, to robotics, to the rising use of industrial lasers, integrating new technologies into a factory makes manufacturing more autonomous, cheaper and more efficient.

IIoT is seen as a game changer for the modern factory. Connected factories are capable of monitoring and controlling virtually anything in the manufacturing process, and can be managed either from the factory floor or remotely. Connectivity accelerates automation and also enables manufacturing to take advantage of cognitive analysis, machine learning and big data, providing insight into the efficient manufacturing for various devices and optimization of equipment maintenance and use. The overall result is effective factory management that both increases quality insurance and mitigates costs. By 2020, according to market research firm Gartner, IoT tech will be included in 95 percent of all electronics for new product designs, including the use of IoT in the industrial space to build these devices.

3D printing has garnered a lot of attention over the last few years thanks to its ability to build virtually any type of device or product in an inexpensive manner. For a while, 3D printing was limited to the manufacturing of plastics, printing that material layer by layer. However, the technology has improved to where numerous companies have the capacity for 3D printing metal, concrete and other materials for applications such as replacement automotive parts, airplane wings, concrete bridges, full residential housing and much more. There are even farms of 3D printers being established that can run all day and night, having minimal interaction with human workers as they crank out devices and parts.

Robot use in factories has grown substantially over the past five years; they can now be found on factory floors, in manufacturing warehouses and in logistics. There’s currently an emphasis being placed on collaborative robots, or cobots, that work hand-in-hand with human workers toward a common goal. Some cobots are just mechanical arms that can be used for tasks such as welding or circuit board molding or connecting electronics; others are larger machines that can do heavy lifting or even cook food. A recent study by MIT showed that a robot working with a human in a factory is more efficient than just a singular robot or a singular human working alone. The study also found that this scenario reduced unproductivity by 85 percent. Smart factories are leaning toward the use of cobots to save humans from needing to perform dangerous or hazardous tasks, yet also preventing robots from entirely replacing the human workforce. While still in the early stages of adoption, cobots are expected to create disruptive opportunities in the manufacturing sector.

Laser engraved serial numbers and QR codes
Credit: Epilog Laser
Figure 1. A laser’s ability to mark products with a specific code or ID brings value-added features to a smart factory, and is a way to prevent counterfeiting of materials.

Meanwhile, the rising use of industrial lasers in manufacturing can be seen in applications such as laser material processing, laser micromachining, laser marking and laser engraving. Laser technology gives factories the ability to bring added value to the products they create. Examples include engraving custom names or logos; barcoding multiple products simultaneously; adding identification marks to prevent counterfeiting; and producing a variety of laser marks on a number of materials, such as bare metals, coated metals, anodized metals and plated metals. In each case, the work can be done with incredibly fine detail. Laser engraving also helps to protect intellectual property thanks to its ability to add serial numbers, time stamps, part numbers, component labels, data matrix code markings, branding and industry-specific codes – in each case, providing a high-quality mark that can be easily read by barcode scanners or other inventory-tracking tools that are vital to a smart factory. In addition, laser systems can be connected to a factory network as a manifestation of the IIoT, presenting new possibilities for system maintenance, monitoring, operation, remote troubleshooting and product support.

Laser engraved MPNs and brand names
Credit: Epilog Laser
Figure 2. Laser engraving can create high-quality marks that can be easily read by barcode scanners, RFID scanners or other inventory-tracking tools.

For more information on how to integrate laser cutting and engraving into your factory, visit Epilog Laser

01 Oct 15:08

Why Agile Goes Awry — and How to Fix It

by Lindsay McGregor
Dual Dual/Getty Images

In the spirit of becoming more adaptive, organizations have rushed to implement Agile software development. But many have done so in a way that actually makes them less agile. These companies have become agile in name only, as the process they’ve put in place often ends up hurting engineering motivation and productivity.

Agile software development

Frameworks for adaptive software development like Agile, have been around for a long time, and have manifested in many forms. But at the heart of most of these models are two things: forming hypotheses (e.g., what is a feature supposed to accomplish) and collaborating across domains of expertise on experiments, all in the spirit of driving learning and not careening down a path that proves to be incorrect.

When Agile software development was born in 2001, it articulated a set of four critical principles to elevate the craft of software development and improve engineering and product manager motivation.

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

Over the last three years, in our research on human motivation, we have analyzed the practices of engineers across over 500 different organizations using a combination of survey-based and experimental approaches. We’ve found that what happens in practice wildly departs from these stated principles.

For example, in common practice, processes and tools have become the driver of work, not individuals and interactions. In one large Fortune 100 company, the head of digital products said to us, “we’re not allowed to question the Agile process.” In another Fortune 500 organization, product managers and engineers communicate exclusively through their tools, which are used primarily for the former to issue commands to the latter.

Similarly, documentation often trumps working software. In one large tech company, their product team focused significant upfront time writing small requirements (called “user stories”). These requirements were put into a ticket queue as tasks for the next available engineer to start working on. The bar for documentation to keep the queue moving became high. Ultimately, this process became one of many small “waterfalls,” where work is passed from a product department to designers to engineering. This process is exactly what Agile was meant to eliminate. It is no wonder that the CTO of this company said, “my engineers feel like short order cooks in the back of a diner.”

When it comes to “responding to change over following a plan,” this often gets misinterpreted to mean “don’t have a plan.” For example, in one fast growing tech company, the Agile teams did not try to understand the broader strategy of the organization. As a result, their attempts to iterate often focused on low-value or strategically unimportant features.  Without a plan, teams won’t know how to prioritize actions, and how to invest in those actions responsibly. This principle has gone so far as to let engineers believe that it is not appropriate to have timeboxes or common milestones.

It would be one thing if these misapplications actually improved engineering motivation and performance, but we have found that in practice, the opposite happens. Agile, when practiced as described above, reduces the total motivation of engineers. Because they’re not allowed to experiment, manage their own work, and connect with customers, they feel little sense of play, potential, and purpose; instead they feel  emotional and economic pressure to succeed, or inertia. They stop adapting, learning, and putting their best efforts into their work.

For example, one venture capital partner shared with us a story of how a video game development company continued to build a product for a year, despite every engineer feeling like the game was not worth playing. The company realized they wasted a lot of time and money.

Agile processes go awry, because as companies strive for high performance, they either become too tactical (focusing too much on process and micromanagement) or too adaptive (avoiding long-term goals, timelines, or cross-functional collaboration).

The key is balancing both tactical and adaptive performance. Whether you’re an engineer or product manager, here are a few changes to consider to find this balance, so you can  improve your engineering (or any) team’s motivation and performance.

1. Software development should be a no-handoff, collaborative process.

Rather than a process where one person writes requirements (even small ones) while another executes them, all without a guiding strategic north-star, a team striving for true agility should have a no-handoff process versus a process where one person writes requirements while the other executes them. In a no-handoff process, the product manager and the engineers (and any other stakeholders) are collaborative partners from beginning to end in designing a feature.

First the team, including executives, should articulate the team’s strategic “challenges.” Challenges take the form of a question, always focused on improving some kind of customer outcome or impact. Think of them as a team’s detailed mission in question-form to trigger expansive thinking. The challenges themselves are developed and iterated by the whole team, including its executive sponsors (and customers). Every single person on the team (or any team for that matter) is asked to contribute ideas to each challenge whenever they want.

For example, in one bank, a challenge was, “how can we help customers be better prepared for possible financial shocks?”  Another was, “how can we make it more fun and less of a chore for customers to maintain healthy financial habits?” These challenges produced dozens of ideas from many different people.

Then, instead of someone writing requirements while another person executes, these teams develop and mature an idea collaboratively, from rough draft to testable hypothesis.

2. The team’s unit of delivery should be minimally viable experiments.

Teams often find they waste time by adapting too much. To avoid this, not only should ideas be formed for a strategic challenge, but they should also be executed with fast experiments aimed at learning just enough to know what works for customers. In other words, they should be maximizing their “speed to truth.”

In order to reduce wasted effort and increase the team’s decision rights, experiments should be short in nature. If possible, an experiment should be no longer than a week.

Sometimes this requires the team to minimize a feature to what is absolutely needed to test its weakest assumption. Sometimes it means that the team doesn’t code but instead completes an “offline” experiment through research.

3. The team’s approach should be customer-centric.

The process of building software (even internal-use software) should be squarely customer-centric.

At the simplest, these principles should hold:

  • “Challenges” are always framed around customer impact.
  • Problem solving meetings always start with a customer update, and representatives from the frontline are included frequently in these discussions.
  • Every experiment is built around a customer-centric hypothesis. That way, the team can hold themselves accountable to the outcome predicted by the experiment.

However, even more important is that engineers see with their own eyes how customers use their products. This requires the frontline and the engineers working together to see if the product is creating customer impact.

4. Use timeboxes to focus experimentation and avoid waste.

Interestingly, adaptive software development encourages timeboxes as a way to ensure an experiment is given the investment that is justified and to signal the acceptable quality level of given feature. On the other hand, typical Agile practitioners avoid timeboxes or deadlines, for fear that the deadline will be used to create emotional pressure. One of the worst feelings for a software developer is spending a few months working on something that ends up being not useful. This fills you with emotional pressure (“I let everyone down”) and a sense of inertia (“why am I even doing this?”).

To avoid this outcome, you want to be clear on how far an engineer should go before they check to see if the direction is still correct. The greater the uncertainty on a team’s hypothesis, and the greater the risk, the shorter that runway should be. With that in mind, the timebox isn’t a deadline. It is a constraint that should guide the level of depth and quality for an experiment before a real test. In this way, timeboxes can increase total motivation.

5. The team should be organized to emphasize collaboration.

To make sure you end up with a no-handoff process, the various stakeholders involved should function as a single cross-functional team, also known as a pod. The goal of the pod is to drive collaboration. Each pod should contain the full set of experts needed to deliver a great product. This may include senior executives. In one organization, for example product pods include a product manager, front-end engineer, back-end engineer, designer, a quality engineer, and part-time representation from customer service, and a senior executive from a control function.

In many organizations, there are tell-tale signs of “faux pods” — teams that call themselves pods but don’t actually operate that way. Signs of faux pods include:

  • Experts are in separate “aligned” teams, not the same team. For example, a product team has dedicated engineering “sprint teams.” These are not pods.
  • The team uses tools that prevent real collaboration. For example, while asking one engineering team why they chose the Agile software tools they are using, they said, “these tools will prevent executives from engaging in our work.” All this does is perpetuate a cycle of mistrust.
  • Engineering and Product functions actually have different goals from the top. Executives in both functions use their hierarchical power to get their people to prioritize the function’s goals above all others, including their pod’s goals. These conflicts ultimately result in clashes in the working teams that prevent true teamwork.
  • Rigidly hierarchical talent processes, like performance ratings, hierarchical titles, pressure to get promoted, and up-or-out systems destroy the teamwork required to make pods function well. These systems will either make team members more beholden to their boss than their team’s customer or they will put team members in competition with each other. Either way they will not function as a team.

Put differently, the stronger an organization’s silos, the more people will solve for the needs of their silo, versus the needs of their team. This makes collaboration and consensus very difficult to achieve without constant escalation.

6. The team should constantly question their process.

A famous maxim of engineering design is known as Conway’s Law. It states: any organization that designs a system will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication (i.e., process) structure. In other words, if you’re a monolithic organization, you’ll produce monolithic designs. If you’re organized by user segments, your product will optimize for that structure.

If you want to defeat Conway’s Law, the better practice is to constantly adjust your structure and processes to suit the problem at hand. This requires teams that have simple, lightweight processes and structures that they constantly question and tweak.

Thus, rather than building “Agile” as a religion that cannot be questioned, engineering teams should be in the habit of constantly diagnosing and iterating their own team’s operating model. In the best examples we’ve seen, on a monthly basis, teams diagnose their operating model and decide if it needs changing to produce a better product.

***

The ability to attract, inspire, and retain digital product talent is becoming mission critical for organizations. Most organizations have fallen prey to a simple message — implement Agile as a series of ceremonies and everything gets better. Unfortunately, this is often not the case when the human-side of the equation is lost. By getting back to the basics of motivation and adaptive performance, you can build an organization that is truly agile.

01 Oct 14:59

It’s Time to Rethink Sales Coaching for the Modern Era

by Sean Callahan
Sales Coaching

Some argue that it’s a pipe dream to expect sales managers to be effective at coaching. And it’s not hard to understand why coaching is a stretch for most sales leaders, with so many people and priorities are vying for your attention. Data from Objective Management Group’s evaluation of nearly 1.8 million salespeople, sales managers, and sales leaders found that 63% of sales managers spend no more than 11% of their time coaching.

Others argue that it’s merely a matter of recalibrating. Rather than fight against the reality of time constraints and competing priorities, let’s explore tips for better coaching while staying efficient.

Why Traditional Sales Coaching is Outdated

When embracing new principles and techniques, it helps to understand why current ones need to be cast aside. Here are three reasons why yesterday’s sales coaching methods are ineffective.

One-Size-Fits-All Doesn’t Fit Anyone

En masse coaching sessions are an efficient way to cover topics and share knowledge with your team. However, coaching is ultimately about driving the most effective sales behaviors from each of your reps. Because no two reps excel in the same ways, are up against the same challenges, and are facing the same opportunities, one-size-fits-all coaching falls short.

Point-in-Time Coaching Isn’t Timely

Numerous studies show that a majority of training content is forgotten within weeks — a single download of information only gets your team so far. Plus, the increasingly complex B2B buying process means the sales environment is evolving. To keep pace, your reps need to be continually updated about the target audience, the latest sales approach, your products, competitive messaging, and the content you’re marketing team is currently delivering to prospective buyers.

Sales is More Than Calls and Meetings

Going on ride alongs and listening in on phone calls can equip you to help your reps, but those are just pieces of a larger puzzle. Your reps are now interacting with prospects online and not just in the late stages of the buying cycle. Unless you adjust your coaching accordingly, you’ll only be addressing a slice of the activities that make up a successful deal (and not the front-end engagement that most reps struggle with).

Effective Sales Coaching in the Digital Age

Here are new yet proven ways to instill your sales reps with solid practices and habits.

Host Joint Sales and Marketing Training

We’ve heard every cliché under the sun to describe the adversarial relationship between marketing and sales. But Shane Snow offers an interesting perspective: Embrace the opportunity in the different ways marketing and sales think and operate.

Your company’s marketing team develops a unique perspective of prospective customers as they create strategies and tactics to identify, reach, and engage them. Understanding marketing’s insights can better equip your reps to ensure a seamless experience for prospects throughout the buying journey.

By arranging regular training sessions between your marketing and sales teams, you encourage cross-functional sharing and learning. With a detailed agenda and goal for each session, these gatherings can be the catalyst for a shared mindset and culture of collaboration that elevates your team’s performance.

Allot Weekly Time to Social Media

Social media is a key component of selling today and an integral part of revenue-generating activities. While most reps get this, they might need reminders to consistently dedicate time to their social media efforts. By encouraging your reps to build their personal brands and networks, you help them develop a solid foundation that will support all their selling activities. Consider carving out more time (or borrowing from your current coaching allotment) for helping your team members understand the elements of an effective online profile, ways they can establish their credibility, and how to research and engage prospects via social media.

Customize Your Approach With Each Rep

It’s a good idea to hold team-wide meetings to set goals, discuss issues, and celebrate success. However, you’ll want to complement this with one-on-one coaching aimed at developing each rep’s proficiency. Think of it this way: You advise your reps to personalize their interactions with prospects, so why not take the same approach with your own team?

