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12 Oct 16:33

Adios, Sales-Heavy Marketing. Here’s What Your B2B Marketing Tactics Need

by Mel Rubbelke

StartupStockPhotos / Pixabay

Just like Bueller’s world, the tech world moves fast. If you’re not moving and adapting with it, your company could miss out on connecting with potential customers.

The traditional marketing tactics of sales-heavy vendor demos and self-published product reviews have lost cache with the savvy, cautious B2B buyer. In fact, vendor-created content that only focuses on selling a company’s service or product turns off potential customers with its salesy approach, no matter how carefully it is worded.

Today’s buyers are leading themselves through the sales cycle, researching and evaluating new products before they reach out to your brand. They want their questions answered and they’re looking to your company to help them.

Product and service decision makers also know that vendor-created content is thick with bias and that analyst reports become quickly. Instead, a high percentage of IT buyers now depend more upon reading case studies, network recommendations and peer reviews.

However, before you can develop campaign messages and content, it’s important to understand who your ideal customer is. A buyer persona helps you understand your prospective and existing customers better.

Getting into the mind of your buyer

Let’s say your buyer is a busy executive at an IT company of 500 employees. His team recommended five companies and you’re one of three he was interested in. Understanding the process your buyer takes to evaluate and select a vendor can help you craft an original and thoughtful message that addresses the need, interest and concern of your buyer. You’ll need to distribute your message through the best channel through the journey from prospect, lead, follow-up, consultation and finally to conversion.

These are some multi-faceted approaches for effective marketing and PR campaigns, especially when you incorporate the case studies and peer reviews your buyers want:

  • Peer-to-peer reviews on unbiased, popular and influential sites that post the good and the bad;
  • Net promoter score (NPS) surveys;
  • Worthwhile and newsworthy press releases;
  • Content marketing with on-site and off-site blogs, using content that is original, creative, honest and authentic; and
  • Persistent and engaging social media.

Just as a hammer can be wielded ineffectively, these tactics are only blunt instruments unless skillfully and creatively executed. All of these must be centered around your customer’s state of mind, which you should understand well if you’ve established your buyer personas.

These are tactics that can be used throughout the marketing and sales funnels, so that you warm up your prospects, address their needs and reinforce key points from your other interactions. By the time your prospect is ready for a sales demo, they’re primed and educated so you can make that time more valuable.

How are you featuring your existing happy customers and their reviews in your PR and marketing? To help close a deal provide valuable and educational information that goes beyond discussing why your product is great.

Ensure you have a thorough understanding of your audience, as well as what information they need. It’s worth putting in the extra effort to uncover this information beforehand, as your prospects will be much more receptive to campaigns that deliver worthwhile and educational messages to their specific needs.

11 Oct 16:08

Vancouver Island company outfitting six Boeing 737s to fight wildfires

by Gordon McIntyre

A half-dozen Boeing jets bought by a Port Alberni company last year will still be ferrying passengers after they’ve been retrofitted by the family-owned firm, but the planes will also be putting out wildfires.

The Coulson Group, a three-generation business started in 1960 by Cliff Coulson as a forest products company, is keeping 50 employees busy outfitting the 737-300s in Port Alberni.

Once they’re ready — and the first one will fly out in 10 days — the planes will head to the United States and Australia, a new weapon to combat increasingly severe wildfires.

“We’re the first to convert 737s to fight wildfires,” Wayne Coulson, Cliff’s youngest son and the Coulson Group’s president and CEO, said. “They are the only plane in the world that can multi-purpose, they can transport 70 firefighters, drop them off, head to the retardant pit and load up, and off they go.”

The 737s were bought from Southwest Airlines, which had to put 50 of them up for sale due to federal rules in the U.S. concerning how many different vintages of planes the airline was allowed to fly.

About 70 per cent of Coulson Group’s firefighting occurs over the U.S. and 30 per cent in Australia. It will take the refitted 737s two days to fly to Australia. The company also supplies C-130s and Sikorsky S-61 helicopter to firefighters Down Under.

“The 737s will be based at our hangar in Las Vegas, but all the manufacturing and installation is being done in B.C.,” Coulson said.

He said the company was the only one in the world that fights wildfires at night, a move sparked by what in Australia is known as Black Saturday.

“In Victoria (Australia), they had their worst bushfires in history in 2009, 173 people died in 12 hours,” he said. “We had two aircraft at the fires that day, other fires were starting, then night came.”

It took a while to get regulatory approval, but from that time on the company’s pilots have been flying in the dark with night-vision goggles.

“Wildfires are the only natural disaster that is controllable,” Coulson said. “But they tick for 24 hours a day, yet traditionally you only fought them for 12 hours a day.”

The Coulson Group expanded into aviation in 1985, and began manufacturing wood products in 1989. The company kept diversifying, opening a branch in the U.S. to provide fire suppression airplanes to the U.S. Forest Service, creating Coulson Aero Technologies and then Coulson Transport Airways in conjunction with Helijet International.

In 2007, the company founded Coulson Flying Tanker after it bought one of only four remaining Second World War-era Martin Mars cargo planes that had been converted to a water bomber. Although not operational today, the Martin Mars is still based at Sproat Lake outside Port Alberni.

In 2013, the Coulson Group bought its first of four C-130 Hercules.

Over the past three years the Coulson Group has divested itself of all its business interests except its firefighting planes and choppers, and its ice-blasting business (which Coulson said uses 85 per cent less water than a pressurized water blaster).

gordmcintyre@postmedia.com

twitter.com/gordmcintyre

 

11 Oct 16:02

16 Marketing Podcasts That Will Teach You Marketing

by Susanna Gebauer

I know that I am quite late to hop on the Podcast fan train. But I learned to appreciate the possibility to listen to valuable information while I actually do something totally different. Being a busy entrepreneur, I become more of a multitasker all the time. I have always had the feeling that I have to use the time I am given to the fullest.

And that is where all these amazing podcasts come in. They allow me to consume marketing information while I am busy with other work.

I end up listening to podcasts while I am cooking or while I am out on a long run training for a marathon. That is when a long podcast of a least one hour play time is best.

Or I am working on some social media images and listen to a podcast while I am moving little Icons and shapes around and playing with fonts and colors. That is when I rather fo for the short and sweet podcasts, listening to one marketing tip at a time.

But there are so many podcasts out there that it is sometimes a little tricky to find exactly the best podcast for a certain situation.

So here is my choice of the best marketing podcasts for every situation. Simply choose the ones that give you the best experience and match your listening habits.

1. Marketing in Minutes

This podcast is produced and published by my brother Jonathan so I might be slightly biassed.

Jonathan publishes three episodes per week. The podcast explains one marketing topic per episode in easy to understand words in just a couple of minutes. The aim is to make each episode shorter than 10 minutes and answer one marketing question per episode.

Check out the most recent episode “When marketing data isn’t helpful…

2. Marketing School

with Eric Siu and Neil Patel

I am a huge fan of Neil Patel. He is one of the handfuls of marketers who I firmly believe knows exactly what he is doing – and is generously sharing his experience with his audience.

This is a short and sweet podcast. Most of the time they concentrate on answering a single marketing question in about 10 min.

This is a goto podcast if you have a question that needs answers: Simply check if they already covered the topic. I have not yet been disappointed and found some very thorough answers by simply listening to one episode on the right topic.

3. Copyblogger FM

As all things Copyblogger this podcast is more on the content marketing side of topics. If you want to learn about content marketing, content creation, content distribution and all related things that will get you on the path to content marketing success: This is the right podcast for you.

Most episodes have a length of 20 – 25 minutes.

4. Unbounce Call To Action Podcast

Unbounce is a service for building landing pages – fast. They are very focused on conversion optimization.

Their podcast is covering many topics around marketing including some tests and experiments they conduct for their own marketing.

The length of the episodes averages around 15 – 30 min.

5. Marketing Over Coffee

I am a coffee addict – how could I possibly not try a podcast with this name.

Marketing over coffee tries to focus on marketing topics at the „Intersection with technology.“ This is an especially interesting niche for people who are not that over into tech but want to get a deeper understanding of the technology behind some of the more awesome marketing hacks.

Hosts are John Wall and Christopher Penn. Each episode is around 20 minutes long.

And if you have a question you desperately need the answer to, and that would be of interest to others, too: Send them your question, they may just cover it in one of their upcoming shows!

6. Smart Passive Income

Pat Flynn has been something like a role model for many aspiring bloggers. He lives the dream of many of these bloggers: Earning a living with it.

He has been telling his audience about how he does it on his blog for some years now. In his weekly podcast, he gets even more real. Sometimes he has guest sometimes he does it all by himself. In his podcast he covers topics that interest most of us entrepreneurs, topics we all come across at one point in our journey.

One episode of this podcast usually is about 40 minutes long.

7. The Edge of the Web

In reality, this is a weekly radio show. Each show is roughly one hour long. After each show, the recording is offered as a podcast for you to hear whenever you want to. (You can even find a video for each show on Youtube).

The show is run by Erin Sparks, Tom Brodbeck, and Douglass Karr. And often they have an expert guest on the show.