This might seem counterintuitive to efficiency, but what’s the value of one-size-fits-all coaching that fails to address each rep’s unique opportunities and challenges? Fortunately you can use technology to efficiently personalize your coaching, as we cover below. 

Use Videos to Educate

Most of us retain information far better when we see instead of just hear and read about information and ideas. To that end, give your team access to a library of video resources that convey information in visually engaging, memorable ways. When organized by topic and competency, these videos can perfectly complement your one-on-one, in-person coaching sessions. After discussing next steps and goals, you can direct reps to the most fitting videos to address knowledge and proficiency gaps. They can then consume them at their convenience. LinkedIn learning offers several sales courses on demand.

Adopt New Technology

New technologies are continually cropping up in the sales coaching and enablement category. One example is an AI-powered solution that analyzes videos of your reps as they pitch your product, handle objections, work through a discovery call, to name a few. Just record your reps as they walk through their typical sales prospecting steps. The solution generates a score for each video, giving you clear guidance on where your reps need to improve.

Another technology supports micro-learning, which was developed to address the fact that nobody can learn and retain a huge amount of information in a single sitting. This solution supports just-in-time training, equipping sales reps with the information they need when they need it. Many argue that’s a far more effective approach than trying to keep a roomful of antsy reps engaged through a multi-day training.

Like it or not, when you assumed the role of sales leader, you signed up to be a coach. By applying the recommendations outlined here, you can modernize your coaching approach and improve the outcomes of every sales engagement. And of course there’s helping your team members achieve their career goals. That feels pretty good.

To stay at the top of your sales management and coaching game, subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales Solutions blog.

 

01 Oct 14:59

The Buyer Journey: A Model for Professional Services

by Lee Frederiksen

Analyzing and mapping the buyer journey is not new. In fact, it’s commonly used in consumer marketing. But despite its tremendous benefits, it has not been widely adopted in the B2B professional services space. That’s a missed opportunity.

You see, buyer journey mapping encourages you to look at the entire lifecycle of a client — identifying every point of contact between your firm and your buyers.

It’s a tool that allows you to identify gaps in your marketing, sales and service processes. And you’ll see where your tactics, online and off, may break down.

Buyer Journey Defined

Understanding the buyer (or “client” in the B2B professional services context) journey involves researching and detailing the steps a buyer takes to move through the purchasing and use cycle. It’s a systematic and comprehensive view of their experience that you can summarize in a buyer journey map.

The buyer journey mapping process puts you in your clients’ shoes so you can understand and enhance their experience. And better client experiences are a critical ingredient to building your firm.

You’ll be compelled to answer questions like, “What goes on inside your buyer’s brain before they launch a project with a service provider?”, “How do buyers make decisions?” or “What factors impact client satisfaction?” By wrestling with these questions, you’ll be able to improve the way you connect with prospective clients — and boost your chances of closing the sale.

But many firms end their mapping process at the point where a prospect becomes a new client. That’s too bad. You should never think of closing a new client as the end of the process — after all, it could be the beginning of a years-long relationship. So your buyer journey map should also explore what goes on during the client engagement, what happens between engagements and how you can encourage former clients to become reliable referral sources. Such a comprehensive, detailed buyer journey map helps you analyze your clients’ experience and better communicate with them. But where do you start? The rest of this article introduces you to a simple model you can use to map out and enrich your B2B client’s lifecycle.

Buyers Journey Stages

To get started, your map will consist of four parts, each representing a stage of the B2B buyer’s journey:

MappingTheClientJourneyHere’s how to tackle each part:

Stage 1. The Pre-Purchase Experience

The pre-purchase experience starts when potential buyers realize they have a problem — one they can’t solve themselves. As they look around for answers, they become aware of your firm (as well as your competition, of course). That’s great! You’ve overcome the first hurdle — your prospects are aware you exist. Next, B2B prospects need to determine whether you can help them. They might talk to colleagues, check out your website (and those of your competitors) or get on social media to find out how others have solved similar problems. Ultimately, B2B buyers want to find out if your firm’s expertise and past experience are relevant to their problems. Once your potential clients decide which service providers make their short list, they usually do further research, interview the finalists and ask for pricing before making a final choice. At this point in the B2B buying process, there are three possible outcomes:

  1. You’re hired. Good for you!
  2. Not now. Frustrating, but actually not such a bad place to be. The buyer has good feelings about you, but the timing is not right.
  3. No way — you don’t make the cut. In this situation, you may not even know you were in the running. In fact, the buyer might have completed their research without ever contacting you.

Okay, now let’s consider what happens after you’ve been hired.

Stage 2. The Professional Services Client Experience

During a client’s initial engagement, they find out what it’s like to work with you and the value you provide. While one-and-done projects generate incremental revenue, repeat clients fuel long-term growth. So it pays to build enduring client relationships. To win repeat business, you need to meet or exceed your clients’ expectations. So as you map out your B2B buyer journey, ask yourself some questions: Are you living up to your promises? Are you easy to work with? Are you hitting deadlines and staying within budget? And during every engagement, you need to ask yourself how the project is going and what you can do to improve the client’s experience.

Eventually, your initial engagement will wind down. What happens next?

Stage 3: The Between Engagement Experience

After you’ve completed your first project — especially if you’ve made a positive impression — the client may decide they want to use your services again. They may not have an immediate need, but you will be the first firm they call when they are ready. Consumer marketers might call this a loyal customer or regular user. In the B2B buying process this stage is pivotal.

Now, most buyer journey mapping models ignore the stage between engagements, but we believe it’s critical. That’s because it represents a significant opportunity, one that’s often missed.

Let’s consider an example. Suppose at the end of a successful engagement you determine there is a chance you could work again with the client in two to three years. That’s a long time for any company to remember you. If you don’t reach out in the interim, they are likely to slip away forever.

Here’s another example. Often, clients hire you to solve one kind of problem, and in their minds that one thing is the only thing you do. Just as any actor who has played James Bond becomes typecast, your firm runs the risk of being pigeonholed. You can easily lose out on a future job that should be yours simply because the client doesn’t associate your firm with other services you provide.

So as you map your journey, think about what it takes to avoid being typecast. It’s not enough to nurture leads — you need to nurture clients, too, educating them about everything you do. And you need to stay on their radar, even after your initial work is long over. The more they know about you, they more likely they will be to give you a call when the time is right.

Eventually, every client runs its course. But they still have value. Let’s find out how.

Stage 4: The Former Client

Clients leave for a variety of reasons. A contact can retire or take a new position, for example. While you can continue to nurture former clients, some situations are simply out of your control.

In one camp are clients that had a poor experience. Maybe you dropped a ball or two. Or maybe it was bad chemistry. Either way, they aren’t coming back and they probably aren’t going to recommend you to others. Say goodbye to these forever (or at least for a long, long time).

In the other camp are clients who had good experiences. They just don’t expect to need your expertise again. But that doesn’t mean you should forget about them. That would be a terrible mistake.

Why? Well, consider an investment banker who sells a business for a retiring owner. Is that the last opportunity with that client? Probably. Should that firm walk away from that client forever? No, they should stay in touch. You see, that former CEO is going to talk to her friends about the experience. And at some point, an impressed friend is going to consider that same firm to represent him when he sells his business.

Former clients can be powerful advocates for your firm. Just don’t let them forget you.

Why do most companies ignore this final phase? Probably because it doesn’t fit conventional buyer journey models. And it’s far easier — and more exciting — to look to future opportunities than to pay attention to the ones that have slipped into the past. But if you keep in front of your best former clients, you will find that they can be exceptionally loyal, and lucrative, friends.

Mapping Your Touch Points

Every phase in the B2B buyer’s journey is connected to others. So you need to be able to step back and see how it all works. That’s where the journey map comes in. Begin by identifying how and when your firm interacts with clients during each stage. Then note these touch points on your map.

What does an actual buyer journey map look like? It can take a range of forms — from a highly visual infographic to a spreadsheet to a basic Word document. The tool you choose matters less than the quality of the data that goes into it. The goal is to recognize the critical decision points (see illustration above) where buyers will either hire you or take another avenue. Only then can you see how you can meet their expectations and tip the scale in your favor.

At Hinge, we work with a wide range of data to map out a client’s entire buyer journey. To understand the pre-client phase we conduct interviews with prospects in the marketplace, as well as the “got-aways” who ended up selecting another firm. That way we learn what prospects want out of a service provider.

We also talk to current clients to understand the quality of their experience with their professional service provider, as well as to learn whether they understand the full breadth of our client’s services. Finally, we research former clients to understand where they stand on the map and what future prospects they offer: Are they between engagements, or are they gone for good? How likely are they to refer the client, and why? You can plot your own customer journey map with information you may already have — client satisfaction surveys and follow up with former clients. But without detailed research into prospects and “betweeners” — and without a clear understanding of how much clients at every stage know about your range of services — there will be significant areas of terra incognita on your map.

To understand where the gaps exist, you’ll need to analyze each client stage. What proportion of clients experience each outcome? For example, how many prospects become clients? How often do clients move into the “between engagements” stage? How many former clients are recommending you? And, of course, why? Most important, what could improve your clients’ experience — and create better outcomes? If you can’t answer all these questions, you may need to conduct research to see the full picture and make the most of all of your opportunities.

01 Oct 14:59

12 Obstacles Between You and Outbound Sales Success

by John Girard

Here’s an interesting thought exercise: how many separate problems do you think you have to solve in order to get outbound sales to work? And what are your chances of solving each of them immediately?

The answer to the first question is pretty scary. Even if you have strong evidence of product/market fit -- and a sales process that can close business at a predictable rate -- there are actually 12 other discrete problems that still need to be sorted out to get from zero to your first outbound sale.

I know this because not only am I CEO of CIENCE, a company that specializes in helping the sales teams we work with build long-term client relationships, but I’ve run right into all of these problems myself while learning how to conduct successful outreach.

Complicating things further, all 12 of the problems are related but discrete problems. Your ability to solve any one of them doesn’t necessarily predict your ability to solve others.

Worse, in order to get this type of outreach strategy to work at scale, you must solve each problem -- not just a few of them.  A “zero” or “unsolvable” on one could mean a zero result on outbound overall.

As a result of the “failure to solve one-step means failure to finish” dynamic, the math is simple. Let’s say you have a pretty good team and an 80% chance of overcoming each obstacle. In that setup, your chance of getting outbound sales right the first time around is a whopping 6.9% (.80^12).

What seemed like a simple problem (e.g., “Let’s reach out to people who look a lot like the customers we already have and start a conversation.”) is suddenly not so simple.

Fortunately, these 12 obstacles are all surmountable. I can say that confidently, because we overcome them every day on behalf of all of clients. Here’s the way we think about them.

The reality is there are actually six discrete problem “categories” each of which has a zero to one (“Can I make this work at all?”) and a one to n (“Can I make this work at the scale I need?”) component. Below are these six problem categories and the obstacle for each.

Outbound Sales Mistakes

1. Sourcing the right leads

    • 0 to 1: Once you’ve identified your ideal customer profile (i.e., you’ve figured out exactly who you’d like to speak with), search the internet for anyone else that fits the profile and identify ways to connect. This is harder than it seems, as many prospect segments have constituents that don’t identify themselves on LinkedIn or in other social channels. Once you’ve found a lead, the task of finding a matching email and/or phone number is next.
    • 1 to n: Assuming you were able to find just one or two prospects matching your ICP, the question remains: can you find hundreds or thousands more? And through what sources would you find them, over how much time, and for what resources expended?

2. Delivering and connecting

  • 0 to 1: Assuming you’ve solved the first problem and identified your leads and their contact information, decide if you can engage them in a channel that catches their attention. This means connecting with them on the phone or in their inbox.
  • 1 to n: Solving the email deliverability or phone pick-up problem once doesn’t mean it’s solved at scale. That’s where a new set of challenges await, including domain reputation and email deliverability issues, phone dialers, and refined scripts.

3. Engaging

  • 0 to 1: Getting in your prospect’s inbox isn’t enough. The right subject line compels a prospect to open and read; the right copy compels them to take positive action. The right mix of timing, target, subject line, copy, and call-to-action must align to get a response. And until you hear from them, you have no idea how you’re doing.
  • 1 to n: Once you’ve gotten a result, the question becomes: “How can I achieve consistent results across multiple reps, campaigns, and touches over time?” Carefully measuring what’s working (and what isn’t) is the key to success here, and it’s nearly impossible to measure activities when they aren’t consistent.

4. Finding the right people

  • 0 to 1: The average salesperson sends over 100 messages a day. The most effective SDRs are smart, congenial, and hungry -- and most companies hire the wrong person for the role at one point or another. Getting the right SDR in the seat the first time is difficult.
  • 1 to n: Even once you’ve figured out what kind of employee makes the best SDR for your business, sourcing those candidates as you scale can be incredibly difficult, especially when you consider varying performance and employee churn. Most strong sales teams are perpetually hiring SDRs because they want to scale and need to deal with SDR attrition.

5. Training people

  • 0 to 1: SDR’s should formulate a successful campaign approach but will also likely discover they hit diminishing returns quickly. That’s because the techniques that worked three months ago are likely to be different this month, and an SDR who isn’t consistently learning new techniques and tools won’t be able to deliver over the long term.
  • 1 to n: This problem of SDR education is even more difficult at scale.

6. Getting the handoff right

  • 0 to 1: Once an SDR has successfully engaged a prospect and set an appointment, the sales process is almost ready to start. But huge questions await: Will the prospect show? Are they the right contact at the target business? What are they expecting out of the call? What does the sales rep know about the prospect before the call and how do they handle the transition between SDR and rep? Without scripting this carefully, “lost in translation” turns quickly into “lost opportunity.”
  • 1 to n: At scale, mastering the handoff from SDR to sales rep is even more critical, because small changes to the conversion rate can have huge downstream effects. For instance, is the SDR using best practices for setting the appointment (getting affirmative buy-in) and using an appropriate reminder cadence? How are no-shows handled? How does the end of the SDR “script” dovetail with the beginning of the sales rep script? This is probably the part of the process that gets the least attention (an appointment is an appointment, right?). Getting it wrong is painful because this is the step closest to opportunity development and eventual sale.

As you can see, solving the entire outbound sales puzzle is not easy. At each step, the outreach team must prove the step can be done once and then economically at scale. Failure at any one step means outbound fails.

Fortunately, there are rigorously tested, data-driven tools and techniques to help achieve success at each step and give your team the best chance at outbound success.

HubSpot Free Sales Training

01 Oct 14:58

'Disruption only happens to those that are unprepared': Media agencies are fighting back by increasingly taking a page out of consulting firms' playbook

by Tanya Dua

robot ai artificial intelligence

  • Media agencies are under fire from a number of fronts, but they aren't taking the existential threats to their model lying down. 
  • Many of the largest media agencies, including UM, Zenith, Havas and Mindshare are working to ramp up new offerings for marketers, redefine their roles and propel themselves forward.
  • They are investing in everything from building business intelligence to digital transformation capabilities to data and analytics as well as proprietary tech stacks.
  • But these channels still need to be adopted more widely and are still ancillary, warned ad analyst Brian Wieser. 

There has been no dearth of apocalyptic predictions saying that media agencies are on their death bed.

  • Marketers continue to complain about a lack of ad buying transparency from their agencies.
  • At the same time, brands are increasingly taking media-buying in-house.
  • Deep-pocketed consulting firms are creeping in on agencies' turfs.
  • And just last week, ad agencies were reportedly hit with subpoenas as part of an emerging federal investigation.

But some big media agencies aren't taking these existential threats lying down. In fact, they are vowing to fight off disruption — often by building out new services and divisions that go beyond just buying lots of ad space.