Topics of the show focus on all things marketing from Google Analytics and Branding to copywriting.

8. The Marketing Book Podcast

This podcast is run by Douglas Burdett of Artillery Marketing. In his show, Douglas talks to authors of marketing books about their own story and the books.

The show is around 50 min long and was named as one of the 10 Podcasts that will make you a better marketer by LinkedIn.

9. Online Marketing Made Easy

with Amy Porterfield

Amy is a top-notch social media marketer, and in her podcast, she shares a lot of tips and tricks. She has you covered for content marketing, social media marketing and building your business.

One episode can easily last for more than 40 minutes. Enjoy!

10. Perpetual Traffic podcast

This is the podcast from Digital Marketer. IT is a weekly show hosted by Keith Krance, Ralph Burns (Dominate Web Media), & Molly Pittman (Digital Marketer). At the center of this podcast are strategies to generate leads and convert them to customers. Frequently they have expert guests on the show.

One show can easily last between 30 minutes and one hour.

A prominent topic in the past has been Facebook ads. Listen carefully – I am sure you will learn something new.

11. The Art of Paid Traffic

This podcast by Rick Mulready caught my attention because we never were overly into paid traffic ourselves. I firmly believe that thousands of entrepreneurs waste tons of money on paid traffic – because they never collected all the knowledge before they jumped right in.

So, if you want to pay your way to success, this is the podcast for you!

One episode is around 20 – 30 minutes long.

12. Growth Marketing Toolbox

It is a weekly podcast that focuses on growth topics. They cover everything from content marketing and SEO to marketing ROI, tools and growth hacks. They have experts as guests on the show who give you insight into very specific marketing topics.

13. The Marketing Companion Podcast

By Mark Schaefer and Tom Webster

They claim they have the most entertaining marketing podcast. While the show is entertaining, it is not for people in a hurry. There are jokes around for a while before the show gets down to the point.

If you are looking for entertainment while learning something about marketing, this show is great.

14. The Science of Social Media

by Buffer

It is a weekly show covering social media topics, interviews with experts, experiments, and stories from the social media world. As everything from Buffer, it is well worth to take a look – or rather do a bit of listening.

15. Ask Gary Vee

My guess is you know who Gary Vaynerchuk is? He is one of the most entertaining and motivating entrepreneurs and speakers that I know. And that makes his podcast one of my favorite.

You may not get a straight answer to a marketing question with this podcast – but you will certainly get a ton of entertainment and entrepreneurial knowledge.

The show is on several days a week.

16. Entrepreneur On Fire

Ok, I admit this is not a marketing podcast. But building a business is always a mixture of many skills and entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial success will always be closely connected to marketing.

If you need a change of scenery (or rather topic) try John Lee Dumas and his EOFIRE show.

He usually has a guest on the show with whom he talks about business, their challenges in being an entrepreneur and business questions that need answers.

It is a daily show and each show is between 20 and 45 minutes long.

Final Words

I wasn’t always a fan of podcasts. I like skimming content and select the parts I thoroughly concentrate on. I cannot do that with podcasts. However, I realized there are many boring tasks that I simply have to do – no matter how much I hate them. And these tasks become much easier to stand if I can listen to a podcast while doing them. Even on a long run on the treadmill, I can entertain myself by listening to one of my favorite shows!

An earlier version of this article was published on the Social Ms’ blog.

11 Oct 15:59

6 Variables Making Buyer Insights Driven Sales Transformation Critical By 2020

by Tony Zambito

geralt / Pixabay

For the past few decades, solution-based selling was the dominant theme in building sales organizations. Solution-selling methodologies and training proved to be a big business. B2B organizations reworked their sales organization and invested heavily to be more consultative with buyers.

B2B entities are finding it hard to let go and prepare for sales transformation in the new digital era of commerce.

In the last few years, we have heard plenty about insights-based selling. This should not be confused with the imperative to undergo insights-driven sales transformation. Insight-selling places emphasis on sales reps delivering helpful insights to potential buyers. Complementing existing solution-based selling.

Insights-Driven Sales Transformation Is Different Than Insight-Selling

Insights-driven sales transformation calls for organizations to align sales and operational processes with key insights and understanding about buyers. This statement, alone, is nothing new. However, what amplifies this call for insights-driven sales transformation are several variables that create urgency for transforming by 2020.

Digital Disruption

By 2020, digital disruption will be affecting every major industry. Industries such as manufacturing, transportation, logistics, healthcare, financial services, and more will be affected by the introduction of additional new digital technologies. For example, in a recent buyer insights study completed for the ride-hailing entity Lyft, it was found that several industries are adopting digital means of managing enterprise-wide transportation at an accelerated rate than anticipated. This will prove to be extremely disruptive to many transportation services organizations.

Meeting New Customer/Buyer Engagement Expectations

With digital disruption and new digital technologies comes new engagement expectations. Ushering in new expectations related to communicating, conversations, and engaging. B2B organizations can appear antiquated if, for example, they find themselves unable to be responsive in ways buyers have come to expect due to digital disruption. The following from an interview subject says it all:

“It was weird. It was like I was stuck in some time warp from the 1980’s or 1990’s when I dealt with them.” – Director, Media Operations

I do not think any entity wants to be perceived in this way. While this may be an extreme example, the risk of being perceived in this way is ever so present.

Experience Wanted

Customers, as a result of digital disruption, are being exposed to new experiences every few months. Transforming sales requires knowing how to become part of shifting experience wants and desires on the part of buyers. B2B companies can find themselves out of synch on the experience front if they fall behind on being able to provide an experience that customers are receiving from competitors or from other similar industries.

Buyers and Customers Are Armed With Data and Analytics

It would be a fallacy to think that buyers and customers will not be in possession of data and analytics that are influencing their choices. In performing research for a leading analytics firm, this particular comment from an interviewee stood out:

“They came to the table with nothing. We were ready with at least some data on what we were seeing and how we thought we needed help. It was disappointing.” – VP, Client Services

Sales transformation will mean that sales representation must possess not only data and analytics but also the skill sets to communicate and convey meaning to buyers and customers. This variable will be especially problematic for B2B companies who are burdened heavily with legacy database systems and cannot respond in an agile way.

Different Buyers and Roles In The Future

As markets and industries metamorphize due to digital disruption, it will alter previously understood relationships and interactions. There will be new roles involved. Some will have the word “digital” in them. Meaning new buyers and customers will have different ways of thinking, networking internally, and making choices. If not prepared for these significant shifts in decision-making roles, B2B organizations and their sales team will be caught flat-footed.

Perception of Sales

As we head towards 2020, how buyers and customers perceive a B2B organization’s sales function is going to matter very much. With facing uncertainty, themselves, buyers perceiving a sales team as being out of date and out of touch will be detrimental to any chances to establish a relationship. Confidence in working with a firm who are making strides to adapt and advance in the face of digital disruption is going to be on the checklist.

Time To Act Is Now With Buyer Insights

Failing to gain insights into these variables creating a sense of urgency respective to sales transformation will put an organization significantly behind on transforming. The consequences could also be unpleasant. Lost customers, lost revenues, lost market leadership, and an inability to match customer engagement and experience expectations. Resulting in a shortfall in resources to invest in sales transformation.

As noted, being unprepared can begin a downward spiral that will be hard to reverse. The speed at which changes in buying behaviors and digital disruption is occurring will be like a runaway train. Leaving companies little chance to catch up and recover.

11 Oct 15:59

Google Shopping: Seller vs Product Ratings

by Andy King

Google has announced that it will be making some changes to seller ratings in early October 2018. The changes will make it easier to get seller ratings if you only operate in one country, but harder if you operate internationally. So we thought this might be a good time to publish a guide explaining the difference between seller and product ratings, how to get them and what the changes mean for retailers.

Note: If you just want to know about the changes to seller ratings, skip towards the end of the blog where it says ‘latest changes’ in red.

According to research from BrightLocal, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This is precisely why Google has developed its own review system with features such as seller ratings and product ratings – all in the name of helping retailers sell their products more effectively through Google Search.

Google told us back in 2011 that seller ratings increase CTRs by 17%, while independent studies from the likes of CXL Institute and Omnitail have achieved even better results, boosting CTRs by 35% and 107% respectively with a combination of seller ratings and product ratings.

If you like the sound of those numbers but you’re still a bit hazy on the topics of Google seller and product ratings, this article is for you.

What are Google seller ratings?

Google seller ratings give your brand a score out of five stars based on customer reviews left on Google and a range of other review platforms, including Trustpilot and PowerReviews.

Your seller rating can appear on organic search listings, Google Ads search ads and Google Shopping listings.

Seller rating in Google organic results

In organic listings and search ads, seller ratings appear as a yellow star rating with your score out of five displayed, as well as the number of reviews this is determined from.

Seller ratings in Google Ads

For Google Shopping listings, your seller ratings are going to look a little different. While your score will be the same, they will show across your listings as a green row of stars next to your brand name.