Indeed, recognizing that bulk ad buying power is no longer enough of a differentiator, many of the largest media agencies, including UM, Zenith, Havas and Mindshare are working furiously to increase what they can offer to marketers, while also redefining their roles and ensuring their futures.

They are investing in everything from business intelligence to data and analytics as well as proprietary tech stacks. In other words, media agencies are trying to become a lot more like consulting firms.

"We realize that the industry is changing and that we need to be prepared for the future," Joe Maceda, chief instigation officer at Mindshare told Business Insider. "Disruption only happens to those that are unprepared."

If you can't beat consulting firms, imitate them

Daryl Lee, Global CEO at Universal McCannOne of the biggest threats today to agencies at large comes from consulting firms like Accenture, Deloitte and IBM who have been encroaching on agencies' turf by setting up digital, media and creative divisions of their own.

But just as the consultancies are beefing up on their creative chops, media agencies have started to take a page out of the consulting playbook to bring more value, strategy and transparency to the table. Agencies, including UM and Mindshare, have set up business intelligence groups and agile development teams, to help clients tackle broader business problems.

UM, for instance, has established a team with over 500 people globally whose primary job is to analyze data and apply it to clients' media plans, according to global CEO Daryl Lee.

The agency frequently organizes what it refers to as "scrum workshops" to cull together people from strategy, product development, creative and even outside media vendors to brainstorm together on certain clients such as Spotify.

In the case of Spotify, the group often moves so fast that it's not unusual for the members to come up with ideas in as little as 48 hours and execute them as quickly as the following week. This approach has led to an average of three artist campaigns per week, said Lee.

Apart from becoming more agile, by bringing the various players in from the start, the agency says it is able to be more efficient by eliminating some cumbersome processes. 

"Media has typically played a role at the top of the funnel," said Lee. "But what we're doing is shifting that horizontal mode to vertical, in order to create media experiences throughout the consumer journey."

Media agencies are bolstering their data and analytics capabilities 

Agencies have also started investing more in their data analytics and business intelligence capabilities, trying to help clients with not just buying media space but developing products. 

Havas Media, for example, has developed a tool in conjunction with IBM artificial intelligence called Arcadia, which allows the agency to carry out ethnography surveys at scale.

"It helps us combine AI with real human insight and get deep insights at scale," said Greg James, global chief strategy officer at Havas Media. "The implication of that is not just what ads should we make and how to target those ads, but also inform product strategy."

Havas has been using Arcadia for projects with existing clients such as Keurig, as well as in new business pitches. 

They are also taking their services more upstream

Media agencies are trying to offer marketers tools, services and consulting before they decide how and where to advertise — and not just handling the execution phase of media buying

To that end, Zenith has set up a "Growth Audit," a structured questionnaire framework through which it does a deep-dive into the company's assets. It uses the audit to understand the client's organizational design and then works with clients to create new capabilities or make recommendations on who it could partner with to fill in the potential gaps.

"Our business has to move more upstream in a more consultative space for the simple reason that clients are facing the risk of disintermediation and every business is potential at risk," said Vittorio Bonori, Zenith's global brand president. "This system forces both clients and agencies to focus on the business."

The agency is also pumping money into machine learning and artificial intelligence to help clients like insurance provider Aviva figure out where best to spend their ad budgets and which ads are driving sales and leads. 

Screen Shot 2018 09 28 at 2.39.31 PMIn Coty's case, for example Zenith developed a "Fragrance Finder," an AI-powered product recommendation engine on the website of British retailer Boots.

The product makes fragrance recommendations to consumers based on their answers to a series of questions, using machine learning to learn the tastes and preferences of the consumer to make better recommendations.

The brand saw clickthrough rates of as much as 30% through the engine. Meanwhile Zenith's digital transformation practice is growing 5 times as much as other areas, according to Bonori.

"We're moving into a new space, and that is opening up new revenue streams for us apart from the core business," he said.

But not everyone is convinced that agencies can move beyond their core quickly

All these investments in data and analytics, automation and artificial intelligence and business transformation are all well and good, but are ultimately ancillary to the way that media agencies make money and always have — that is media planning and buying — according to Pivotal analyst Brian Wieser. 

"If you were to look at their revenue functions, it doesn’t look very different from what it did 10 years ago," he told Business Insider. "If it weren't for those functions, marketers wouldn't really be engaging with them."

Very few agencies have truly evolved their businesses, said Wieser, pointing at R/GA and Wunderman as examples. 

For media agencies to truly transform what they are, investments need to be made at the holding company or sub-holding company level, he said.

"While they are trying to add more value to clients than their core media planning and buying functions, these efforts are still very much at the margins," he said. 

In the meantime, agencies are trying to help their clients bracing themselves for the future

Apart from getting up to speed with the latest capabilities in data and technology, agencies are also ensuring they are prepared for the future.

Mindshare, for instance, has an internal Black Mirror-inspired program called "Media Dystopia," where it explores potential dystopian futures for media based on today’s developments with its clients, and comes up with potential ways to survive them.

One of these programs explored the future of commerce on voice assistants, and what it means when consumers buy things from what is essentially a "voice shelf."

To respond to such a voice-based future, the agency developed the "Mindshare Discovery Risk Index," classifying which brands are likely to be most negatively affected by voice-based purchasing. It then used that worst-case scenario to come up with an Amazon Prime Day hack for a large consumer packaged goods client.

The hack was based on the insight that Amazon Alexa is only likely to recommend two brands in a category when a consumer is looking to shop. To ensure that the CPG brand (Mindshare declined to name the brand) would be one of the brands recommended, Mindshare ran an offer for consumers of the brand on Amazon in the day leading up to Prime Day so that its search results would peak, and Alexa would be more likely to recommend it when someone searched for it using voice.

"By playing out current media trends to their most disruptive ending, we're able to remain ahead of the curve," Mindshare's chief instigation officer Maceda. 

Join the conversation about this story »

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01 Oct 14:58

Keyword Research for B2B Brands

by Eric Siu

A great content strategy starts with keyword research. But not all keyword research is the same.

Most of the guides out there talk about keyword research for consumers but fail to mention the important differences for B2B companies. If you don’t take the time to consider the specific needs of your brand, your research could be a total waste of time — or worse, actually send your marketing efforts down an ineffective path.

But that doesn’t mean that B2B keyword research has to be difficult. In many respects, it’s no harder than B2C research, just a little different.

In this article, I’ll show you how to think about B2B keyword research differently, suggest some helpful tools, and review the most important elements of your keyword strategy.

How To Think Differently About B2B Keyword Research

Business buyers tend to have a much longer buying cycle than consumers for a number of reasons. It’s not often that a department VP types a question into Google and then signs up for the first solution he finds.

That’s why B2B marketers need to focus more on the buyer’s journey when doing their research. While product keywords like “project management software” or “automated 401k” are great for customers looking to purchase, you’ll miss out on a huge section of the market if you focus only on this demographic.

Instead, you must focus on keywords that are related to each stage of the B2B journey. You need to ask yourself what potential customers are searching for from the very beginning.

Let’s take the project management software example. What might customers ask at the beginning of their journey? Probably something like “how to effectively manage projects” or “team collaboration” or “how to organize a code sprint”.

Then, if their situation warrants, they’ll probably realize that a tool could really help them out. So then they might look for “most important features in a project management system.” You get the idea….

B2B content marketing requires a broader net because you want to establish brand authority in the space while still generating leads. If you just pump out a bunch of sales pages, you probably won’t see great results.

With proper content marketing, your prospect will have already visited your site several times before they decide to make a purchase.

B2B Keyword Research Tools

Before I get into the actual strategy, I want to share a few tools that we use at my digital marketing agency when implementing keyword research for our B2B clients.

Google Keyword Planner

This tool is the backbone of many keyword research strategies. That’s because it’s free, simple to use and comes straight from the source: Google.

All you need to do is create a Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) account and you can start getting keyword recommendations and search volume estimates.

I won’t spend too much time going over the tool since so much has been written about it already.

Ahrefs

One of the most powerful tools for SEO is Ahrefs. It’s not cheap but it does a lot. Specifically, for keyword research, it lets you pull lists of keywords that any site is ranking for.

This helps you see where competitors are putting their effort and how you’re stacking up. It also gives you the estimated search traffic and difficulty for ranking against each keyword. Making important decisions is much easier when you’re prioritizing keywords to go after.

LSI Graph

LSI Graph is another free tool that’s useful for developing keyword ideas (with a cheap option for unlimited searches).

LSI Keywords are Latent Semantic Indexing Keywords, which is more or less a fancy way of saying related keywords. These are keywords that are used to help search algorithms better understand the meaning behind your content – although they can also be great article keywords, too (when relevant)!

With LSI Graph, all you have to do is type in a keyword or phrase:

Keyword Research for B2B Brands1

And it will spit out tons of related suggestions:

Keyword Research for B2B Brands2

Quora & Similar Sites

Quora is a popular site where people can ask questions and then crowdsource answers from the collective wisdom of the Internet. This makes it a great place to find keyword opportunities in the earlier stages of the buyer journey.

The great thing here is that these are specific queries that might have a smaller search volume and not show up high on other reports, but that also means they can be easy wins to get in front of prospects while your bigger pages start to rank.

On Quora, you can search for a topic and view the most followed and most asked questions under “Topic FAQ”:

Keyword Research for B2B Brands3

Google

And last but not least, don’t forget about Google for good long-tail keywords.

Let’s say you set up WiFi networks for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). You could type in a basic keyword phrase like “business wifi network” and instantly see some of the most common questions:

Keyword Research for B2B Brands4

Right off the bat, I see a content opportunity around business WiFi network diagrams.

And don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of the SERPs to find related questions:

Keyword Research for B2B Brands5

And one last tip here: study the ads on the page, too. These marketers have already done the research on ideal keywords for their ads, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Evaluating a B2B Keyword Opportunity

There are four main elements we use to evaluate a keyword opportunity: volume, difficulty, relevancy, and intent.

Volume is the amount of traffic that search gets each month. It’s easy to grab from the keyword planner, although more specific results will be found in Ahrefs.

Difficulty measures how hard it will be/how long it will take to get this keyword to rank. Higher difficulty scores usually mean that a higher word count, better graphics, more LSI keywords, and more backlinks are required to win. Several tools provide an estimate for this, including Ahrefs.

Relevancy is a qualitative criterion that’s hard to assign a specific number to. Once you’ve created a list, you need to review it and remove any keywords that aren’t really relevant to your brand or audience.

Intent is another tricky one. You need to ask yourself “what is someone who types this actually looking for?” This generally falls into five categories:

  • Purchase (customer is looking to make a purchase)
  • Informational (customer is looking for information about a product or problem)
  • Related (industry topics, not directly related to your offering)
  • Broad (many possible meanings or loosely related to your brand; for example “IT”)
  • Not relevant (just ignore these)

You mainly want to focus on the first two, but the third category can hold good topics for content that belongs in the earlier stages of the buyer journey.

You also want to ask yourself: “Is the search intent likely B2B or B2C?”

Let’s say your company provides B2B import/export and shipping services. A keyword like “fast international delivery” might appear as a gold mine. But it’s possible that most people searching for that term are looking for personal shipping services for small packages.

Compare that to a query like “freight forwarding” which has a much smaller volume but a much clearer B2B intent.

Some keywords will definitely have a mix of B2B and B2C intent, so don’t cross them off your list immediately. But you should discount high volume numbers and perhaps prioritize it a little lower if the keyword difficulty is too high.

Key Elements of a B2B Keyword Strategy

There are five main types of keywords that you should include in your keyword plan.

1. Branded Keywords

Branded keywords are super specific keywords like your brand name, slogan, product terms, and so on.

They should be pretty easy to rank for, but you cannot afford to neglect them because customers making these searches have a fairly high purchase intent. If they’re looking for information on you by name, they’re at least in the evaluation stage of their decision-making process.

2. Product Keywords

Product keywords are the primary battleground for B2B SEO. This is where you compete for the top spots like “corporate network installation”, “standing desks” or “freight forwarding”.

It also includes broader terms closely related to your products. These will likely require the most effort to rank for, but will also bring the greatest return.

3. Industry Keywords

Industry keywords are those that are relevant to your industry but not directly related to your topic. They shouldn’t be your top priority, but as mentioned before, they can be important in establishing your industry expertise.

The managers who search for “employee productivity” are often involved in the buying process of HR software. So Zenefits made sure to rank for this keyword:

Keyword Research for B2B Brands6

While the article may give them a chance to plug their product, the primary goal is establishing industry authority and brand name recognition and bring the prospect further down the decision-making process.

4. Competitor Keywords

If you’re subscribed to Ahrefs (or using the free trial), then you can pull a report that tells you exactly which keywords your competition is ranking for. It will even show you the specific article URL and position:

Keyword Research for B2B Brands7

You can even export this data into a spreadsheet for easier analysis:

Keyword Research for B2B Brands8

5. Optimization Opportunities

Optimization opportunities offer some of the highest ROI in all of content marketing.

If your site has been around for at least a few months, you may have already started ranking for valuable keywords. But even if you aren’t seeing much traffic from search engines, it’s possible that you’re sitting on page 2-10 for some pages, which will bring almost zero visitors. Often, it won’t take much to break into the top 10.

So what are you going to do? Competitive research on your own site. Follow the same process as above and look for good opportunities ranking in positions 11-100.

Prioritize articles with higher rank and traffic volume and start updating these pieces by adding more content or resources to your existing articles. You can modify the title to include the keyword, but do not change the URL unless you set up proper redirects.

Conclusion

Keyword research is the foundation of any content marketing plan – which is why it gets talked about so much.

Despite a little more complexity, at the end of the day, B2B keyword research isn’t that much more difficult than B2C research. You just need to make sure you’re thinking about it the right way.

If you use these tools to find and evaluate keyword opportunities with your prospects’ decision-making journey in mind, you’ll develop a sound strategy for your content marketing.

The post Keyword Research for B2B Brands appeared first on OpenView Labs.

29 Sep 20:45

Bob Plecas: Badly flawed electoral reform process is too controlled by politicians

by Gordon Clark

Premier John Horgan’s comments about this fall’s referendum on electoral reform at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention are disturbing for three reasons.

He said: “I’m going to campaign as hard as I can in the next month to convince other British Columbians to join with me and take a leap of faith on a change that works in jurisdictions around the world. Do not be put in a place of fear.”

Obviously, the premier’s briefing notes were wrong. The assertion the options presented in B.C.’s referendum are used around the world is incorrect. Unless “around the world” means “four countries, specifically Germany, Lesotho, New Zealand and Bolivia.” Those are the only national elections that use any of the forms of proportional representation British Columbians will be asked to vote on. To be fair, variations are also used in a few sub-national elections like Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Australian Senate. A couple of countries like Venezuela use a hybrid.

Ninety per cent of the nearly 100 countries that use proportional representation rely exclusively on party lists. You elect parties, not people. And there are at least four ways of selecting names from a party list, but the point is they are party lists, not locally elected MLAs like we have now.

The party list form is used around the world, but not on our ballot. Therefore, nice-sounding generalizations about worldwide proportional representation are not applicable to our referendum. When something sounds too good to be true, it is.

What is on the ballot, you might ask? Two systems never tried or used anywhere in the world, and one used in the four named countries above. Even that third option is mired in uncertainty for British Columbians. Attorney General David Eby listed 11 key aspects that will have to be dealt with after the referendum. Those include the number of MLAs, what the electoral map will look like, how party lists are generated, and even whether voters will have one, two or more votes in general elections.