Seller ratings in Google Shopping

The aim with seller ratings is to help users choose retailers they can trust and this also gives you an opportunity to stand out from your competitors in Google Search and Shopping. As the search giant says, “seller ratings help people searching on Google to find businesses that offer quality service. Seller ratings can help advertisers improve ad performance and earn more qualified leads.”

What are Google product ratings?

Google product ratings don’t reflect your business in any way but rather the products you’re selling. Once again, this places a score out of five stars on individual product listings to help consumers choose the right product based on independent reviews.

Google product ratings in Google Shopping

This time it’s product ratings that appear in yellow on Google Shopping listings with seller ratings turning green to help users differentiate between the two. Next to the star rating, the number of product reviews this score was aggregated from is shown and each product needs at least three reviews for product ratings to show.

These scores are aggregated from multiple sources including merchants, third-party aggregators, editorial sites and users themselves.

Seller ratings vs product ratings: Which one is more important?

This depends entirely on the nature of your brand and what you’re selling. You don’t need to be a retailer to qualify for seller ratings but you do need to sell products on Google Shopping to make use of product ratings – however, not all products qualify.

For retailers, both seller and product ratings are important and they serve entirely different purposes.

While seller ratings are all about showing people how much your brand is loved by its customers, product ratings are all about the individual items you sell. This is an important distinction because a phone retailer’s reputation shouldn’t be determined by the quality of handsets made by the likes of Apple and Samsung but the services provided around them (customer service, delivery options, etc).

Product ratings are there to help consumers choose high-quality products with confidence while seller ratings are there to help them choose reputable retailers to buy from.

Ideally, if you’re selling products on Google Shopping, you want an impressive seller rating and product ratings showing wherever possible.

Google Shopping with both seller and product ratings

A Google Shopping listing featuring both seller and product ratings

Imagine a user who’s looking to buy a new TV and they’ve heard from someone at work that Sony makes the best UHD TVs right now. It doesn’t matter whether this is true or not; people trust advice from their peers more than marketing messages and the same thing goes for online reviews from other consumers.

So this person heads right to Google, types in ‘Sony UHD TVs’ and clicks through to Google Shopping. They’re not sure exactly what kind of TV they’re looking for and they certainly have no idea where they plan to buy one from.

Searching for UHD TVs on Google Shopping

As they scroll down the page, they see a range of TVs at different price points, many of which have 4 or 5-star product ratings. These instantly help users pick out the products of interest but it’s still difficult to narrow down options when there are so many high scoring reviews.

There’s something else going on here, though. As users scroll down the list of Google Shopping results and almost indistinguishable product reviews, they notice the retailer B&H Photo-Video-Audio keeps cropping up with its impressive 4.7/5 seller rating from more than 175,000 reviews.

A good seller rating draws attention

This is a major branding win for B&H, telling this user that, whichever TV they choose to buy, they’re not going to find a much better place to buy it from than B&H.

How to get seller ratings on your Google Shopping listings

* Including latest changes

Google is making some changes to the requirements for seller ratings so we’re going to have to explain this in two chunks. The changes are going to come in “early October” (2018) so let’s start by explaining the current requirements and then we can tell you about the changes coming up.

As thing stand, the requirements for seller ratings are pretty simple – all you need is:

  • 150 unique reviews from Google and its partner sites (over the past 12 months)
  • An average rating of 3.5 stars or higher

If you fail to meet either of these requirements, your seller rating won’t show across Google Search or Shopping. Pretty simple.

This is about to get a little more complex if you operate in more than one country or sell products overseas. We’ve been told directly from Google that it’s going to start showing seller ratings on a country-by-country basis.

Essentially, the new requirements are this:

  • 100 unique reviews from each country over the past 12 months
  • An average rating of 3.5 stars or higher in each country

If you fail to meet either of these requirements, your seller rating won’t show for users in the relevant country. This also means your score may be different across different countries and reviews from any given country will only contribute to the seller rating that shows for that country.

Here’s how Google explained this to us:

“Starting early October, we will begin displaying your seller rating on a per-country basis to better reflect the experience that you provide to your customers in a particular country. This means that you may have a different seller rating in different countries that provides a more accurate representation of the quality of your service to a specific country.

Along with this change to show individual ratings per country, we are lowering the existing threshold of reviews required for seller ratings from the current 150 global reviews to 100 reviews per country. The reviews from users in a given country will only contribute to your rating for that country.”

This will actually make it easier to get a seller rating if you’re only operating in one country, but you’ll need to work harder to maintain 100+ reviews in each country you operate in over any given 12-month period if you’re advertising to overseas buyers.

If you need to increase your profile of reviews, you’ll probably need to sign up to additional review sources with strong user bases in your target markets. You can get the full list of sources that contribute to seller ratings at Google Ads Help.

How to get product ratings on your Google Shopping listings

Unlike seller ratings, product ratings are specific to Google Shopping and this means you’re going to need a Merchant Center account and active Shopping campaigns to use them. Assuming you’re already advertising your products on Google Shopping, you’ll need to do the following to get product ratings on your listings:

  • Have a system for collecting product reviews from customers on your site
  • Have at least 50 product reviews
  • Sign up for product ratings in the Merchant Center and upload your reviews feed

You can also add product ratings by using reviews from third-party sites, especially if you’re struggling to reach the minimum 50 review target on your own. You will have to pay for the privilege of using external reviews but it’s often worth the investment, as the number of reviews used to calculate your score is also shown alongside your star ratings.

Finally, you can use Google Customer Reviews to get additional feedback from your customers, which contributes to your product ratings.

To conclude…

Seller ratings and product ratings may look similar and they might even seem confusing at first, but they play very different (and equally important) roles. Consumers want to know they’re getting quality products for their money but they also want to feel confident about the retailer they’re buying from.

With seller and product ratings both displaying on your product listings, you’re helping users choose the right product for them but also telling them you’re the retailer to buy from.

11 Oct 15:56

How to Get Pages Indexed by Google, Quickly

by Ryan Stewart

If a page isn’t in Google’s index, there’s 0% chance that it will receive organic traffic.

Indexation, in an over simplified nutshell, is step 2 in Google’s ranking process:

  1. Crawling
  2. Indexing
  3. Ranking

This article will focus on how to get Googlebot to index more pages on your site, faster.

Read my post about managing your website’s crawl

How to check if your pages are indexed by Google

The first step is understanding what your website’s indexation rate is.

Indexation rate = # of pages in Google’s index / # of pages on your site

You can review how many pages your website has indexed in Google Search Console’s “Index Coverage Status Report“.

check indexation in google search console

If you see errors or a large number of pages outside of the index:

  • Your sitemap might have URLs that are non-indexable (i.e. pages set to NOINEX, blocked via robots.txt or require user login)
  • Your site might have a large number ‘low quality’ or duplicate pages that Google deems unworthy
  • Your site might not have enough ‘authority’ to justify all the pages

You can dig into the specifics in the table underneath (this is an awesome new feature in Google’s updated Search Console).

find indexation issues in search console

How to get pages on your site indexed

I hate to be cliche, but you really need to deliver the right experience to get Google’s attention. If your site doesn’t meet Google’s guidelines in regards to trust, authority and quality, these tips will likely not work for you.

With that being said, you can use these tactics to improve your site’s indexation rate.

1. Use Fetch As Google

Google Search Console has a feature allowing you to input a URL for Google to “Fetch”. After submission, Googlebot will visit your page and index.

fetch-as-google

Here’s how to do it…

  • Log into Google Search Console
  • Navigate to Crawl Fetch as Google
  • Take the URL you’d like indexed and paste it into the search bar
  • Click the Fetch button
  • After Google had found the URL, click Submit to Index

Assuming the page is indexable, it will be picked up within a few hours.

2. Use internal links

Search engines crawl from page to page through HTML links.

search through links

Image credit

We can use authority pages on your site to push equity to others. I like to use Ahrefs “best pages by links” report.

ahrefs best pages by links

This report tells me the most authoritative pages on my site – I can simply add an internal link from here to a page that needs equity.

It’s important to note, the 2 interlinking pages need to be relevant – it’s not a good idea to link unrelated pages together.

Read my guide about internal linking silos

3. Block low quality pages from Google’s index

While content is a cornerstone of a high quality website, the wrong content can be your demise. Too many low quality pages can decrease the number of times Google crawls, indexes and ranks your site..

For that reason, we want to periodically “prune” our website’s by removing the garbage pages

Pages that serve no value should be:

  • Set to NOINDEX. When the page still has value to your audience, but not search engines (think thank you pages, paid landing pages, etc).
  • Blocked via crawl through Robots.txt file. When an entire set of pages has value to your audience, but not search engines (think archives, press releases).
  • 301 redirected. When the page has no value to your audience or search engines, but has existing traffic or links (think old blog posts with links).
  • Deleted (404). When the page has no value to your audience or search engines, and has no existing traffic or links.

4. Include the page in your sitemap

5. Share the page on social media

Google+ is the fastest and easiest platform to get your backlinks indexed.

I use my personal Google+ profile to index about 50% of my site’s backlinks. That includes links built on private blog networks.