This creates confusion.

That is a pretty big, risky leap of faith. I’m reminded of the most terrifying words in the English language: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Blind trust on something as important and complicated as electoral reform is enough. Couple that with what you hear all over the province that this is about ensuring retention of power by the current government and it’s an Olympic long jump.

The second reason the statement is flawed is because the process is flawed. The only consultation with British Columbians was an online questionnaire. Compare to the Citizen’s Assembly of 2005. Randomly selected British Columbians worked for nearly a year, examining electoral reform. The provincial government established a conventional approach to constitutional change with a two-step hurdle. More than a majority of the votes and a regional requirement to ensure that all areas of the province were included.

The 2005 referendum failed to meet that bar. The second referendum in 2009 also failed. Note that both of those presented a clear choice between two options, not the two-question obfuscation we face this fall. And the Citizens Assembly rejected Mixed Member Proportional, now on our ballot, as they felt it took away too much power from the voters.

We can argue about whether the appropriate threshold for provincewide support is a bare majority or 60 per cent. However, there should be no argument about the second hurdle, which allows us to reflect our urban and rural fact of life. If 50 per cent plus one of B.C.’s constituencies also had to vote in favour, it would ensure that no one region, such as the Lower Mainland, would overwhelm another, like the Interior. The fear in our rural areas over the potential loss of their MLAs is real.

The third reason is the direct involvement of all the political parties in the debate. This did not happen in 2005 and 2009. It is impossible and inappropriate to gag elected officials. However, in the past this was done gingerly and with respect. The motto seemed to be “Let the people decide!” and that sentiment is one we should be following today.

The direct, vocal involvement of the leaders of all three political parties represented in the legislature and the registration of political parties as third-party advertising sponsors detracts from the necessary public debate. The partisan tone makes this not a sober discussion of electoral reform but a raucous re-fight of the last election. That is a mistake when we are looking at constitutional reform at the core of the relationship between elected leaders and voters.

The debate needs to be thoughtful, fact-based, passionate, opinionated, but non-political.

This is not a party issue, it is a people issue.

The premier asks British Columbians to take a leap of faith. To not act out of fear. However, the very nature of political discourse in this province will lead in exactly the opposite direction.

True leadership on political reform requires something elected politicians of every stripe are not very good at. They are take-charge kind of folks, who believe their way is the right way.

However, on electoral reform, it is one of those times when we should “Let the people decide!”

Bob Plecas was deputy minister under five premiers that crossed the political spectrum. He is a founder and director of the No Proportional Representation Society of B.C.


Letters to the editor should be sent to sunletters@vancouversun.com. The editorial pages editor is Gordon Clark, who can be reached at gclark@postmedia.com.

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com.</p

29 Sep 20:39

The Commerce World is Evolving: Snapchat’s New Partnership with Amazon

by Courtney Allbee

There I stood in the produce aisle at Publix when I saw a young woman walk by wearing the trendiest dress that I NEEDED to have in my closet. “Should I go up to this stranger and ask where she got it?” I thought to myself. Nah, it’s 2018, people don’t approach random strangers in the grocery store.

WHAT IF… I could low key take a quick photo of her dress without her noticing and my phone could just tell me where it’s from?

Great news, everyone.

Pretty soon, you can do just that using Snapchat!

Snapchat and Amazon’s Partnership

This past Monday, September 24th, Snapchat announced their partnership with Amazon and the new point-and-shoot shopping feature. All you have to do is scan an item or barcode using your Snapchat camera and you’ll receive a pop up window in the app that showcases the item, similar items, pricing, review scores, and Prime availability. Selecting a presented listing will direct you to Amazon or a website in your browser where you can purchase the item. Convenient AF.

Snapchat will be releasing this feature to a small percentage of U.S. users before they decide to expand to other countries. After recently losing a multitude of users and money (down from 191 million to 188 million daily active users last quarter while burning $353 million, according to Tech Crunch), this new point-and-shoot shopping feature could really help them bounce back.

Keeping Up With the Competition

With Instagram’s latest shopping tag feature and Shopping channel in Explore, social commerce continues to advance, allowing for an easier, more convenient user experience. Pinterest has also recognized this shift in social commerce by recently launching their Shop the Look pin, allowing users to tag the products showcased in their organic pins. With more than 250 million monthly users on Pinterest, more and more users are adapting to these changes.

What Does This Mean for Us?

In a world where people rely on immediate gratification, we, as marketers, need to continuously find ways to keep up with this fast-paced, ever-evolving environment, in order to keep our businesses thriving. Social technology is constantly changing and advancing. If we can’t keep up with the trends, we’re never going to grow as a business.

The key is to be susceptible to change and adapt to new ideas before they fully take off in order to put yourself ahead of the game. And like any new strategies you fit into your marketing plan, don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work the first time. Everything is trial and error, which is why I’m curious to see how this new Snapchat feature takes off.

While this new feature sounds incredibly convenient and awesome, I have a lot of questions about how this launch will turn out. Will old users who gave up on the app give it another chance? How accurate will the point-and-shoot listings be? Will competitors jump on this bandwagon and hijack their idea? Stay tuned…

Want to keep up with the marketing trends but don’t know where to start? Download our Beginner’s Guide to Inbound Marketing for some helpful tips and tricks.

29 Sep 20:38

Are You Finding that No One is Listening to You on LinkedIn?

by Wayne Breitbarth

"Lately I seem to have a much lower level of engagement (views, likes, comments or shares) on the articles I'm writing and the things I'm posting on LinkedIn."

I hear this frequently from my consulting clients as well as people in my LinkedIn network. They want to know why this is happening and how they can get back to "the good old days."

First, more people are writing and sharing than ever before on LinkedIn, so the news feed is getting more crowded. Secondly, because LinkedIn has set up an algorithm to decide what information goes into people's feeds, not everything you share goes into every one of your connections' feeds. Check out this article to get more details about how the algorithm works.

Because fewer people are receiving your articles and status updates, it's more important than ever to share the type of information your network is most likely to find useful and thus share, like or comment on—or, better yet, directly engage with you.

Because I understand that might be easier said than done, here are some ideas and resources that have worked for me and my clients and may help you, too, get the amount of engagement you got "back in the day."
.

Strategies to increase engagement with your LinkedIn posts

In addition to the suggestions below, feel free to check out LinkedIn's helpful guide Sharing Content on LinkedIn–Best Practices.

Make sure your content is relevant and interesting to your target audience. The topics or questions you've discussed with your clients and professional associates this week are probably on the minds of your network as well. Therefore, this is the type of helpful information you should be sharing. Personally, this is how I choose the topics for my weekly LinkedIn email and blog.

Be sure your post is visually interesting and appealing. When you share something on LinkedIn, make sure you post an image—or if you're sharing a link, be sure the visual that is populated from the web page is interesting. Also, LinkedIn seems to be giving feed algorithm preference to video right now; so sharing any form of video will typically result in higher engagement than simple text.

Take advantage of hashtags. Hashtags are like a filing system for all content shared on LinkedIn. Thus, if you don't include them, your content may not be included in the mix. Be sure to include several relevant keyword hashtags at the end of your comments or weave a few into the comments themselves. LinkedIn will also suggest hashtags you could select that may apply to the topic of your post.

You can find more details about the use of hashtags here.

Draw individuals to the post by mentioning them. LinkedIn now allows you to tag or mention (using the "@" operator) individuals or companies that may be mentioned in the article or video you're sharing or that you want to be sure see your post. Because the individual or company is notified when you use the Mentions feature, they may be inclined to engage with your post.

You can get more information on the specifics of LinkedIn's Mentions feature by clicking here.

Respond to their engagement when it is your turn to do so. If you get notified that someone commented on or shared your posts, be sure to "like" their comment or share and thank them for doing so. Don't just type "Thanks for sharing, Wayne" but use the Mentions feature, and grab their name as part of the thank you by adding the "@" sign ahead of their name. Then when their name shows up on the drop-down list, click it, and LinkedIn will populate their name in the comment. In addition, that populated name is now a hyperlink to their profile, and they'll be notified that you mentioned them.

Ask a question or elicit an opinion. That sounds pretty simple, but I've found that if you ask people their opinion on something you've shared, you'll get responses from some of the people in your audience.

Sharing is caring. If the information you are sharing is something that comes with a very high value at a fairly low or no cost (e.g., a free webinar, download, etc.), then why not simply ask readers to hit the Share button and share it with their network—and don't be surprised when they do.

Implement these strategies, and watch engagement with your posts increase—and hopefully it will result in lots of calls, meetings, and productive email exchanges like in the "good old days."

 

The post Are You Finding that No One is Listening to You on LinkedIn? appeared first on Wayne Breitbarth.

29 Sep 20:38

Negotiating Agreements for Highly Collaborative Relationships Part 1

by Jeanette Nyden

It’s time for a new approach and mindset for contract negotiations, time to leave the old me-first, I-win-you-lose strategy far behind, replaced by highly collaborative partnerships.

What if the agreement you negotiated was more than just a short-term, legalese-burdened piece of paper specifying a bunch of transactions, terms and conditions, self-interested risk avoidance provisions and liability limitation procedures? That mindset is old school and inadequate for today’s economic and business realities. A new way of thinking about business relationships is needed, a new paradigm that can take you and your partners beyond the handshake and the initial yes to Get to We.

What if instead a set ethical of social norms based on mutual trust was the foundation of the deal? The latter course may sound naive and impossible to achieve, but our research found that companies of varying sizes and industries established highly collaborative relationships on a foundation of common social norms. Our new book, Getting to We, outlines the six social norms—which we call guiding principles—and describes a five-step process that will make establishing highly collaborative relationships a reality.

Getting to We is a paradigm shift for business negotiations processes based on the application of Vested’s proven “what’s-in-it-for-we” (WIIFWe) business relationship approach.

The WIIFWe mindset is the foundation of a Vested relationship; it is a change in social norms from a “what’s-in-it-for-me” (WIIFMe) mindset. WIIFWe is the philosophical mantra that forms the architecture for a collaborative and trusting relationship. Once embraced, a WIIFWe mindset has the power to deliver a powerful competitive advantage for the parties long after a deal is signed.

Here’s the crucial element: The Getting to We mindset and process changes the goal of the negotiation from the deal itself to the relationship. In other words, the relationship itself becomes the focus of the deal, throughout the life of the deal.

This unique and compelling idea says that once parties have gotten to yes in a contract negotiation, some real work and resources are needed to forge a lasting, collaborative, shared-value partnership in which all of the parties prosper.

The Getting to We process changes the goal of the negotiation from simply getting the deal itself done to forging a win-win partnership. Following this process helps companies change how they view the relationship—helping them embrace the WIIFWe mindset. This is done through an approach based on trust and six vital core principles that flow from a true commitment to trust: reciprocity, autonomy, honesty, equity, loyalty and integrity.

These principles, so important in our personnel endeavors and interactions, should drive collaborative business behaviors; this is especially true in today’s highly volatile and uncertain global economic climate. And it applies equally to existing relationships and to new ones. Therefore, to ensure a constant state of collaboration each party is responsible for always following the principles. For example, if the parties take seriously the principles of loyalty and integrity, they will look out for and strive to preserve the interests of the relationship, which means that some very common ways in which companies negotiate become unacceptable, such as coercion, or bluffing, or lying.

Negotiating the true nature of the relationship under a Getting to We mindset means that the parties move out of the competitive tit-for-tat cycle of actions and instead go on to create a negotiation atmosphere that encourages cooperation. There are three things about a WIIFWe relationship that alter the conventional tit-for-tat strategy:

  • The players turn into partners for success. They set out to enter into a long-term relationship where each partner intends not to “eliminate” their partner by moving to another supplier or customer. The intent transforms a transactional business relationship into strategic relationship.
  • The relationship adheres to the common set of principles (outlined above) that drive cooperative behavior.
  • The partners live the WIIFWe approach in daily interactions and use a formal, governance structure to ensure compliance with cooperative behavior.

Thus the relationship itself generates successive rounds of cooperative tit-for-tat thinking to create value that is mutually beneficial to the partners.

Originally published here.

29 Sep 20:37

The State of ABM: Strengthen Marketing Ops to See Greater ROI

by Trask Rogers

Engagio recently released its ABM Outlook Survey 2018 report, focusing on the strategies, organizational structure and measurement processes organizations are using as they implement ABM. The survey also looked to identify the key challenges respondents were facing, including the primary concern: getting organizational buy-in to fully embrace ABM. Let’s look at some of the key trends outlined in the survey and identify some takeaways that will allow your organization to strengthen your ABM strategy.

ABM Strategy

Not surprisingly, most respondents (65%) are splitting their overarching marketing strategy between traditional demand generation and ABM. Just under a quarter of respondents said that their ABM programs were well underway or advanced, but half of the audience said that their efforts have just begun. ABM spend is currently around 20% of the total marketing budget. However, it’s exciting to see that spending is jumping to nearly 30% of total spend heading into 2019. In a lot of ways, this makes complete sense. For many, 2018 served as a year in which many organizations piloted ABM initiatives to help define their strategy and approach, with plans to extend those programs in the coming year.

Organizational Structure to Support ABM

While the benefits of ABM have been well documented over the last few years, organizational structure within most marketing teams has yet to be optimized. In most cases, the CMO or VP of Marketing ‘owns’ ABM, but it touches nearly every function within the team. Over time, I expect to see more organizations unifying Marketing and Sales Operations into one department to further strengthen the staffing model necessary to support ABM, particularly in the areas of data management, account tiering and enablement of more personalization.

ABM Adoption – Where are Marketers Making Strides?

When asked to rate their organization’s sophistication in key areas, the top three answers were:

  • Sales and Marketing alignment
  • Establishing an account foundation
  • Running ABM plays

Overall, these three areas make a lot of sense and should serve as the foundation of ABM. Not surprisingly, organizations rated their ability to measure the impact of their ABM programs as the function that had the lowest level of sophistication. Just like with traditional demand generation, marketers want to ultimately understand their impact on the pipeline, but ABM presents a number of challenges. Chief among them is the challenge of unifying data from a program that for many teams consists of multiple systems that aren’t integrated.

Key Challenges Moving Forward

Respondents in the survey mentioned two primary challenges that need to be addressed in order for them to realize the full value of an ABM-centric approach: getting necessary organizational buy-in and having the ability to execute. While there is some correlation between these two challenges, they ultimately impact the marketing team in different ways.

Having the necessary buy-in really boils down to being able to build the appropriate business case to support the investment necessary to be successful. Teams struggling in this area should fully embrace the notion of developing an ABM pilot as a first step in which the budgetary investment represents a fraction of the overall spend and aims to utilize as much of the existing tech stack and team resources as possible. This should also include the ability to represent how incremental investments would impact the program. For example, if a pilot is focused on 5-10 accounts within an organization’s Tier 1 accounts, what would the impact be if resources were allocated to run ABM programs for the top 25?

For the organizations struggling with the ability to execute, the focus of their efforts should be on maximizing how they can do the most with the team they have. Let’s face it: marketers love to embrace the latest and greatest…the newest shiny object. And ABM is really the holy grail. It allows marketers to build out their MarTech stack and explore new strategies. But savvy marketing teams know that the secret to early (and sustained) success – ultimately the foundation of a solid ABM program – lies in data.

A strong Marketing Ops function that can establish the appropriate lead management, segmentation and data enrichment strategies empowers teams to run more effective ABM plays that will result in the type of engagement that shows that this strategy works. More technologies are coming online every year to support ABM, and these will continue to help organizations scale. But a data-first strategy managed by a strong Marketing Ops function will ultimately provide the strongest return for your ABM program.

29 Sep 20:37

Small Commitments Mistaken for Larger Commitments

by Anthony Iannarino

A bank can give you a credit card with little trouble. The goal of the bank is really to get you to borrow money, as that is how it profits from the transaction.

You can give the razor away without making any money. You need the recipient to buy the razor blades, the real reason you gave them the razor without capturing any value in that transaction.

You can ask people sign up for your service and get a high number of people to register. That small commitment is easily gained, but the more difficult commitment is getting them to buy what you sell.

The loyalty card provides benefits to those who possess it, but it does very little to improve loyalty.

Your prospective client can allow you to sign up as a vendor without ever placing an order with your company. By allowing you to register, they may benefit by getting rid of you, telling you they’ll call you when they need you.

It’s easy to mistake small commitments as something more than they are. When you sell to businesses, the small commitments often mask that you have not obtained the larger commitment you really need. You can go all the way through some process with your prospective client only to find out they have no real commitment to change.

The Big Commitment

In The Lost Art of Closing, I put “the commitment to change” as the third commitment in a series of ten commitments, even though the framework is mostly non-linear. The reason the commitment to change follows only “the commitment for time” and “the commitment to explore” is because you can get all the way to the end of the process to find out there was no real will to change. These deals are lost to the decision to do nothing—or to postpone the decision to some future date.

Without the commitment to change, your prospective client agree to all kinds of things that feel like progress but are no real indication that you are moving closer to a deal—or them to the better results you are trying to help them achieve.

Essential Reading!

Get my latest book: The Lost Art of Closing

"In The Lost Art of Closing, Anthony proves that the final commitment can actually be one of the easiest parts of the sales process—if you’ve set it up properly with other commitments that have to happen long before the close. The key is to lead customers through a series of necessary steps designed to prevent a purchase stall."

Buy Now

The post Small Commitments Mistaken for Larger Commitments appeared first on The Sales Blog.

29 Sep 20:37

How do your taxes and user fees compare to neighbouring cities? And how much more are you paying since the last election?

by Lori Culbert

Homeowners in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and along the Sea to Sky Highway pay vastly different levels of property taxes and user fees, depending on where they live, to fund the services run by their municipalities.

An analysis of provincial finance data for 29 cities shows how much the owner of an average detached house in each area would pay the municipality for standard items, including emergency services, parks, recreation facilities and road maintenance.

We used this to determine where homeowners pay more or less; how much these taxes and fees have increased since the last municipal election in 2014; and whether they go up by a smaller margin in an election year when voters are deciding who to support at the ballot box.

We also spoke to leading mayoral candidates to find out, if elected, whether they would lower or raise these taxes and fees, and how they would spend — or not spend — the revenue they generate.

The answers varied as widely as the mill rates across Metro Vancouver.

In Surrey, candidate Doug McCallum said he would ratchet back tax increases so they would grow only at the rate of inflation, and said he could do that without cutting services. In Vancouver, candidate Kennedy Stewart insisted that would be impossible to do.

“By law, cities can’t run deficits, so if you are going to cut taxes you are going to be cutting services, immediately,” Stewart said. “Which library branch do you close? Which park do you stop mowing the lawn? Which neighbourhoods get fewer police patrols?”

The figures

Postmedia’s data analysis used spreadsheets provided by the provincial government that show the total “property taxes and charges” collected each year by municipalities, and what that amount was for the owner of an averagely priced single-family detached home in each city. (Condos and townhouses were not included in the calculations.)

We stripped from this data all money that municipalities collect for other levels of government, such as for schools, TransLink and regional districts, because city halls do not control or spend this cash.

What was left were general municipal taxes, which the municipalities use to run services; user fees, which can include street parking, utility fees and community centre charges; and parcel taxes, which are temporarily applied to certain properties to help the city pay for major upgrades or new infrastructure, such as sewers.

We added together these three sources of revenue for 29 municipalities, stretching from Pemberton to Hope, and found the following:

• In 10 municipalities, an average homeowner pays $4,000 or higher annually, including Vancouver, White Rock, North Vancouver District, and West Vancouver — the latter has the highest average bill at nearly $6,500.

• In 14 municipalities, an average homeowner pays between $3,000 and $4,000 annually, including Surrey, Delta, Burnaby, Richmond and Coquitlam.

• In five municipalities, an average homeowner pays below $3,000 annually, including Pitt Meadows, Chilliwack and Hope.


Taxes and fees for an ‘average’ home

Increases were higher in the three years after the 2014 election and then, in most cases, were more modest this year, just before the upcoming municipal election. Click on each municipality to read the data:

* Overall property tax bills are higher than the amounts above because municipalities also collect taxes for schools, TransLink and other levels of government that have not been included because city halls do not control or spend that money.

** Taxes collected by these five small municipalities are higher than shown because they pay a police tax that is not included in these figures. Source: Government of B.C.


Most homeowners will have a much higher municipal tax bill, perhaps double these amounts, when the money for other government services is included. Both Vancouver and West Vancouver say they get to keep only half the money collected for property taxes, utilities and other fees each year. Vancouver reports that nearly a third is handed over for schools, 12 per cent for Metro Vancouver, and seven per cent for TransLink.

With the next municipal election three weeks away, we also wanted to know by how much these taxes and user fees increased since this round of mayors and councillors took office in 2014.

• In some cases, municipalities that already had high taxes and fees, such as Lions Bay, Vancouver, West Vancouver and Port Moody, also increased them significantly — between 20 and 35 per cent — over the term.

• Other jurisdictions, such as Surrey and North Vancouver City, raised their payments substantially since 2014 as well, but their homeowners still pay relatively low or average amounts of taxes and fees compared to other cities.

• By comparison, Richmond and Burnaby have average taxes and fees, and in Pitt Meadows and Hope they are even lower, but none of those municipalities has increased them noticeably over the term.

• Places like Whistler and Bowen Island have higher tax bills but have also kept their rates relatively flat each year since the last election.

The Postmedia analysis also showed that in nearly every one of the 29 municipalities, increases to taxes and fees were the highest in the first three years of the term. Then increases fell dramatically for this year — an election year.

Is this an election ploy to woo voters into thinking kindly of the outgoing mayor and council, who may be running for re-election?

No, say Surrey councillors Bruce Hayne and Tom Gill, both running for mayor. According to the provincial government data, money paid by the owner of an average house in that city increased six per cent each year between 2014 and 2017, but only three per cent in 2018. Both candidates, though, maintained the taxes and fees collected were consistent each year and that there was no plan to reverse the rate of tax increases in time for the election.

One of the most extreme examples was in North Vancouver City, where taxes and fees increased an average of seven per cent in the first three years of the term, but then dropped two per cent in 2018.

This may have been an effort to curry voters’ favour, says Guy Heywood, a former North Vancouver City councillor who is now running for mayor. “Spending always goes down before an election. Staff will curtail expenses as the mandate of a council comes to the end and councillors want to look fiscally prudent,” said Heywood, who was a councillor from 2008 to 2014.

But he added that some expenses do fluctuate each year beyond the control of city halls, such as weather-related issues like snow-clearing and social challenges like the opioid crisis.

North Vancouver City Coun. Linda Buchanan, who is running for mayor, did not directly answer the question about this apparent decline in money collected in 2018, but said council generally accepts recommendations from staff about tax rate changes, which she has disagreed with at times when she worried there may not be sufficient revenue being collected to fund services.

Voters must decide

Voters will decide on Oct. 20 who they want to run their city halls, and so we asked some of the main candidates to discuss taxes and fees, and what they would spend the revenue on or what services they would cut.

In Vancouver, the owner of an average house (valued at $2.5 million) paid $4,400 in taxes and fees in 2018, the seventh highest amount of the 29 cities, behind areas such as West Vancouver, Whistler and White Rock. Between 2014 and 2018, taxes and fees jumped by 22 per cent — one of the biggest increases in the region.

During a recent Vancouver mayoral debate hosted by The Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers, candidates were asked if they would support the same rate of tax increases, or a higher or lower amount.

Contenders Ken Sim, Hector Bremner, Wai Young and Fred Harding all said lower. Stewart said increases should stay about the same.

Shauna Sylvester noted Vancouver’s rates are lower than West Vancouver and some other North American jurisdictions, and said the city raised taxes because senior governments have off-loaded major costs such as the overdose crisis and affordable housing. It is impossible to make promises about local taxes, she argued, without discussing the roles of Victoria and Ottawa.

Bremner, though, insisted they must come down. “There are people who are being taxed out of their homes right now,” he said.

He, along with Sim, Young and Harding, all promised some type of financial audit of the city to try to find efficiencies to cut spending.

When pressed about cuts her city hall would make if elected, Young suggested she would save money by stopping major projects, such as the demolition of the Georgia Street viaducts and construction of more bike lanes.

Stewart argued a major portion of a city’s budget is emergency services, such as police, fire and ambulance, so it is very difficult to make sizable tax cuts without trimming services. He dismissed as “wishy-washy” the other candidates’ plans to limit taxes and fees without significantly impacting city amenities.

Bremner, though, insisted it would be possible by increasing revenue in a new way, such as generating more profits from city land by building small, walkable, business-friendly communities.

“It’s not about cut or spend. It is not a zero-sum game,” Bremner said.

In Surrey, Metro’s fastest-growing city with 1,000 additional residents every month, the taxes and fees paid by the owner of an average house (valued at $1.1 million) are lower than two-thirds of the cities analyzed, at $3,369 a year.

But the amount collected in Surrey between 2014 and 2018 increased by 23 per cent, a higher rate than in all the other cities except two.

Gill, a two-term councillor with Surrey First, the party that has dominated council since 2005, said Surrey’s rates have traditionally been low, so even if they are increasing more quickly, homeowners are still getting good value.

“When you look at the revenue collected on a single-family home, we are still significantly lower than Vancouver,” said Gill, who is running for mayor under the Surrey First banner. “Imagine the windfall we would have if we were taxing the equivalent of Vancouver.”

Surrey’s outgoing council passed a 10-year recreation plan for Surrey, including new ice rinks in Cloverdale and Whalley, and a transportation plan to ease congestion, which Gill said are priorities for him.

He criticized the administration overseen by McCallum, who was mayor from 1996 to 2005, for financing a tax freeze by selling off public lands.

Bruce Hayne, who was elected a Surrey First councillor for the past two terms but recently split from the reigning party and is running for mayor as an independent, agreed Surrey’s taxes are increasing because the city is “slowly playing catch-up.” He said cutting taxes is a great sound bite, but doesn’t get desperately needed amenities built in a growing city or provide a sufficient number of first responders.

He believes more options are needed for youth in Surrey, but something more than sports facilities; if elected, Hayne would like to see a youth centre built that offers arts, music, dance and drama.

McCallum, though, is proud of his record of freezing taxes over his nine years as mayor. If elected again, he would continue that trend, but says he could still bring in a municipal police force and avoid cutting existing services by eliminating financial waste and “redistributing” revenue among departments.

Among the crowded field of mayoralty candidates in North Vancouver City, Coun. Rod Clark agrees with trying to keep tax increases to the rate of inflation — something he said he proposed but wasn’t supported by outgoing Mayor Darrell Mussatto and his slate of councillors.

Despite this call to reduce the amount of taxes being collected, he still champions securing affordable rental housing through negotiations with developers, and the still-to-be-built Harry Jerome community centre project — for which one per cent of the tax rate is being designated.

The 2018 amount of taxes and fees paid by the owner of an average North Vancouver City house, valued at $1.7 million, was $3,847 — higher than in Surrey but lower than in Vancouver. Since the last election, taxes and fees have increased by 20 per cent, the eighth quickest pace in a field of 29 cities.

His council colleague, Buchanan, said council opted to raise taxes “modestly” to ensure it has the funds to offer services and public amenities the growing city will need in the future. “By contrast, we have seen in neighbouring municipalities the decision to cut services and to burden future generations by borrowing, rather than saving, to pay for needed public infrastructure,” she said.

Buchanan would like to continue the save-for-a-rainy-day tax model of the current council. “We ensure that we build the financial reserves necessary to repair and replace in the future. We do this for everything from roads, to water and sanitary, to replacing major pieces of firefighting equipment like ladder trucks,” she said.

At the same time, she wants a “rigorous review” of the costs of the massive Harry Jerome centre, saying she would like the project to proceed but that her city must “build smarter” so it has the money to invest in other priorities such as greenways and arts and culture facilities.

Her competitor, Heywood, argued that municipalities with urban cores, such as North Vancouver City, New Westminster and Port Moody, spend more on policing, social issues and housing than suburbs like North Vancouver District without a downtown area. Heywood believes savings could be found, and taxes potentially reduced, if there was better collaboration between the two neighbouring North Vancouver municipalities — a concept that he said has not been welcomed by the existing council.

If elected, Heywood’s priorities would include finding financial efficiencies and reducing traffic gridlock.

Mayoral candidate Kerry Morris, a fierce critic of the previous council, said taxes went up unnecessarily because of spending on projects he dismissed as frivolous, such as some bike lanes and the Lonsdale energy system.

The owners of single-family homes have been hardest hit by tax hikes, says Morris, because of factors including council’s decision to allow coach houses on every lot, which led to increased property values, and a tax shift from condos to houses.

“So single-family homes have indeed borne the largest increase and priced many who own those homes out of the market,” he said.

City by city, there was no correlation between the amount of taxes and fees paid and the price of an average home. For example, the 2018 taxes and fees paid by the owner of an average home in Vancouver and Port Moody are the same at about $4,400 even though the value of an average house in Vancouver is $2.5 million while the value of an average house in Port Moody is $1.3 million.

And the fees paid by homeowners in Hope represented a much larger proportion of their relatively low home values compared to in West Vancouver, where the tax bill was pennies on the dollar of an average house value.

The taxes and fees are based entirely on the budget of each municipality. And how much your bill will be in 2019 will depend on the mayors and councillors elected, and their priorities for taxing and spending.

lculbert@postmedia.com

twitter.com/loriculbert

Note: There are five municipalities for which we could not include the money they pay for policing, so this means their overall tax bills will be higher than the numbers in this article: Bowen Island, Lions Bay, Anmore, Belcarra, and Pemberton. Because they have fewer than 5,000 residents, they pay a police tax rather than fund an entire detachment; that expense was captured in a catch-all “other” category in the government data which Postmedia eliminated because it mainly included money collected for services by other governments, such as TransLink.

29 Sep 20:36

Bots replacing office workers drive big valuations

by Joanna Glasner

A lot of people still get paid to sit in offices and do repetitive tasks. In recent years, however, employers have been pushing harder to find ways to outsource that work to machines.

Venture and growth investors are doing a lot to speed up the rise of these worker-bots. So far this year, they’ve poured hundreds of millions into developers of robotic process automation technology, the term to describe software used for performing a series of tasks previously carried out by humans.

Process automation funding activity spiked last week with a $225 million Series C round for one of the category leaders, New York-based UiPath. Sequoia Capital and Alphabet’s CapitalG led the financing, which brings total capital raised by the 13-year-old company to more than $400 million, with a most recent valuation of $3 billion.

A Crunchbase News analysis of funding for startups and growth companies involved in robotic process automation indicates this has been a busy year overall for the space, with more than $600 million in aggregate investment across at least seven sizable deals.

Below, we spotlight some of the largest 2018 rounds in the space:1

UiPath, for its part, has a grand vision and an impressive growth rate. Its broad goal, laid out to incoming employees, involves “liberating the human workforce from tedious, repetitive tasks.”