6. Share the page in high traffic sites

Social bookmarks are links from highly crawled sites like StumbleUpon, Diigo and Reddit.

If you’ve got your own accounts, use these. If not, use Rank Crew. They provide 30 social bookmarks for $4 and 50 for $5.

The bookmarks are 100 times better than Fiverr gigs and they’re not spammed to death with garbage sites.

7. Create content more frequently

8. Secure external links to the page

As previously mentioned, Google crawls from page to page through HTML links.

Getting other websites to link to yours is not only a huge ranking factor, but a great way to pick up the indexation of your website.

The easiest ways to get links:

  • Guest post on a relevant, authoritative website
  • Find relevant bloggers or media sites and reach out with an advertising request

This is grossly over simplified – you can check out my top link building tactics for more ideas.

9. “Ping” your website

Sites like Ping-O-Matic that send “pings” to search engines to notify them that your blog has been updated.

Honestly, it’s not the greatest method – but it’s fast, free and easy to use

11 Oct 15:55

How to Find Your Dream Buyer

by Bruce Hakutizwi

Finding a buyer for your small business can be intimidating. Putting your business on the market inevitably stirs anxious energy, and feelings of vulnerability can prevent entrepreneurs from seeking out deals. After all, when selling the business you spent years developing, you want to be sure that you’re selling to the one.

Sound familiar? Well, you might go as far as to say that finding a perfect buyer is like finding a soulmate. Sure, it’s not a true 1:1 comparison, but there are undeniable similarities between connecting with your buyer and connecting with your betrothed.

You’re ready to put yourself out there, but how do you hook the buyer of your dreams? To understand the process of buyer courtship, let’s frame this journey within a context anybody can understand: a classic love story.

  • Dating — This step is focused on preliminary strategizing. This means meeting prospects, assessing the market, business valuation, and more.
  • Engagement — How to practice due diligence to ensure a favorable deal.
  • Marriage — Before taking the plunge you must settle on a mutually-beneficial contract.

Let’s unpack each of these phases to better understand how to find the buyer your business deserves.

Dating

The beginning of the sales journey is filled with uncertainty but, much like the dating scene, that’s part of the excitement. But, don’t let your naivety undercut the value of your business.

Here’s the key to this first phase: play the field. Don’t rush into any commitments. Nothing signals inexperience quite like an overzealous seller, so leave yourself open to multiple suitors. Savvy entrepreneurs know to how to play the game, so start by listing your business for sale and be patient. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

Next, it will benefit you to do some soul-searching and self-reflection in the form of a business valuation. This is an important step of the sales process in which a seller determines the value of their offering. A business valuation can take on several forms:

  • Asset value — A calculation of a business’s net balance minus liabilities.
  • Earning value — An estimation of potential future earnings. This is based on the business’s record of past earnings compared to a buyer’s expected rate of return.
  • Market value — The value of your business compared to similar businesses that were recently sold.

A thorough business valuation will be some combination of the above approaches. Your main concern should be this: which attributes carry the most value within your particular sector? Find these features, bring them forth, and let them speak for themselves. Admirers will see these assets and come flocking in no time.

After some time playing the dating game you will find a match, and it will be time to settle down. Next comes the engagement chapter of your sales storybook, and while you might feel secure in your partnership, be aware you’re still in the honeymoon phase. Without due diligence, you could be left at the altar.

Engagement

At this point you are committed to your buyer and they are committed to you. But, like in a relationship, the early stage of the sales process is no time to become complacent. Without due diligence during the engagement chapter of your coupling, you could very well squander a good thing.

When you are in the intermediary between securing a prospect and finalizing contracts, be sure to implement the following strategies:

  • Recruit a “wingman” — A business broker can bring valuable insight to negotiations and continue scouting for prospects if a potential deal falls through.
  • Consider their feelings — One of the best things you can do is think like a buyer. Put yourself in their shoes, consider what makes your business appealing, and use it as leverage.
  • Establish boundaries — Make a list contract terms on which you will not budge. For example, up-front payment, future involvement, non-competes, etc. Be strong. Now is the time to hold firm on the non-negotiables.

At this point you and your buyer will settle into comfortable, agreeable contract terms. Hopefully by now it is clear that this deal is meant to be. If everything goes according to plan, you’re ready to take things to the next level: getting hitched.

Marriage

The time has come and you have found a prospective buyer — you hear closing bells ringing. You have dedicated countless hours to sales negotiations, and all that’s left is to sign over to Mr. or Mrs. Right.

In this phase of the sales journey you will negotiate final contract terms. This final leg of the sales journey can take up to a year, so be aware you’re in it for the long haul. The buyer will come to you with an offer at which point you can accept, counter or reject. You may dance around each other for a little while, but once you come to agreeable terms on both sides you can finally say “I do.”

After everything is finalized you may be required to stay involved with the business for a set amount of years. If not, be sure to sign any assets that were not purchased over to yourself. At long last it will be time to go your separate ways and move on to the next chapter of your life.

Selling your business can be as emotional as a romantic relationship, but lucky for you there are resources available to ease the process. Divorce yourself from doubt, and put yourself on the market — your dream buyer is out there somewhere.

11 Oct 15:54

Why People Aren’t Motivated to Address Climate Change

by Art Markman
Education Images/Getty Images

People are often highly motivated to avoid threats. If you are walking down a dark, isolated city street, you are vigilant for unexpected sights and sounds and probably pick up the pace to get back to a populated area as quickly as possible. If you step into the street and see a bus bearing down on you, you jump back. If a large unfamiliar dog is growling outside your front door, you stay inside.

This week, we were updated on another serious threat. According to the recent United Nations report on climate change, if the nations of the world do not take drastic action soon, there could be serious consequences in the next 25 years. Yet the president of the United States did not even comment on the report after it was released, and a leading candidate in Brazil’s presidential election has promised to withdraw the country from the Paris agreement.

If people are motivated to avoid threats to their existence, why is it so hard to get people to act on climate change?

Unfortunately, climate change involves a combination of factors that make it hard for people to get motivated.

First, acting on climate change represents a trade-off between short-term and long-term benefits, which is the hardest trade-off for people to make. Decades of work on temporal discounting point out that we overvalue benefits in the short term relative to benefits in the long term. People don’t save enough money for retirement, preferring to spend money now rather than having it in their old age. People overeat in the present, despite the problems that obesity can cause in the future.

Ignoring climate change in the short term has benefits both to individuals and to organizations. Individuals do not have to make changes in the cars they drive, the products they buy, or the homes they live in if they ignore the influence their carbon footprint has on the world. Companies can keep manufacturing cheaper if they don’t have to develop new processes to limit carbon emissions. Governments can save money today by relying on methods for generating power that involve combustion rather than developing and improving sources of green energy, even those that are more cost-effective in the long run.

Second, climate change is a nonlinear problem. People are really good at making judgments of linear trends. If you spend $5 a day on coffee, then it is easy to think about the influence that has on your weekly budget, without needing a spreadsheet.

When a function increases slowly at first and then accelerates, though, that causes problems, because people extrapolate that function linearly. A few cigarettes are probably not deadly. Instead, it is the accumulated damage from years of smoking that leads to significant health problems. For many years, then, smokers may engage in their habit without obvious consequences until suddenly there is a significant problem. As a result, the health problems appear to sneak up on people when they’ve been building all along.

Likewise, it took a long time before there were any signs of climate change that were obvious to people. People are much better with obvious threats like that nasty dog at the door than they are with threats that escalate quickly and nonlinearly.

Third, many effects of climate change are distant from most people. Research on construal level theory argues that people conceptualize things that are psychologically distant from them (in time, space, or social distance) more abstractly than things that are psychologically close. When there are weather disasters that are probably a reflection of climate change (like wildfires or extreme storms), they tend to happen far away from where most people live. As a result, most people are not forced to grapple with the specifics of climate change, but rather can treat it as an abstract concept. And abstract concepts simply don’t motivate people to act as forcefully as specific ones do.

Fourth, the future is always more uncertain than the present. That is one reason people value the present so much more strongly. After all, if you save a lot of money for retirement, there is no guarantee that you will live long enough to enjoy it. In the case of climate change, there are skeptics who argue that it is not certain that the influence of human activity on climate will have the dire consequences that some experts have projected.

While all of these factors are working against us, there is hope. Whether you’re trying to get yourself to engage in more activities that reduce your impact on the climate or trying to convince others (or organizations) to act, there are a few things you can do.

Bringing the future mentally close, so you begin to feel the specifics of a daily life disrupted by a change in global climate, will help reduce the psychological distance. Only when you and others experience this future threat in the present (rather than something that is still a generation away) will it have enough motivational force to get you to engage in actions that take more effort today, like taking public transportation or turning down the AC on a hot summer day. Familiarize yourself with the reports and predictions (you can start with the UN report), and think through and talk about how your daily life will be affected.