And employers are willing to pay handsomely to liberate their employees. UiPath said that in one 21-month period, it went from $1 million to $100 million in annual recurring revenue, an absolutely astounding growth rate for an enterprise software company.

The other big unicorn in the process automation space, Automation Anywhere, is also in rapid expansion mode. The company said customers have been using its tools across a broad range of industries for tasks including integrating data in electronic medical records, streamlining mortgage applications and completing complex purchase orders.

One might ask: What are employees to do all day now that the bots have freed them of their tiresome tasks? The general refrain from UiPath and others in the process automation space is that their software doesn’t eliminate jobs so much as it gives workers time to focus on higher-value projects.

That may be broadly true, but there is a significant body of employment trend forecasting that predicts widespread job losses stemming from this kind of automation. It could take the form of layoffs, or it might not. Companies may indeed transition bot-displaced existing employees to other, higher-value roles. Even if they do that, however, process automation could enable reduced hiring for future jobs.

That said, there’s plenty of funding and hiring happening at the handful of high-growth companies that could determine whether the rest of us have a job in our futures.

  1. Providing comprehensive funding numbers for robotic process automation proved challenging because many startups list automation as part of a broader suite of offerings, rather than a core focus area. 
29 Sep 20:34

How To Build a Partnership Program For Long-Term Success

by Warren Knight

Marketing is becoming ever more personalised, and for long-term success, your business needs to keep up with the trend. You need to be building relationships, and doing that means being where your customers are. Online is key, but how can you leverage that beyond your own networks?

One essential key to expanding your reach and connecting with new, larger audiences is to develop a partnership programme.

Whatever your business – whether you are an expert coach, author, trainer or speaker and exchange time for money by selling your services, or own a brand selling products – in order to grow a sustainable business you need partners to help promote what you offer to a much wider audience.

By ‘partner’, I’m not talking about just having a Facebook page, or paying a high profile influencer to talk about you.

I mean strong, personal, 1-1 relationships with individuals (or organisations) who have the same target audience as you, and who are looking for a win-win-win scenario.

This will almost certainly mean a range of partners, for different areas of your business. How many, and who, is a mixture of quantity and quality. Or, perhaps more accurately, relevance. That win-win-win comes from you having something relevant to offer your partners for sharing, and by definition backing, your brand with their audience.

Investing in relationships to build strong partnerships

For you to understand what’s relevant to them, and for them to appreciate how what you offer adds value to their customers, you need to take the time to build that strong relationship. How that works depends on your business and location and theirs, but developing it almost always means ‘giving’ them something – something that shows them the value of your thought leadership, services or products, and demonstrates how your brand adds value to theirs.

That could be as simple as you building your profile through personal networking, spending time with people (yes, this is always about people) to give them the benefit of your knowledge. But whatever you choose to do, remember that building strong, long-term partnerships is the same as building any other relationship – you have to invest time, effort and a bit of yourself in them. It’s not just about selling.

How I use partnerships in my business

Let me give you an example. In my own business, I have various revenue streams that come from different target audiences. For each stream, I need a different type of partner:

As a speaker
As a keynote speaker, I work internationally. But, to be able to speak in the Middle East, Germany, Finland, Israel, Holland and Romania (to name just a few countries I’ve worked in,) I need a partner company that is present in that country. It’s not just about them having the local database, though that’s vitally important. They also know the local language and culture, and can help me promote myself in the right way for that market.

For this to be a success, I have to supply marketing material so my partner can promote me. And we need complete transparency, so that if I am contacted directly by a company in that local market, my partner knows whether that’s an existing client of mine or whether it’s a potential client lead that they have delivered to me.

That’s not to say I don’t use my own network as well. LinkedIn is my main tool for contacting other organisations to get speaking engagements, but I’m looking for long-term success. To achieve that you need a partner who both understands the local market and knows you and your area of expertise.

As an author
As an author, I simply need a partner who can print, distribute and manage all of the online and offline bookstores and send me a review of sales on a monthly basis.

As a trainer in the room

As a trainer, I work with a huge range of businesses – everything from MBA to start-up, from business owners to corporates. But to do this successfully I first have to create different content that works for each of these target customers. Only then can I go out and find partners with that specific target audience.

My partner might then do one of two things, each of which has its pros and cons:

Fill the room and pay me a day rate.

This gives you a fixed fee. You might not always get your true day rate, but you could get booked for 10-20 days a year.

Open up their audience for me to market to in order to fill the room, and I give them a commission for every delegate that signs up.

This has the advantage that it enables you to be in control of the sales and profit. But you’re responsible for the marketing and sales, so if you’re not a strong marketer or sales person you need to be careful.

Both options have their positives and negatives, but if you’re working internationally I would definitely recommend option 1.

As an online trainer

I’ve been running online training courses since 2012. Audiences differ, and prices range from £197 to £2,500, but in each case I still need partners to work with to fill the (online) room.

For you, selling online through partners could be via global brands like Groupon, or with other businesses and experts who don’t specialise in your skillset but do have the same target audience as you do.

You can of course promote your online event via places like Eventbrite or Conferize, but with these platforms you do not have that personal relationship, which in my experience is key to achieving a better ROI.

Getting started with your partnership programme

1. Think quality not quantity

Partnership marketing is, in part, about numbers. Expanding your reach is vital – but at the same time, you must understand the audience and be offering something relevant to everyone.

Hubspot has some good advice here, suggesting that:

“The partners that are solely focused on the financial motivation are typically not the best for long-term success. The partners that want to add value for their clients and pick the best solution for them are the ones that will ultimately develop the best relationship with you and your brand.”

Think carefully about how your partner’s brand adds value to yours, as well as the other way around, and choose partners who share your target audience.

If you’re venturing into partnership programmes for the first time, a few, quality relationships will bring you better results than trying to go for volume without substance.

2. Proactive engagement

Keep front of mind by being in touch with your partners regularly. Make it easy for them to learn about what you offer, and how to partner with you. That means
developing relevant content and incentives, as well as supporting your partners, and training them if necessary.

You might need to offer them the benefit of your experience through 1:1 conversations, which is a great way of building the trust that leads to long-term collaboration.

This matters, even where your business is done entirely on-line. With so much on offer, buyers are increasingly relying on partners, peer-to-peer referrals, thought leaders and brand ambassadors when making buying decisions.

3. Offer the right incentive

There’s no single right answer to this, so your partnership programme needs to fit the needs of your company and your partners. My most important piece of advice is to keep it simple – making it easy to explain, implement and pay out incentives in return for leads.

Particularly if you’re setting up large-scale partnerships with online businesses, where your leads come via automated online platforms, you’ll need to consider automated payouts; otherwise a successful programme will quickly become unmanageable, and drain on your resources.

Types of incentives you could consider are:

  • Revenue share – a commission representing a percentage of the total purchase. Think PayPal, which takes a small fee for each transaction.
  • Dual incentives – if both partner and referee get a reward for sending you business, there’s a win-win-win built in.
  • Limited-time rewards – Exclusive rewards for high performing partners are a great way to encourage participation. For example an award for the highest monthly performer.

Does your business really need a partnership programme?

In a word, yes. Did you know that B2B buyers are typically 57% of the way to making their decision before they engage with a sales process? For your business, that means that to get that sale, you need to have given your audience multiple opportunities to discover, learn about and engage with your brand. If your audience has already learned about you from brands they trust and buy from, you are far more likely to get their business.

Partnerships take time, effort, energy and commitment to form, but if done correctly by ticking all the boxes and providing mutual benefit to all parties, they will help you build a sustainable business and form new, lasting friendships.

Originally published here.

28 Sep 17:13

Glimpses Into The Future of the Workplace

by John Larase

Is Telework The Future?

The truth is the current workplace has already been revolutionized by technology-driven platforms. The moment the entire globe has gone digital, companies and institutions are on their way towards something bigger and better. Organizations have made quite a leap in terms of advancing their operations.

Today’s progression in every working environment, as we see it, is largely attributed to the need to increase efficiency. Whether you are into sales and marketing, or logistics and warehousing, or systems programming and storage, achieving more at half the time is most certainly the main objective.

What tomorrow may bring to enhance the performances of your workforce will depend largely on how you are able to integrate new processes and platforms into your organization. The future of sustainability does not merely affect you. Every employee under your wing will become a part of an imminent turnaround at the workplace.

Any discussion about improving an organization will most certainly begin with your people. Manpower is crucial to the direction in which your company is heading judging from their functional capabilities. Investing in the development of human resources is not merely about upgrading an individual’s know-how. It is also about redirecting their efforts with technological advancement.

Valuing Information

Primarily, it is important to know how information is being valued in your firm. It is no secret that data are the bases of procedures and methods inside every working environment. The value of information has never been highly regarded as it is now. How your people put knowledge to run its course is key to the progression of your firm.

At this point, it is essential to reiterate that facts and figures can turn an otherwise successful organization into a besieged institution. This downturn is almost certain considering the fact that competitors are out to make a run against you anytime if only to grab the upper hand in the market.

Within this context, you have to understand that any information about your operations can be seen as a destructive ploy to the overall program if not totally protected. Consider the classified data of giant companies like General Motors, Citibank and Coca-Cola. The confidentiality of their approach at work is a major reason why these firms are on top of their game.

However, once these endless streams of information get in the open, a domino effect will open the floodgates of a disaster which is why protecting information means everything if you want to sustain your organization’s long-term significance.

Until today, the e-mail system remains a vulnerable portal for intruders to acquire data. Although social engineering has been largely used by many to steal documents, methods of cyber intrusion have also improved. While stolen bits of files may have minimal damage effects, the likelihood of a more profound digital invasion tomorrow can be a strong possibility.

You may think that the software against viruses and other related cyber threats are enough to repulse intrusions, it is not so. Your people remain a major cause of concern all the time. This does not mean that you are undermining the trustworthiness of your employees. Getting concerned about their behavior is also about protecting your interests.

Both inside and outside of the workplace, the threat of theft is not a remote possibility. Financial institutions have to deal with this every now and then. Car factories have to repulse the danger of information leaks. Even your government and the military are susceptible to this kind of peril.

The installation of security systems in offices can deter thievery but the ingenuity of human beings remains a factor in bypassing such preventive platforms. The employment of body scans or biometrics will actually help but such an approach is only limited at work.

You need to have something to track illicit trade behavior outside of the working environment. CCTVs can only do so much. Tracking mechanisms like drones need to go small but become far more powerful as tools to confront the challenges of covert information exchange. Putting wall or barrier-penetrating cameras or satellites into action, while difficult and expensive, can help.

In line with this, another alternative can be pursued. Glass offices can be an option to keep activities transparent. In addition, more orientations about data protection must be done in order to institute a deeper understanding of its significance to everyone concerned.

Securing the System

Secondly, and in relation to the first discussion, storing data will be another challenge to contend with in the future workplace. Even with the cloud processes in place, you can never underestimate what runs inside people’s heads which is why lockdown tools are essential. Reigning in all activities within your organization can be done if technology-driven systems are adapted.

Eventually, the storage system will go through various security walls. Passwords, personal identification codes and the like are already there but all these need to be improved. The likelihood of this approach to be successful is the proliferation of items that can be controlled at the workplace.

Although computers are a common sight in many institutions, there are still many companies which continue to stick to conventional apparatus like typewriters. In fact, intelligence agencies are the first offices that come to mind in terms of securing their data. With typewriters, the only problem there is with regards to deciphering or copying valuable files is the carbon paper.

With computers, the entire working environment is wired. Still, ingenuity reigns and clever or smart individuals will be able to ease out information by evading security walls on a system which is why instituting more protective layers should definitely be pursued.

If the entire workforce is using or associated with electronic instruments and gadgets, there is a high chance of managing the employees. Control over an array of connection systems must be established. The approach should not only be limited to computers or tablets. Other equipment like calibration apparatus and related machineries should be controlled by a main digital structure.

Although against privacy, regulating mobile phones can be done. However, the monitoring scheme should go through layers of screening approaches. Various independent networks must be installed. It is not enough to have a blocking platform. A stream of security lines must be in place to withstand a barrage of invasion.

Uncomplicating the Office Clutter

Third, since we are talking about efficiency in the workplace, it is only appropriate that we also tackle the effectiveness of your people. It is highly likely that training and development in the digital realm will be eyed. Most of the time, career advancement is focused heavily on personality, customer relations, and management.

It is possible that a shift in technological progression is being projected in order to boost a deeper understanding of the technical workings of a digitally-enhanced workplace. However, the approach may not lean on some kind of textbook method.

Knowledge will be integrated with segments through a corresponding system for each worker. The reason for such is not merely about overwhelming the employee. It is to allow them to institute a sense of balance between learning new things while still doing their jobs.

At present, workstations are equipped with technological innovations which allow individuals to function to the fullest. This means that tools are made available in order to make their responsibilities easier. More than that, it is so because it allows people to deal with what they are doing trouble-free.

Instead of having employees go to training programs which keep the workforce away for a considerable time, it will be helpful if cubicles or private quarters will be reinforced with items which will allow people to function, to learn and to communicate virtually. The setup will save the company some precious time.

Along with this line, it will also be beneficial if the working environment will go wireless. Not only will it limit the complications at the office. Everyone will find a sense of convenience considering that entanglements with cables will no longer materialize. In addition, mobility will come in easily.

Committing Remotely

Lastly, there is a dimension in the future workplace that is gaining steam. While remote team employees have been in existence for a considerable stretch, a lot of firms seem uneasy about the perspective. Most employers intend to have their eyes monitoring all over the place.

However, this is one aspect where many employers remain uninformed. The remote office is actually a significant piece of the conventional workroom. Any company that is largely looking for results while keeping their expenses under control can lean on remote teams.

Judging from the fact that the business realm has gone global, companies will have a percentage of their workforce functioning from all over the world. Many enterprises don’t know this but the plight of virtual employees has paved way for further advancement in the technological field.

Time-tracking software has been depended upon to monitor the number of hours remote workers spend on assigned tasks. Outsourcing businesses have thrived as more and more individuals get integrated into the employed community.

The future of the workplace is a remarkable perspective to have. Enhancements and advancements are done to better suit the capabilities of remote workers. Calculations in improving productivity and performance have been instituted through programs that measure or monitor distant activities. The workplace of the future will be an open space of technology-driven function and suitability.

28 Sep 17:10

Trending This Week: Mastering the Other Universal Language

by Steve Kearns

Most sales pros take great pride in being able to listen to the unspoken and decode the meaning of gestures such as crossed arms, a tilt of the head, or clock watching. But as business and B2B buyers become more global, relying on body language can steer sales pros wrong. A head nod doesn’t always mean yes. An averted glance doesn’t always mean your buyer is disengaged.

While understanding the cultural nuances of body language could take a lifetime, there are nonverbal cues which provide reliable insight into every buyer’s mindset—if you know how to read them. The global language of nonverbal communication is rooted in microexpressions, spontaneous and involuntary facial movements which momentarily flash across buyers’ faces and are gone in as little as one 25th of a second.

You may be thinking, isn’t more of the B2B sales process moving online, making this aspect of selling less relevant? That’s true, but it’s also true that video interactions are on the rise, and that many of the most pivotal sales meetings still occur in a face-to-face setting.

That’s why understanding microexpressions in each face-to-face meeting is especially important when it comes to gauging your prospect’s mindset and determining your next move. Having fluency in microexpressions can help you spot the telltale signs of emotions such as contempt or surprise, thereby guiding your approach to answer your buyer’s unspoken needs.

The week’s trending sales content highlights steps to improve fluency in nonverbal communication. You’ll also discover ways to ensure your hard work isn’t just busy work, along with tips for achieving a more satisfying work-life balance.

Here’s What Sales Professionals Were Reading and Sharing This Week:

How to Get Better at Reading People from Different Cultures

For sales pros, an inability to read nonverbal cues can be a deal breaker. But language and behavioral norms are not universal across cultures. A smile, a handshake, a serious expression—these gestures may not mean the same thing to all buyers. In this post, Kasia Wezowski dives into microexpressions, those brief involuntary flashes of facial expression that can reveal how prospects really feel and if they are buying what you’re selling. Click through for tips on using YouTube and mirroring techniques to help improve sales calls with global B2B buyers.

5 Tips to Boost Your Sales and Still Have a (Happy) Life

Balancing a successful sales career and a meaningful life can be challenging, but some people have it down pat. In this post, Amy O'Connor highlights ways to keep things in check. Learn what O’Connor has to to say about boundaries, financial health, organizational skills, and what it means to be “grocery store worthy.”

55 of the Best Sales-related Quotes

We all have our favorite sayings about success and selling. And who doesn’t want more? In this post by Carol Roth, sales and business leaders share inspirational quotes which have shaped their approach to sales and life. The list includes great insights from business minds such as Seth Godin and Zig Ziglar and also nuggets from unexpected sources such as as Dr. Seuss and Friedrich Nietzsche.

Busy Doing What? 4 Steps to Implement If You're Working Hard and Not Seeing Sales Results

“More of the same equals more of the same,” Kurt Sima writes in this post focused on categorizing and prioritizing accounts and prospects. Sima recommends that sales pros assess opportunities based on revenue potential, access, and fit to ensure low-priority relationships aren’t a time drain. Another tip? Limit unqualified leads in your pipeline to no more than 10. Check out the post to see if there are steps you can take to improve the effectiveness of your sales process.

It’s An Ideal World After All; The Importance Of An Open Mind

It’s happened to all sales pros. You present what you think is a well-researched, irrefutable case as to why your prospect should absolutely say “yes” to your solution. But somehow the buyer doesn’t see things your way. Who’s right? Maybe you both are. This post by Brian Solis reminds us that, “Just because someone is right doesn’t mean the other person is wrong.” Click through to learn how cognitive biases can get in the way of meaningful connections with prospects, customers, and colleagues.

For more tips to help improve your negotiation skills and productivity, subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales Blog.

28 Sep 16:35

5 Amazing Referral Emails That Actually Get People to Share

by Darren Foong

E-commerce emails have three primary purposes: to engage the customer with the brand, to confirm receipt or provide information, or to instigate a customer to take an action. In a referral program, emails need to accomplish all of that and more. A successful email gets the customer excited about both the brand and the referral reward, and gets them talking and sharing about your brand in a way that brings in plenty of new customers.

We help eCommerce brands build their own referral programs. We’ve worked with over thousands of stores, big and small, and generated over $110 million in referral sales, so you can imagine how many emails we’ve sent out in the meantime.

Most of them are pretty great—a member of our Customer Success team works with every customer on improving referral program results, and to offer tips on improving email layout and design and copy. But every once in a while, we’re blown away by the ingenious beauty and creativity of some of these emails and how they manage to accomplish so much with a minimalist look.

There are some basics we won’t go into, like subject lines, ESP deliverability and sender reputation, unsubscribe links and so forth. Let’s take a look at five amazing referral emails and break down what makes them so great.

1. Inform your customers about referral programs.

ZooShoo elegantly lays out the referral rewards and how the program works.

For those of you who’s never heard of a referral program before, an advocate receives a referral link with a special offer they can share with their friends, family or social network. For each friend referred or new purchase made in this way, they receive a reward.

This is a bit of a mouthful to explain to a customer and could clutter up the email with a chunk of text. Luckily, ZooShoo dances around this problem with a gorgeous graphic:

ZooShoo’s referral email explains the program in emoji-inspired graphics

A graphic explanation makes things clear.

Let’s zoom in closer on the first half of the image, which is also on ZooShoo’s refer-a-friend page:

Note that the referral program is explained three times, in three different ways:

  • Hero Image Shouts “Give $10, Get $10”: The pointy heels pointing at the offer help catch the eye and focus the attention
  • Subtitles Clarify the Terms and Conditions: Just to avoid the dispute, the next piece of text spells out the offer will be applied
  • Emoji-Inspired Graphics Explains the Steps: Not only does this spell out the steps but also makes it easier to explain to a friend, say, using a text message with emojis.

Now that their customers understand the referral program and what’s on offer, it’s the best time to strike. Right beneath the explanations, ZooShoo offers three different ways to share, with the referral link and Facebook/Twitter sharing buttons. Their call to action could not be clearer.

You won’t be surprised if I told you ZooShoo sold shoes—it’s in the name and clearly represented in the images. But there’s another way to take branding and visual design to the next level and really make your email pop.

2. Make a gorgeous first impression.

POPRAGEOUS makes compelling design choices to showcase their brand story.

First impressions are important, and much like their leggings, POPRAGEOUS makes a striking first impression.

Just like the brand, POPRAGEOUS’s referral emails are striking, vivid and eye-catching

Based in LA, POPRAGEOUS offer trendy printed apparel inspired by art and pop culture. Their strong visual designs are colorful, energetic and eye-catching, and this is reflected in the elegance of their email that seems to pop out of the screen:

  • Bold black border around a white background and simple black text? Check!
  • Beautiful hero image featuring vivid colors and bold, POPRAGEOUS outfits? Check!
  • Enthusiastic copy that sounds like founder Cher Park is chatting directly to you? Check!

Bold branding for a bold brand.

The fashion eCommerce landscape is hypercompetitive, and branding becomes difficult when there are just so many brands and clothing designs can be copied or mimicked. POPRAGEOUS stands out with its visual style (how they look) and personality (how they speak to their customers), and it’s even echoed in their referral landing page:

POPRAGEOUS helps you look good in front of your friends; not just with the spectacular outfits you’ve got on, but also when you offer them a POPFERRAL so they can look great too.

People purchases from POPRAGEOUS identify with their brand identity; youthful, energetic and full of flair. Our next email example also plays strongly on the consumer’s identity but adds a timely twist of their own.

3. Catch your customer at the right time.

Riff Raff & Co times their referral email offer for the maximum response rate.

Riff Raff & Co make special toys for toddlers which engage with three of their most important senses; sight, touch, and sound. Instead of looking at their email layout, but we’re going to tear down something special they do—the timing of their referral offer.

Right after you complete checkout for a purchase, a pop-up appears with their referral offer, at the same time this email is sent to your inbox:

Riff Raff & Co catches their customers with an email right after purchase, offering an exclusive referral reward. Also, note the huge Share on Facebook button

Some companies choose to send out referral offers after the product is received because it takes some time for the customer to receive the product via shipping, and to start using and fall in love with the product. Riff Raff & Co turns it all on its head by reaching out to customers right after the purchase, when their parental pride and identity is strongest.

A proud parent is a proud customer and a proud advocate.

Imagine you’re a new parent. You want the best for your child. You probably also know a few other new parents, with whom you’ll swap tips and ideas and share support. You’ve just bought a toy comforter your child will love—what better time than to share it with a friend? And, look: if five of them take you up on the offer, you can get a second, spare, for free.

The customers’ will have the strongest connection with the brand right after their purchase. Reaching out to them during this time will make the biggest impression on them—and even if they don’t share the links immediately, they will return to the email after they have had some time with the product.

Happy parents sharing their Riff Raff & Co experience on Instagram

The results speak for themselves; just search online for intrepid parents posting blogs about their Riff Raff & Co toy, or even making video reviews on YouTube! You can read a deep dive with revenue numbers on Sumo.com.

Riff Raff & Co also offers a subtle twist on their referral program with tiered rewards. Advocates don’t receive any benefit, at least for the first four referred purchases – they are only rewarded for the fifth purchase. This adds a bit of impetus for the parents to share more widely—they’ll need to reach five purchases for their reward. But our next email shows how you can encourage customers to max out their referral reward tiers.

3. Stack the benefits of referrals.

YouFoodz dangles the reward offers for maximum effectiveness.

Is there no such thing as a free lunch? Well, if you refer three friends, YouFoodz offers you an entire week of free lunches. And you’ll know this from the first email you get from them:

1 friend = 1 meal, 2 friends = 2 meals, 3 friends = 7 meals!!!

Like with the Riff Raff & Co example, YouFoodz dangles the most attractive reward tier in the lead image and also in the explainer graphic. The user will aim for the big prize, but even if they don’t hit three referrals, they will be reassured that they will still win something so long as they make a successful referral.

The minimum reward of one free lunch appears especially achievable, considering the price point (10 AUD), the immediate value to the friend (who doesn’t love a free lunch?), and the appeal to a broader audience (people who need to eat lunch), compared to parents of young children.

A pre-written message makes copy and pasting easy—and clicking the Facebook Share button easier!

To encourage users that rewards are within reach, YouFoodz follows up with a pre-written message and a Facebook share button so that users don’t need to think – they just need to click. With the lead image featuring YouFoodz meals and promising a week of free lunch, the call-to-action is set up for success and maximum conversion.

(As an aside, the #WinWin hashtag looks like a missed opportunity to use a unique, branded hashtag and to get the promotion trending.)

Whereas ZooShoo used the space in its email to explain a referral program, YouFoodz bets on their audience being familiar with such programs, instead focusing on the multiple reward tiers available.

YouFoodz showcases the escalating reward tiers and makes claiming a free lunch as simple as one click.

But there’s an even better referral email that encompasses all of the above, that makes an offer that’s not just electric, but absolutely Ludicrous.

5. All of the above, plus an unbeatable value proposition.

Tesla makes you an incredible offer you won’t refuse.

We should clarify before we start with a disclaimer: Tesla built their own referral program and has gone through multiple iterations.

We are focusing here on the first and original referral email, but actually, we don’t even have the actual email. All we have is the copy, posted to Reddit by an enthusiastic user (corroborated by news sites). But this is the most spectacular referral email we have read ever:

Via the r/TeslaMotors community on Reddit. Note the cheeky referral link being shared.

To provide context for the program, a Model S Tesla (circa 2015) cost US$75,000 for the cheapest model—this is not for everyone, and sharing on Facebook will not have the same impact.

At the same time, the community around Tesla is an extremely tightly-knit group of enthusiasts, many of whom have a genuine interest in the car and have shared about it through word-of-mouth. In a way, their identity as proud owners of Tesla cars is more important than a discount of $1,000 (slightly over 1.3%).

To this small group of committed, engaged customers, Musk delivers the right message. He spends the first four paragraphs laying out his thought process and rationale for the program, and reaffirming that Tesla does not spend on marketing.

The referral rewards aren’t even mentioned until the final two paragraphs, and then only as an afterthought. In doing so, Musk puts the focus on Tesla’s brand mission and the goal of growing the community of Tesla Owners. While the first tier reward ($1,000 off) is negligible, the second tier reward (tour and party at the Gigafactory) will be extremely attractive to the community.

Of course, offering an exclusive Founder Series Model X (not available to the public) is just the icing on the cake. This top tier reward (which was claimed!) was so effective the second iteration of the program offered an exclusive Ludicrous enabled Model S P90D.

How effective was this referral email letter? In Europe, the winner of the first two referral programs was Bjorn Nylan, the operator of a YouTube Channel—unsurprisingly named ‘Tesla Bjorn’—who has since created 557 different videos featuring the Tesla.

And how effective was this referral email at selling a $75,000 car? Sylvain Juteau of Canada, (who won the first and second iterations in the North America category) estimated referrals led to over 5,000 sales or a third of all cars delivered in the 4th quarter.

And of course, there were over 100,000 views for Bjorn’s video on a robot at the Gigafactory.

Ultimately, claims Juteau, most Tesla owners were only able to refer one or two friends, meaning that most participants only received a 1% discount. From Tesla’s point of view, though, if every customer referred a friend, their customer base will have at least doubled.

Turning it into a contest with incredible prizes was one aspect, but the key-takeaway from Musk’s email must be the way he appealed with emotive, motivational language.

Wrap up

Five very different emails from five very different brands, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the customer-brand relationship and adds their own tweaks to the referral email:

  • ZooShoo used emoji-inspired graphics to explain the referral program
  • POPRAGEOUS combined image, design and copy to make their emails distinctively branded
  • Riff Raff & Co played with the timing of the email to catch customers at their most engaged and committed
  • YouFoodz showcased the three tiers of its referral rewards and made each tier look easily achievable
  • Tesla drove one-third of quarterly sales by offering a 1.3% referral discount …and also by appealing directly to customers’ love for the brand, by explaining the value of their referral program, and offering an incredible exclusive prize

A willingness to try something new and find a new angle for persuasion helped these five brands write effective emails that moved customers.

28 Sep 16:35

How to be Data-Driven when Data Economics are Broken

by Ashley Stirrup

The day an IBM scientist invented the relational database in 1970 completely changed the nature of how we use data. For the first time, data became readily accessible to business users. Businesses began to unlock the power of data to make decisions and increase growth. Fast-forward 48 years to 2018, and all the leading companies have one thing in common: they are intensely data-driven.

The world has woken up to the fact that data has the power to transform everything that we do in every industry from finance to retail to healthcare– if we use it the right way. And businesses that win are maximizing their data to create better customer experiences, improve logistics, and derive valuable business intelligence for future decision-making. But right now, we are at a critical inflection point. Data is doubling each year, and the amount of data available for use in the next 48 years is going to take us to dramatically different places than the world’s ever seen.

Let’s explore the confluence of events that have brought us to this turning point, and how your enterprise can harness all this innovation – at a reasonable cost.

Today’s Data-driven Landscape

We are currently experiencing a “perfect storm” of data. The incredibly low cost of sensors, ubiquitous networking, cheap processing in the Cloud, and dynamic computing resources are not only increasing the volume of data, but the enterprise imperative to do something with it. We can do things in real-time and the number of self-service practitioners is tripling annually. The emergence of machine learning and cognitive computing has blown up the data possibilities to completely new levels.

Machine learning and cognitive computing allows us to deal with data at an unprecedented scale and find correlations that no amount of brain power could conceive. Knowing we can use data in a completely transformative way makes the possibilities seem limitless. Theoretically, we should all be data-driven enterprises. Realistically, however, there are some roadblocks that make it seem difficult to take advantage of the power of data:

Trapped in the Legacy Cycle with a Flat Budget

The “perfect storm” of data is driving a set of requirements that is dramatically outstripping what most IT shops can do. Budgets are flat —increasing only 4.5% annually — leaving companies to feel locked into a set of technology choices and vendors. In other words, they’re stuck in the “legacy cycle”. Many IT teams are still spending most of budget just trying to keep the lights on. The remaining budget is spent trying to modernize and innovate, and then a few years later, all that new modern stuff that you brought is legacy all over again, and the cycle repeats. That’s the cycle of pain that we’ve all lived through for the last 20 years.

Lack of Data Quality and Accessibility

Most enterprise data is bad. Incorrect, inconsistent, inaccessible…these factors hold enterprises back from extracting the value from data. In a Harvard Business Review study, only 3% of the data surveyed was found to be of “acceptablequality. That is why data analysts are spending 80% of their time preparing data as opposed to doing the analytics that we’re paying them for. If we can’t ensure data quality, let alone access the data we need, how will we ever realize its value?

Increasing Threats to Data

The immense power of data also increases the threat of its exploitation. Hacking and security breaches are on the rise; the global cost of cybercrime fallout is expected to reach $6 trillion by 2021, double the $3 trillion cost in 2015. In light of the growing threat, the number of security and privacy regulations are multiplying. Given the issues with data integrity, organizations want to know: Is my data both correct and secure? How can data security be ensured in the middle of this data revolution?