It is also worthwhile to confront the uncertainty of the future head-on. If you (or someone you know) is skeptical that human activity is affecting the climate, contemplate the probability that global climate change is real. Most skeptics think there is at least some chance that human activity is affecting the climate. Have them state their probability. When I have tried this with skeptics I have talked with, they often give a low probability, like 20%. At that point, I try to make the decision more specific. I ask whether they would be willing to forgo something today to invest in a disease that has a one in five chance of affecting a grandchild. And if so, then I ask how taking climate change seriously is different. You don’t have to be a skeptic to try this logic on yourself. Consider what you’d be willing to forgo today knowing that in one generation there will be serious, catastrophic consequences because of inaction.

You can also initiate a serious discussion about values among your peers and within your organization. The idea that options in the present are more valuable than options in the future (the essence of temporal discounting) is an evaluation. And the word evaluation contains the word value in it — meaning it assumes a set of values.

Ultimately, we have to be willing to be explicit about the values we are acting on. If we choose to enrich our lives in the present at the cost of the quality of life of future generations, that is a choice of values that we rarely like to make explicitly. We have to be willing to look in the mirror and say that we are willing to live our lives selfishly, without regard to the lives of our children and grandchildren. And if we are not willing to own that selfish value, then we have to make a change in our behavior today.

11 Oct 15:52

Video in Sales Emails Increases Reply Rate 26%

by Laura Hall

The use of video in communication is more popular (and easier) than ever before. But does video increase the performance of sales emails? Does it impact the open or reply rates? We dug in to find out.

Recently, our data science team examined the effects of sales email personalization, revealing powerful insights on how much, where, and, in another post, the length of time sellers should be modifying email content to get the most opens and replies. At SalesLoft, we believe in the power of an authentic, human approach to sales. As such, our next effort focused on increasing the performance of sales emails using video.

The Experiment

Our data science team pulled together just over 134 million emails generated purely from cadences, examining the effects of including a video at various times in a cadence. 4.5 million of these emails contain an embedded video, which has an image along with a link to the video content versus a potentially tracked link. Here’s an example from one of our sales professionals leveraging such an email:

Example of a positive match for a video email in our experiment
Figure 1: An example of a positive match for a video email in our experiment

We also took into account the day of the cadence the email went out on, and the location of the video within the communication. In the above example, the video was sent on day 4 and is 131 characters (44%) into the email. As a privacy precaution, signatures are removed from our experiments.

It’s always challenging to find that glimmer of insight in a sea of noisy data, so our data science team went the extra mile to ensure we delivered the highest value information. As part of our effort, we analyzed the effect of using video only for teams and sellers that historically use video. This prevents the baselines (i.e., what happens when you don’t use video) from being misleadingly low, and ensures that our insights are as scientifically sound as possible.

All Things Considered, Video Matters… a Lot!

On average, using video content has a significant positive impact on both open and reply rates. Teams that use video enjoy a 16% bump in open rates and a remarkable 26% increase in replies! Therefore, while you can expect even more significant gains by strategically timing and placing your content, you will, on average, benefit from at least giving video content a try.

success of video in sales emails

Time Your Emails for Better Engagement

While video is a powerful addition to a sales email strategy, it is easy to get overwhelmed by all of the possible ways to incorporate it. Not every outgoing email should be a candidate for a video embed. Deciding when and where to use video can leave even the best sales professionals wringing their hands.

We pulled the averages and segmented our data in two ways:

  1. Which day of a cadence the email went out, and
  2. Where (both by character count and proportionally) the video was included within an email.

Let’s take a condensed look at our data considering the day.

Average open rate by day when using video or not
Figure 3: Average open rate by day when using video (blue) or not (red)

This first plot examines the effect on open rates. While it may not be a surprise, there is a significant benefit to utilizing videos earlier in the process. When video is used in the first week of a cadence, the email open rate was higher.

Interestingly, the utilization of video in email seems to have a positive impact on open rates for the first month and a half. However, the relative boost over email with no video varies wildly. This tells us that using video gets more eyes on your emails for the vast majority of cases. Analyzing the reply rates tells us a slightly different story.

Average reply rate by day when using video or not
Figure 4: Average reply rate by day when using video (blue) or not (red)

With this plot, we learn a more specific strategy for the early part of the cadence. Senders stand to get the highest open rate on video content literally on the first day of a cadence. However, it’s not the best time if you’re gunning for a reply. That honor is reserved for the 8th business day.

Salespeople benefit the most from using video when sending after day 2 and before day 20. Nearly any other time in a normal timeline is slightly worse than not using video. Focusing on where video supersedes the non-video line in Figs. 3 and 4, sellers using video content get more opens before day 45 and more replies between day 2 and 20.

Since both video and non-video emails degrade in engagement as days progress, it can help to directly compare their performance. For example, while it is true that the best reply rates come from using video content on day 5 (Fig. 4), the benefit of video compared to non-video is actually highest (nearly 2%) on day 8 (Fig. 5, right).

Another perspective on Figs. 3 and 4, showing how using video performs strictly compared to non-video
Figure 5: Another perspective on Figs. 3 and 4, showing how using video performs strictly compared to non-video

Get the Most out of Video with Proper Placement

After covering the when to send a video, we then factored our data to examine where within an email to place it.

We found that open rates are largely unaffected. This could be due to many reasons. We hypothesize that it is largely because videos often don’t appear in the preview pane of most email applications, except as an icon indicating an attachment. As a result, we focus only on replies.

Reply rate to emails based on the location of a video the email
Figure 6: Reply rate to emails based on the location of a video the email

Our team found a dramatic impact in strategically embedding a video in an email. Sales professionals who place videos after the first 10% but before the halfway point of an email see the biggest increase in replies. There is another light jump right at the end, such as in the postscript for instance. Those that choose to lead straight away or put it after the bulk of content performed worse than those who didn’t use video at all!

Of course, knowing the proportional location is certainly valuable. How much text that 10% comprises remains to be answered, so let’s examine actual character counts.

Reply rate to emails based on the number of characters that precede a video
Figure 6: Reply rate to emails based on the number of characters that precede a video

Bottom Line

The inclusion of video to improve engagement is a hotly debated subject, in large part due to the time commitment it takes to develop recorded content. The obvious question is – is it worth it?

After examining over 134 million emails, our data scientists concluded that a well-placed and timed video in a sales email is an undisputed value-add to sales cadences. Emails that include an embedded video are typically opened much more often than those without. Moreover, emails containing a video sent within the 2nd and 20th day of a cadence result in significantly higher reply rates. To maximize your sales team’s gains, place a video after a short introductory statement, but before the latter half of the email.

Choose a video platform from our App Directory and see how easy it is to incorporate video into your SalesLoft emails and cadences.


Interested in learning more about cadence best practices and benchmarks? Check out our latest report here.

Best Practice & Benchmarks for Sales Cadences

The post Video in Sales Emails Increases Reply Rate 26% appeared first on SalesLoft.

11 Oct 15:51

7 Sure-fire Tips to Increase Brand Awareness with Emails

by Kevin George

82% of marketers consider email as the most effective channel to market content and improve lead nurturing and conversion rates.

Email marketing-most effective channel

Therefore, if you are a marketer willing to increase your brand awareness, leveraging email marketing is the key. It wouldn’t only help you stand out amidst competition and retain existing customers but, also help you engage new customers and boost your ROI.

However, to attain the desired result of increasing brand awareness through emails, it is imperative to opt for strategies that make your email marketing campaign top-notch.

Here are 7 sure-fire tips to help you perfectly leverage email marketing for enhancing your brand’s visibility.

1. Consent is the key

Email marketing is all about targeting the right audience. And for this, you need to build a subscriber list that genuinely wants to engage with your brand and receive your emails. Remember, sending emails to people who haven’t opted to receive your emails is only going to damage your brand reputation.

In fact, your email might even get marked as spam. So, always ask for permission and give your potential subscribers the option to opt-in. This way, you will not only save your time and efforts but also be able to strike a chord with your customers and increase your brand awareness.

While conducting campaign management for our clients, we make sure that a consent email is the first email sent when anyone subscribes.

2. Welcome emails always work

You must have heard how the first impression is the last impression. The same is the case with email marketing. So, if you want to increase your brand awareness and present your brand in the best possible way, start sending welcome emails to your new subscribers right away.

A welcome email is a great way of informing your customers about your products and services while greeting them with a warm and personal touch just the way Alamo Drafthouse Cinema does.

In fact, 47% of marketers are already sending multi-step welcome emails to allure new subscribers. Make sure you are one of them.

Alamo-email marketing

3. Provide value

Providing value with your email content is another key aspect of increasing your brand awareness. Hence, you should deliver relevant and valuable content to your subscribers and not merely send emails pitching sales. You must know who your target audience is and what are their interests and preferences. This would even help you improve your interaction with customers.

In addition, you can leverage email marketing by sending insightful content related to industry knowledge, completed projects etc. And if that’s not enough, you can take your brand awareness a level up by organizing informational webinars, events and send the invites for the same. It would make them value your brand on a personal level while increasing the subscriber engagement.

4. Make way for personalization and segmentation

The number of emails sent and received per day has touched a whopping 281.1 billion in 2018. So, making your email campaigns stand out amidst such staggering figures is quite a task. This is where personalization and segmentation can come in handy.