Vendor Competition is Intense

The entire software industry is being reinvented from the ground up and all are in a race to the cloud. Your enterprise should be prepared to take full advantage of these innovations and choose vendors most prepared to liberate your data, not just today, but tomorrow, and the year after that.

Meet the Data Disruptors

It might seem impossible to harness all this innovation at a reasonable cost. Yet, there are companies that are thriving amid this data-driven transformation. Their secret? They have discovered a completely disruptive way, a fundamentally new economic way, to embrace this change.

We are talking about the data disruptors – and their strategy is not as radical as it sounds. These are the ones who have found a way to put more data to work with the same budget. For the data disruptors, success doesn’t come from investing more budget in the legacy architecture. These disruptors take an approach with a modern data architecture that allows them to liberate their data from the underlying infrastructure.

Put More of Your Data to Work

The organizations that can quickly put right data to work will have a competitive advantage. Modern technologies make it possible to liberate your data and thrive in today’s hybrid, multi-cloud, real-time, machine learning world. Here are three prime examples of innovations that you need to know about:

  • Cloud Computing: The cloud has created new efficiencies and cost savings that organizations never dreamed would be possible. Cloud storage is remote and fluctuates to deliver only the capacity that is needed. It eliminates the time and expense of maintaining on-premise servers, and gives business users real-time self-service to data, anytime, anywhere. There is no hand-coding required, so business users can create integrations between any SaaS and on-premise application in the cloud without requiring IT help. Cloud offers cost, capability and productivity gains that on-premise can’t compete with, and the data disruptors have already entrusted their exploding data volumes to the cloud.
  • Containers: Containers are quickly overtaking virtual machines. According to a recent study, the adoption of application containers will grow by 40% annually through 2020. Virtual machines require costly overhead and time-consuming maintenance, with full hardware and operating system (OS) that needs managed. Containers are portable with few moving parts and minimal maintenance required. A company using stacked container layers pays only for a small slice of the OS and hardware on which the containers are stacked, giving data disruptors unlimited operating potential, at a huge cost savings.
  • Serverless Computing: Deploying and managing big data technologies can be complicated, costly and requires expertise that is hard to find. Research by Gartner states, “Serverless platform-as-a-service (PaaS) can improve the efficiency and agility of cloud services, reduce the cost of entry to the cloud for beginners, and accelerate the pace of organizations’ modernization of IT.”

Serverless computing allows users to run code without provisioning or managing any underlying system or application infrastructure. Instead, the systems automatically scale to support increasing or decreasing workloads on-demand as data becomes available.

Its name is a misnomer; serverless computing still requires servers, but the cost is only for the actual server capacity used; companies are only charged for what they are running at any given time, eliminating the waste associated with on-premise servers. It scales up as much as it needs to solve that problem, runs it, and scales it back down, turns off. The future is serverless, and its potential to liberate your data is limitless.

Join the Data Disruptors

Now is the time to break free from the legacy trap and liberate your data so its potential can be maximized by your business. In the face of growing data volumes, the data disruptors have realized the potential of the latest cloud-based technologies. Their business and IT teams can work together in a collaborative way, finding an end-to-end solution to the problem, all in a secure and compliant fashion. Harness this innovation and create a completely disruptive set of data economics so your organization can efficiently surf the tidal wave of data.

Originally published here.

28 Sep 16:34

Why I Need Your Sales Team for Content Creation

by Danielle Rhodes

Writers are NOT on the front line, working directly with your prospects or customers. That’s a position and perspective reserved for those sweet-talkin’ kings and queens of the prospect pipeline, your sales team.

So your sales people are busy trying to make sales. We know. That doesn’t make them any less necessary to your content creation process.

Maybe they really don’t have the time or skill to write a weekly or monthly blog. They should still be made open and available to consult with your website and blog writers. It’s an investment in their own future income.

Unfortunately, the first instinct of clients is usually to shield the sales team from anything that’s not selling. This is a mistake.

Here’s why:

Salespeople are a Lifeline for the Marketing Agency You Hired

It’s so tempting to make your content and agency-powered projects the sole responsibility of your marketing department. After all, that’s what they’re paid to do.

It’s a trap.trap

Here’s the thing, during a website rewrite, your marketing department is a middle man and your c-suite is too far removed from the details to be helpful. They’re not exactly expendable, but when it comes to actually writing your website and blog content (not managing the process), they’re not your MVPs.

The absolute best thing your marketing department can do to contribute to your content is connect the writers to your sales team and product/service managers. Ask them to put the phone down, tell them it’s a priority and make a meeting for us, instead of finding an alternative person for us to talk to.Help me help you

Why?

Salespeople and product/service managers are subject matter experts (SMEs). These cats know your company, customers and services better than anyone in the world. In the detail-driven content creation war, they’re your front line soldiers.

Let me explain how I write a website.

My first meeting is with the marketing team/c-suite, to decide on a tone of voice, learn about buyer personas and craft an editorial style guide to direct the project or campaign.

At the end of that meeting, I slice up the workload of pages into logical chunks we call phases. Then, I work with the marketing team or c-suite to narrow down the most knowledgeable people in their company to tap for details. THOSE are the people I interview for each product/service page.

My mission as a content writer is to research, study your industry and conduct interviews of your team until I understand your products and services so thoroughly that I’m actually qualified to simplify and explain them to your potential customers. (On a level that makes even you forget that I don’t work for your company.)rainman

The only way to do that is to pick the brains of your experts and that almost always includes the sales department.

Copy Needs Strategy to be Relevant and Effective

It’s not enough to just keep your blog fresh by letting your staff write whatever they want about the marketing world. Not only will you get blogs that absolutely none of your customers care about, written for buyer personas you’ll never sell to, inbound marketing just doesn’t work like that.

Think about how the buyer’s journey works. It all starts as a problem and a search for answers. On the other side of that search is your blog and website content, ready to serve up solutions and make you look awesome.

hit with knowledge

The kind of insights your writers need to get in the minds of your consumers is the same insight your salespeople need to eat and pay their mortgages. Your sales department (along with your SEO team) should be steering the overall direction of your content team, by feeding them information they can take action on, including:

  • Current lead and traffic volume or needs
  • Trending inquiries
  • Why deals are being lost
  • Why deals are being won
  • Common hesitations
  • Competitive advantages
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Buyer persona insights

In turn, your content and inbound marketing teams can leverage that information into:

  • Buyer personas that determine your ideal tone of voice and marketing strategy
  • FAQ pages that drive SEO
  • More effective web pages focused on pain points
  • Blogs that drive the right traffic to your site
  • Valuable gated content offers that drive conversions
  • Explainer videos
  • Campaigns targeting the metrics you care about

Marketing and Sales are Better Together

While they might often be at odds or misunderstand each other, make no mistake that these two silos are way better when they’re working together.

best friends

Just think about the core objective of the roles.

The goal of your marketing team is to generate leads for your sales team. Not every website visitor will become a lead. Out of the small percentage of those that do, not all will be good leads. Salespeople use specific criteria that qualify the leads they’ll pursue.

It’s sort of like your sales team is making dinner and sent your marketing team to the grocery store. If they’re open and communicating, the marketing team will have a shopping list. If they’re not, sales is going to have to settle for whatever the marketing team brings home. Yikes.

Make it Happen, Captain

It makes complete sense, so how do you actually get sales talking? Depending on the size and structure of your business, the volume of your marketing and the projects you’re undertaking, there’s a few different strategies you can take:

  • Set up interview-style meetings between your content writer and the relevant salesperson.
  • Get key salespeople into your marketing brainstorms for content planning.
  • Plant a key content strategist in sales meetings to identify opportunities to support the sales team with content.
  • Form a smarketing team to create a permanent partnership between the two departments while empowering key staff members to keep the communication flowing.

Stop Sabotaging the Partnership

It’s not always easy to forge a harmonious and mutually-beneficial relationship between marketing and sales. Most organizations unknowingly sabotage it by simply doing what’s always been done. If you want different results, it’s time to think differently.

Value and Acknowledge Everyone’s Contribution

There’s nothing like cash and prizes to drive a wedge between coworkers. Think about offering incentives to everyone, to level the playing field. If sales incentives are a part of their actually pay structure, make sure that’s widely understood. Essentially, you can offer incentives, just make sure they’re being offered in a way that doesn’t drive animosity.

***If your marketing is done by an outside agency, don’t worry about this one.***

Don’t Physically Separate Sales and Marketing

It’s easy to dismiss or marginalize what you never have to see (and so much harder to collaborate). Just being exposed to each other’s notes and conversations can foster better communication and joint efforts.

Be Transparent and Encourage Questions

Share stats, figures and goals with everyone in a forum where they can ask questions. If your leads are down 40 percent, everyone needs to know, in order to discuss both the reasons and solutions together, rather than throwing blame around or trying to solve the problem without a full-circle approach.

Start Thinking of Salespeople as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

Good salespeople have a lot more to contribute to your team than sales, so give them the opportunity. Let the rest of your company see these superstars for the experts they really are. Let them hear the sales team pitch your products, so we can all can understand how they’re addressing the pain points of your consumers in their conversations.

Keep the C-Suite and Send Me Your Sales Team!

Stop hesitating and start changing the way you think about content creation. Let these walking, talking encyclopedias of your services supercharge your content creation, point you in a better direction and be the wind beneath the winds of your content marketers. You’ll be glad you did (everyone will.)

28 Sep 16:34

Jennifer Gluckow on 5 Questions that Will Result in Better Sales – Episode #115

by Carey Green

After spending a lifetime in the industry, Jen Gluckow knows a thing or two about how to make better sales. She talks with Anthony on this episode of In the Arena about how you can own your career as a salesperson and how to connect better with your peers and leaders. She also answers 5 main questions that will help you become a better salesperson and ignite your career. All of these insights and more are included in Jen’s upcoming book, “Sales in a New York Minute,” available for pre-order now on Amazon and everywhere January 1. Be sure to check it out, and catch the full story on this podcast episode.

After spending a lifetime in the #sales industry, @JENinaNYminute knows a thing or two about how to make better sales. She shares her invaluable insights on this episode of #InTheArena, and it’s a conversation you don’t want to miss. Listen now! @Iannarino Click To Tweet

#1 – Why do you need to pursue your own leads as a sales leader?

Most salespeople enter into the business wanting to make a difference, either in their own life or in the lives of others. Why is it, then, that so many salespeople sit back and seemingly wait for marketing to send them quality leads? You cannot afford to rely on others to make your career happen, and you have to be diligently working on securing your own top leads. Start talking with everyone you meet, and don’t hesitate to act because you’re waiting for the “perfect lead” to appear that simply doesn’t exist.

#2 – What can you do to become a better networker?

Networking can change your life if you let it, but great networking is not about quantity. The ultimate goal of networking should always be about making quality connections with people who can either send you business referrals or add value to your life. How can you make those types of connections? Start by being specific and targeted in the meetings and groups you pursue. Then, become a value-provider for the people you meet. You can’t expect quality results from new connections if you don’t first convince them you’re worth building a relationship with.

Why do you need to pursue your own leads as a #SalesLeader? @JENinaNYminute shares her answer to this critical question, and so much more, on this episode of #InTheArena. Listen now! @IannarinoClick To Tweet

#3 – How can you combat the temptation to make excuses for your work?

No matter what market you’re involved in, the temptation to make excuses for poor performance is always present. Making better sales starts with taking responsibility for your action – and inaction. Both Jen and Anthony believe in the power of a great mindset and attitude when striving for selling success. Take 10 minutes and identify your top excuses that you tell yourself and your boss. Then, figure out ways to crush those excuses. The minute you stop making excuses is the minute you start making better sales.

#4 – How can you become the CEO of your territory?

If you aspire to become the CEO of your sales territory, you can’t spend all your time analyzing every decision. Company CEOs take action and implement strategies daily – they don’t overthink everything. Becoming a top sales leader is all about identifying your own style of leadership, committing to that method, and owning it.

Excuses get you nowhere in #sales. Learn how to combat the temptation to become stagnant by listening to this episode of #InTheArena featuring @JENinaNYminute. You won’t be disappointed. @IannarinoClick To Tweet

#5 – What’s the key to effectively following up with prospects and making better sales?

No one enjoys getting those calls from salespeople that say, “Hey, I’m just checking in!” What that message actually conveys is a nagging need to know how the sale is coming along – not a desire to help the prospect make a good decision for their business. Jen encourages sales leaders to add value to their prospects’ lives instead. Send them interesting and relevant articles, connect them to professionals they need to know, etc. If you do that, you’ll not only make better sales but also grow a deeper network of industry peers.

Outline of this great episode

  • Jen Gluckow’s passion is helping others make better sales
  • New York is different when it comes to sales, and it inspired Jen’s upcoming book
  • #1 – Why do you need to pursue your own leads as a sales leader?
  • #2 – What can you do to become a better networker?
  • #3 – How can you combat the temptation to make excuses for your work?
  • #4 – How can you become the CEO of your territory?
  • #5 – What’s the key to effectively following up with prospects?

Resources & Links mentioned in this episode

The theme song “Into the Arena” is written and produced by Chris Sernel. You can find it on Soundcloud

Connect with Anthony

Website: www.TheSalesBlog.com

Youtube: www.Youtube.com/Iannarino

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iannarino

Twitter: https://twitter.com/iannarino

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+SAnthonyIannarino

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/iannarino

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Tweets you can use to share this episode

Company #CEOs take action and implement strategies daily - they don’t overthink every decision. #SalesLeaders can learn from selling expert @JENinaNYminute all on this episode of #InTheArena. Listen now! @IannarinoClick To Tweet
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28 Sep 16:33

Sales Leadership: Who Will You Influence and Impact Today?

by Mark Hunter

Each day you impact and influence other people.  This is something you do regardless of whether you think you’re doing it.

Just as you’re impacting others, so too others are impacting you. Again, this is regardless of whether the other person wants to.

Being seen as a sales leader requires a different set of expectations.  If we don’t see ourselves as a sales leader, then how do we expect others to see us as a sales leader?

Challenge is being a sales leader is not like playing Fortnite or any other video game where you can always push the replay button.  Sorry, life does not have a reset button, especially with regard to how others see us.

Watch this 67-second video where I talk about the power of influence and impact as a leader:

Sales leadership is a lifestyle you choose to live. When you choose to live it, you do so 24/7.

This means with everyone you meet, regardless of their title, their profession or how they look, you see them as people you have the privilege to help. You help by making their day better because of the interaction you had with them.

This is the essence of impact and influence, and when you do, you know you will have earned the right, the privilege, the honor, and the respect to meet with that person again.

Sales is a process that never ends. It is anything but a one-off transaction, regardless of how some may want to view sales.  This means each relationship you make and each person you meet holds the potential to open or close the next door.

Success is not something achieved in an instant. That’s called winning the lottery, and I doubt anyone is going to build a business plan around winning the lottery.  Success is the reward of leadership, and it’s seen in the people you lead, regardless of their title, role or position in life.

Your job each day is to approach it with focus to make a positive impact and have influence on each person you meet.   In the video I refer to it as having a big E.G.O. —  Empowering Greater Outcomes in those you come in contact with.

And don’t forget that a coach can help you excel in your sales career! Invest in yourself by checking out my coaching program today!

Copyright 2018, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog. Mark Hunter is the author of High-Profit Prospecting: Powerful Strategies to Find the Best Leads and Drive Breakthrough Sales Results