Segmentation, by dividing subscribers on criteria like age, gender, purchase history, buying behavior, demography, sales funnel position makes way for targeting customers with a personalized approach.

From personalizing the subject line to sending behavioral trigger emails, you can adopt a plethora of strategies to make your email campaign attention-grabbing. Therefore, if you wish to enhance your brand awareness, make segmentation and personalization your email campaign’s priority. In fact, 77% of marketers are already leveraging personalization to get an edge over competitors.

5. Incorporate strong and effective CTA

Sure, your email content is relevant, segmented and personalized and has even increased your open and click-through rates. But, what do you want to do next? Increase brand awareness by prompting the customer to take further action. And this is the reason it is important to have a strong and effective CTA for further enhancing the customer experience while improving your brand awareness.

However, make sure to use a single CTA in your email while making it clear that what they need to do and what will they get as a result. This will keep the subscriber’s attention intact and encourage them to drive through the next level of a buyer’s journey. See how effectively Grammarly places a strong CTA in its email campaign.

6. Align your email and landing page

It is important to align your email and landing page to give your customers a consistent brand experience. Therefore, make it a point to match your email campaign and landing page. Start by customizing your landing page by repeating the offer mentioned in email campaign.

In addition, it is important to keep the aesthetic style the same to make the whole process of going from the email to the landing page natural for the customer. From the front and the brand logo to the layout and color, everything should have the consistent essence of your brand to enhance its awareness amidst the prospective buyers.

7. Consistency matters

If you wish to give your customers valuable content experience and increase your brand awareness, then being consistent with your email strategy is the best way out. Remember, if you can garner the trust of your subscribers, it can help you have a long-lasting relationship with them. This, in turn, wouldn’t only take your brand awareness a level up but, also make way for escalating your sales and boosting your revenues.

From the frequency of your email and its delivery schedule to its formatting and visual look, everything should be consistent. It will work wonders towards giving your customers a unique brand experience and enhance their chances of transforming into your loyal customers from prospects.

Final thoughts

The competition in the world of digital marketing is immense. But, you can sail through any competition if you have the powerful tool of email marketing with you. All you need to do is incorporate the above-mentioned tips within your email marketing campaign and see how these strategies help you build your brand awareness and make you emerge as a winner in the long run of business.

11 Oct 15:37

How to Woo Your Sales Team to Exceptional Results: The 5 Cs of Effective Sales Management

by Liz Heiman

Are you desperate for better results from your sales team? Before you fire them all, try the 5 Cs of effective sales management. Provide clarity, consistency, coaching, collaboration and don’t forget to celebrate!

The 5 Cs of Effective Sales Management

1. Clarity

When asked, sales reps are surprisingly unclear about the sales process, priorities, goals, expectations and even how to put information into the CRM. The clearer you are about what is expected, the more effective your sales team will be in delivering the results you need.

Set Goals – Work with each rep to develop a plan to achieve that goal. Specify clients, products, opportunities, regions or verticals to focus on.  The more specific the plan, the easier it is to execute.

Provide Guidelines for Success  – Discuss things like average sales cycles, ideal number of calls and meetings, typical pricing structures, the balance of the funnel, which activities and questions happen at each stage of the funnel and other things that will support success.

Clarify Definitions – If you want predictable results, start with your sales process and CRM. If the data in the CRM isn’t consistent, then forecasts won’t be accurate. Clearly define each and how an opportunity moves to the next stage, then map it to your CRM.

2. Consistency

When salespeople don’t know what to expect, they don’t know how to respond. The more consistent you are, the more consistent they will be.

Sales Meetings – Have a set agenda for your weekly sales meeting. Include successes, training, a review of the numbers and a team strategy session. Leave individual opportunity or funnel reviews for one-to-one sessions. If the conversation doesn’t include the whole team, it shouldn’t happen at the team sales meeting.

Funnel/Pipeline Reviews – Have a regularly scheduled funnel review with each sales rep. Set the expectation that the opportunities, close dates, next actions, and stages be updated before the session. During each review, assess the shape, check velocity through the sales process, review progress on all opportunities, eliminate dead leads, and select opportunities to strategize.

One-to-Ones – Have an agenda and follow it. Use this time to discuss individual performance issues including how they are positioned to achieve their goals and what they will need to do to succeed. Discuss individual development plans then coach and train to achieve those.

Strategy Sessions – The reward for a funnel review is a strategy session. That is an opportunity to work together to strategize an account you haven’t looked at recently and to look for threats and opportunities. Follow the same process each time.

3. Coaching

Every member of your team deserves coaching, even the rock stars. Coaching is not managing or rescuing. Coaching is asking good questions and guiding the reps as they think through the problem and figure out what to do. Good coaching develops stronger salespeople.


Good coaching develops stronger salespeople @LizRHeiman
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Listen – When you are coaching listen carefully to fully understand the situation. Listen for cues to use as triggers for guiding.

Ask – Ask questions to help you understand and to help them understand. Good questions provide aha moments that change immediate performance and future performance.

Guide – Ask what they think they should do, what information they need or what questions they could be asking. Offer suggestions and ask how they think that would work in this situation. Encourage them to try things. Let them know when you think something is a good idea and why.

4. Collaboration

It’s no fun to work alone all the time, and there is tremendous learning in working together. Make opportunities to collaborate.

Strategy Sessions – A great collaboration opportunity is a strategy session. Choose an opportunity to strategize as a team following a specific process. Everyone enjoys strategy sessions, they all feel good about the effort when they are done, and everyone learns in the process.

Key Account Plans – It is no longer sufficient to have one rep be fully responsible for major accounts. Put together a team of people who interact with the account and appoint a leader. Create a Key Account Plan and meet quarterly to make sure the team is on track achieving the goals around that account.

Brainstorming – Sales reps face the same issues all day long. Having the opportunity to work as a team to find solutions is a great idea. Asking good questions, value proposition, handling objections, and closing deals are all topics that are perfect for brainstorming. Take time each meeting to brainstorm about one of the topics above.

5. Celebration

The sales profession is full of obstacles, rejections, and disappointments.  Salespeople accept that as part of the job. It isn’t the fun part though. The fun part is the successes and those are a lot more fun when we celebrate them with others.


Celebrating successes helps your salespeople stay positive @LizRHeiman
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Successes – Start each sales meeting with everyone sharing a success. It doesn’t matter if it is closing a deal, getting an appointment, or getting a commitment that moves the deal forward. Whatever it is, celebrating successes helps salespeople stay positive.

Close Deals – Every deal is worth celebrating. Share the success at a meeting. Send an email with congratulations and copy the team. Do a happy dance. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as long as the salesperson gets the opportunity to celebrate with you.

Improvement – Don’t miss the little things. As sales reps are developing, they need encouragement. Make sure to notice that they are getting better at asking good questions, getting in touch with all the buying influences or closing deals when expected. Noticing the little things may make the big things happen more often.

Hitting Goals – Leaders are really good at beating up reps when they don’t hit their goals. Be equally excited when they do hit their goals. Of course, it’s expected, but it’s still worth celebrating.

You don’t need to micromanage your team to get the results you need. By putting consistent systems and expectations in place you will get better results and your team will be happier.  Start today. Think about what things you can clarify for your team and start adding those clarifications to the team meetings.


How do you plan to implement the 5 Cs in your sales organization? Leave a comment below!

The post How to Woo Your Sales Team to Exceptional Results: The 5 Cs of Effective Sales Management appeared first on Alice Heiman, LLC.

11 Oct 15:36

10 Free Growth Hacking Tools to Boost Sales

by Syed Balkhi

It can be difficult to grow your startup on a shoestring budget. In the early days of growing your business you might be tempted to spend what little money you do have on expensive tools that promise to drive sales. But instead of throwing all your cash at one tool and hoping it works, you can use a number of free growth hacking tools that can be even more effective.

Growth hacking tools will allow you to experiment with and take advantage of different marketing opportunities that can grow your sales dramatically in a short amount of time, and it won’t cost you a dime. This strategy has the ability to take your unknown startup and skyrocket it to the top.

So, if you want your startup to win more sales fast, check out these 10 free growth hacking tools to boost sales.

1. Keyword planner

Get your content in front of consumers who are looking for what you’re offering by choosing keywords that you can rank for. Ubersuggest is a free keyword planning tool that will help you come up with hundreds of keyword ideas and give you an overview of each with information on volume, seasonality, cost per click and how difficult or easy it is to rank for.

With this tool, you’ll be able to drive more traffic to your website, and more visitors means more potential customers for your business.

2. Content analyzer

Creating content is one of the most affordable and effective ways to boost your sales, in fact, content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising. Buzzsumo is a free tool that will let you analyze what content performs the best for a topic or a competitor so that you can create better blog posts.

If you want to improve your content to get even more views, shares and engagement than your competition, then this is the tool for you.

3. Headline analyzer

People won’t click on your post if it doesn’t have a headline that grabs their attention, and on the other hand, an awesome headline can make your content go viral. That’s why it’s essential to learn how to create better headlines, and you can easily do so using a free tool like CoSchedule Headline Analyzer.

This tool will analyze the overall structure of your headline including readability and grammar, give you a score for how emotional and powerful your headline is, as well as give you a preview of how it will look in search results.

4. Social media scheduling

Social media can help you widen your reach and connect with a ton of new consumers who could become customers, so step up your social media marketing campaigns with a tool like Buffer.

Buffer is an awesome social media management platform where you can manage up to three accounts for free. With this tool you can schedule social media posts for preferred times, track the performance of your content, and manage all of your accounts in one convenient place.

5. A/B testing

Does your website delight visitors, make them want to stick around, and convince them to purchase? If you’re not sure, that’s a problem; you need to be able to quickly determine if your website is optimized for converting customers and Google Optimize can help you do that.

Google Optimize lets you perform A/B testing to identify which of your web pages are working for your visitors and which are not. This valuable information is essential to creating a website that turns visitors into loyal customers.

6. Build a chatbot

Chatbots will let you connect with visitors on your site any time of day, every day of the week and drive sales for you while you focus on other aspects of your business. Chatbots can answer frequently asked questions, qualify leads and even help users place orders, and you can install one without knowing a thing about code, and for free, with ManyChat.

ManyChat is a Facebook Messenger chatbot tool that allows you to easily create a lifelike virtual salesperson using their drag and drop interface so that you can make sales even when you’re not online.

7. Send push notifications

Your subscribers and customers might miss out your important emails in their overcrowded inboxes, but with push notifications you can ensure they’ll get your messages – and from anywhere on the web. PushCrew is an excellent tool that can send browser push notifications to your customers through the web or mobile.

For your startup, PushCrew’s free version that allows for up to 2000 subscribers is perfect to get users back to your website, whether it’s to return to their abandoned cart or to notify them of a sale.

8. Automate sales

You’ll never miss out on converting a lead into a customer when you can make that process automatic. Automate.io allows you to easily automate marketing, sales and business processes by connecting multiple tools like web forms, email, marketing apps and CRM software.

For example, with Automate.io you can create a ‘journey’ to automatically notify you by email when someone fills out a form on your website and then automatically add that user to a lead nurturing campaign in Mailchimp. Turning leads into customers will be a breeze with this tool.

9. Understand how consumers use the internet.

If you want to sell products to consumers on the internet, you need to understand how they use the internet in order to reach them effectively and convert them. Consumer Barometer, brought to you in part by Google, is a free tool that provides insights on global consumers.

You can find out how consumers in each country discover products, research and purchase products, what devices they use, and more. By understanding how customers behave through each stage of the buyer’s journey, you’ll be able to target your audience more directly.

10. Build relationships with leads.

If your goal is to increase sales, you first need to start by building deeper relationships with your leads and customers. Hubspot CRM is a completely free tool that lets you better manage your contacts by integrating with your email service provider so you can schedule emails, analyze your leads, and more.

With this free tool you’ll be able to increase your company’s productivity so you can spend more time closing deals.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to make a fortune. Now that you have some amazing free growth hacking tools to add to your arsenal, your startup can boost its sales exponentially. So start downloading and installing these tools and your new business will be one step closer to becoming a huge success.

11 Oct 15:36

Predictive Analytics in 2018: What’s Possible, Who’s Doing It, and How

by Derek Gleason

In 2009, Netflix offered $1 million to anyone who could improve the quality of its recommendation engine by 10%. It took two years, but a team finally won. Netflix paid the bounty—then ignored the code.

As it turned out, the enhanced algorithms “did not seem to justify the engineering effort needed to bring them into a production environment.”

Not only did the winning prediction engine fail to scale economically, it also addressed an outdated problem: The shift from mail to streaming during that same two-year window gave Netflix all the data it needed to develop newer, better algorithms.

Predictive analytics, in other words, wasn’t a panacea. Nor, in the decade since, has it become one. But, in 2018, incremental gains no longer cost $1 million either:

  • You have more data;
  • Storage is cheap; and
  • Cloud computing is almost infinitely scalable.

This post details those changes and shows how several businesses—and not just behemoths—have cultivated the predictive analytics landscape.

What’s changed in the last decade?

1. More data, more storage, more computing power

Massive, cloud-based repositories of customer interactions, often called data lakes, are the raw source material for predictive analytics applications.

Many companies have taken advantage of cheap cloud storage to stow away data for years—without even considering its potential use. (How many neglected data points do you have in Google Analytics, Google Ads, MailChimp, Marchex, Stripe, and similar services?)

That dual growth in scale—of data collected and accessibility to it—has solved two primary challenges of predictive analytics implementation.

Historically, raw computing power has been the other. As Andrew Pearson of Intelligencia notes, “Without significant hardware investments, predictive analytics programs either weren’t possible or too slow to be useful.”

That, Pearson continued, has also changed: “Cloud-based analytics systems have added massive computer power into the mix.” Increasingly powerful systems cracked open the door for real-time predictive analytics.

2. A world of real-time predictions

For some, the age of “real-time” predictive analytics is here. Judah Phillips, the co-founder and CTO of Vizadata and founder of SmartCurrent, explained:

We already live in a world of “real-time” predictive analytics. A simple predictive analysis is your arrival time in Waze. A more complex real-time prediction occurs billions of times worldwide every millisecond in matching certain types of digital advertising.

Further, companies like Mintigo and Versium now offer real-time solutions for lead scoring, showing that the transition is technically possible. Possible, however, doesn’t mean perfect. Sam Underwood, a vice president at Futurety, acknowledged the complexity of necessary integrations:

Especially in the mid-market world, the tools that gather data to turn into predictive modeling—CRM systems, social media aggregators, logistics, and purchasing systems—often do not have friendly APIs or other easy mechanisms with which to quickly gather and interpret data.

That disconnect still thwarts even the most fundamental business cases for real-time predictive analytics. David Longstreet, the chief data scientist at FanThreeSixty, offered an example:

In our world of sports and entertainment, for example, most sports teams do not know how many people are in a stadium for a game. Teams know how many tickets were distributed; however, they do not know in “real time” how many people are in the venue or stadium during the event.

That knowledge gap hampers efforts to staff and stock the stadium appropriately. It’s also why interest in predictive analytics is almost universal, even if it vastly outpaces adoption.

3. Slow adoption but soaring interest

So how many businesses are actively using predictive analytics? According to research from Dresner Advisory Services, about 23%, a figure essentially unchanged from the prior year.

predictive analytics adoption

Less than a quarter of businesses are using predictive analytics—though almost all aspire to do so. (Image source)

Interest, however, exceeds implementation. The same research suggests that 90% of businesses “attach, at minimum, some importance to advanced and predictive analytics.”

So which questions are those 23% answering with predictive analytics? Let’s take a look.

Which questions can marketers answer with predictive analytics?

“They want to predict everything,” according to Underwood. And who wouldn’t want to know the exact foot (or web) traffic by month, day, and hour to streamline staffing (or allocate server resources)?

But, Underwood continued, he tries to focus clients on “the one thing that, if we could predict it for you, would revolutionize your business.”

In digital marketing, Phillips outlined myriad use cases for predictive analytics, including the capability to predict:

  • which advertising will be most effective—however you define effective.
  • which marketing campaigns, channels, touches, behaviors, and demographics are contributing to a business outcome, a form of “machine learning–based attribution.”
  • which segment, test, or personalization a user is most likely to respond to.
  • the probability of users to click on an ad, to download a whitepaper, to respond to an email, to respond to an offer, and other customer response you define.
  • which leads will convert—however you define conversion.
  • which customers will buy one or more products for a cross-sell or upsell.
  • the number of purchases or revenue that will occur in the future.
  • which customers will have high/medium/low lifetime value.
  • customer churn.

The novel opportunity of predictive analytics, then, is not what you can predict but the fact that you can predict. The historical data you currently analyze can probably become a prediction.

Just make sure you have the data.

What do you need to get started with predictive analytics?

Data, data, and data. “Priority 1A and 1B are data sources,” stated Underwood. That’s true whether you plan to license software or hire an outside organization. (Both options are detailed later.)

All uses require training data. That training data, in turn, is used to build a predictive model to apply to current data. “The only limitation we’ve run into,” Phillips noted, “is a company’s available data for training.”

How much data is enough? According to Phillips:

A few thousand records with a sufficient amount of positive and negative outcomes can be sufficient for marketing, sales, and product prediction.

Not all data is created (or stored) equally

“You have to understand—I grew up tearing tickets.”

FanThreeSixty’s Longstreet has heard that same explanation from venue managers who have spent countless hours counting stacks of stubs after games. It’s a reason why vital data sources may not be easily accessible, or accessible at all.

In stadiums, Longstreet explained, point-of-sale machines and ticket scanners exist for a single purpose—to complete transactions quickly and keep lines moving. Those systems do not store data efficiently for extraction, nor can they handle incessant server requests (unless hungry fans don’t mind waiting).

For Underwood, clients tend to fall into one of two buckets, with half in each:

  • “The ideal client has an internal database set up and ready to go. We pull in the data, build the model, and are off and running.”
  • The other half have a mix of data sources, which inevitably include an offshore SQL database (or ten) managed by an external vendor whom no one can track down.

Stitching data sources together is a major development project that may require creating custom connectors, setting up third-party FTP drops, and other complex but thankless tasks. That work, however, is necessary: Models and their predictions are only as accurate as the data they’re built upon.

Don’t forget external data sources

Not all data comes from internal sources, either. External data sources, like weather reports, are often a critical addition to data lakes, especially for small businesses. As Underwood explained:

Restaurants may use analytics to trigger email sends; for example, we can set up the email platform to sync with National Weather Service data to send an email about iced tea when the temperature in a given metro area is above 90 degrees.

Likewise, we can trigger an email to send to customers in a given city if the system detects wind gusts of 40+ MPH. Both of these use cases reach consumers in a key moment of need, negating downstream ad spend and beating competitors to the punch.

So you have a large, well-organized dataset. What do you do with it?

How do you turn data into predictions?

While the limitation of insufficient data has faded, another remains:

Companies require either a dedicated team of data scientists to parse through these sets, or a software suite powerful enough to do so rapidly. For most small and medium-sized businesses, this usually means settling for subpar software, or forgoing it entirely.

For businesses of all sizes, solutions branch into two options:

  1. Purchase software and create predictions in-house.
  2. Pay an outside vendor to develop models and visualizations for you.

1. Predictive analytics software

The marketplace for predictive analytics software has ballooned: G2Crowd records 92 results in the category. Pricing varies substantially based on the number of users and, in some cases, amount of data, but generally starts around $1,000 per year, though it can easily scale into six figures.

G2Crowd lists both IBM’s SPSS Statistics and SAS’s Advanced Analytics as market leaders at the enterprise level. Along with RStudio, the pair are also tagged as leaders for mid-market companies; only IBM retains a place in the “Leaders” quadrant for small businesses.

Historically, however, even industry-leading predictive analytics software hasn’t been a simple, jump-right-in experience. Take these two examples from IBM’s SPSS Statistics and RapidMiner:

ibm spss statistics screenshot

rapid miner screenshot

While these platforms are powerful, users must format data files, link nodes, and develop visualizations. Learning how to do this—and having the time to do it—is a specialized, full-time job. (To believe otherwise is to expect a Microsoft Word license to write your Great American Novel.)

Not surprisingly, the market is shifting. RapidMiner has rolled out a SaaS beta that, with a bit of manual adjustment, translates an Excel sheet full of, say, employment data to a prediction of employee retention:

rapid miner saas excel sheet

A dataset in Excel—a starting point in which most marketers are already comfortable. rapid miner intake

RapidMiner parses the Excel file prior to crunching the numbers. rapidminer predictive visualization

The resulting visualization shows the tool’s prediction performance and correlations between datasets and retention.

Some companies, like Vizadata’s Phillips, see the user-friendly SaaS model as the future:

We are democratizing data science, so that people with limited or no data science or engineering skills can predict. You simply upload your data and click next. We do all the heavy lifting.

Our intelligence determines your dependent and independent variables and the type of analysis to run. You can go with our selections or override them—from regression, where we can do forecasting and optimization, to both binary and multiclass classification, where we can predict the probability of outcomes.

vizadata screenshot

User-friendly SaaS models make predictive analytics more accessible to marketing teams without data scientists.

Like Vizadata, MIT’s Endor pursues this path. The platform uses a query-builder to allow anyone to ask questions like “Where should we open our next store?” or “Who is likely to try product X?” It then mines targeted datasets to provide answers, often in a matter of minutes.

The inclusion of tangential datasets that fall outside consideration—or feasibility—for human observers is a recurring advantage of predictive analytics. Endor’s creators offer an example:

A marketing department for a bank asks, “Who is going to get a mortgage in the next six months?” Machine-learning engines may detect a pool of, say, 5,000 customers who have a bank credit card and a high credit score, and are married—many of which may be false positives.

Endor detects more specific clusters of, say, couples about to get married or going through a divorce, founders who recently sold their startups to Facebook, or customers who recently graduated from a local real-estate course.

Of course, if you want to outsource the process entirely, outside vendors can organize your data, build models, and visualize predictions for you.

2. Outside vendors

Agencies offering bespoke solutions

For most clients, Futurety starts by identifying the key business question—not a specific metric or visualization. Clients may come in for one-off projects, annual re-runs of their data, or ongoing work.

“The end result is not always clear at the beginning,” Underwood explained. “When we’re delivering to someone close to the outcome, like a marketing manager, they’re typically happy with the model, the finding, and the math behind it.”

The “end result” could be several things:

  • Integration with a third-party platform, like an email client, to automate predictive messaging.
  • Plain-text predictive answers to guide practitioners.
  • Robust visualizations to demonstrate the process and value to the C-Suite.

At the end of each engagement, Futurety delivers the model back to the client for management and maintenance.

Predictive analytics at work
  • Futurety has a small business client that helps aspiring performing arts majors gain admission to their dream college. But few high schoolers have broad knowledge of good programs. More often than not, they know only one name: Julliard.
  • Futurety trained its model on three years of placement data. Then, using new student data entered into a common portal, predicted where students would get accepted and succeed academically.
  • The predictive analytics model, which Futurety updates annually, delivers a simple list of recommended schools for students based on factors like grades and exposure to different musical or artistic styles.
  • The model takes into account whether past placements graduated or won awards.

All-in-one niche providers

FanThreeSixty serves a narrow market: sporting venues. Because they work with a comparatively consistent dataset—season ticket, concession, and souvenir sales—they know the range of business questions, data outcomes, and relevant visualizations.

This consistency incentivizes niche vendors like FanThreeSixty to develop proprietary dashboards to roll out to all clients.

The interface allows Longstreet’s team to keep data science in the background: “The secret of machine learning is when you’re being prompted behind the scenes.”

Distilled fully, FanThreeSixty’s goal (and Longstreet’s explanation of his role at dinner parties) is to “help teams sell more tickets and hot dogs.”

Predictive analytics at work
  • FanThreeSixty mines historical data to see which concessions are most commonly purchased with a hot dog at a Major League Soccer venue.
  • If a customer purchases a hot dog, concession staff are prompted to ask whether a customer would like to add the most popular accompaniment. That recommendation—a prediction of fan desire—changes based on other variables.
  • Predictions consider more than 20 datasets—everything from the home location of season ticket holders to the weather—to tailor messaging before, during, and after matches.
  • During cold-weather games, for example, FanThreeSixty can automate push notifications with tailored coupons, like buy-three-get-one-free hot chocolate for a family of four.

Whether solutions are internally or externally managed, they‘ve long been common in enterprise businesses.

Predictive analytics use cases at the enterprise level

Marketing departments in large organizations have used predictive analytics for years:

  • AutoTrader. AutoTrader uses data from its 40 million monthly visitors to better understand the sometimes lengthy customer journey. They built propensity models based on search behavior and created high-value lookalike audiences.
  • Editialis. The French publisher uses predictive analytics in its email campaigns to “anticipate engagement at an individual level.” As a result, they’ve seen click-through-rates increase “dramatically.”

Predictive analytics can also coordinate offline and online interactions, with two clear use cases for marketers whose companies have physical products or storefronts:

  1. Improved pricing. Smartphone data registers in-store browsing habits to improve online or offline marketing targeting, approximating the advantages enjoyed by ecommerce companies.
  2. Inventory management. Full warehouses cost money; empty shelves cost money. Folding online data, such as search patterns, into sales data can better manage inventory, especially at a regional and local level.

In addition to external marketing campaigns, predictive analytics also supports internal project management. Large marketing campaigns have many moving parts—a new ad campaign needs new creative, new copywriting, new landing pages, etc.

Coordinating the involvement of those teams and accurately estimating the time-to-launch is complex. Many fail to get it right, sometimes at great expense.

whiteboard planning

Marketers and software businesses may use predictive analytics for internal project management in addition to external campaigns.

Predictive algorithms, as McKinsey notes, use a wider lens that captures historical patterns and unique project elements in a single frame:

While every development project is unique, the underlying complexity drivers across projects are similar and can be quantified. If companies understand the complexity involved in a new project, they can estimate the effort and resources required to complete it.

Predictive analytics models “take into account not only the complexity of the project (both the functional and implementation aspects) but also the complexity of the team environment.”

Predictive analytics at work:

More accurate internal project management, in an example McKinsey offers, can have a major impact:

  • A company initially planned a product update to take roughly 300 person-weeks of effort, an estimate based on the limited number of changes between the current product and a new design.
  • However, that estimate failed to take into account the fact that planned updates would affect many different teams. Predictive analytics models did take it into account and estimated that the project would take three to four times as long.
  • As a result, the company limited the work to the original product team, enabling them to deliver the update on time.

In addition to helping companies solve internal and external challenges, predictive analytics is also the foundation for some businesses.

Building a business on predictive analytics

Ken Lazarus, CEO of the recruiting platform Scout Exchange, has an advantage—the company has been around for only five years.

That means that the company’s data sources are already primed for extraction into its predictive models that pair companies with the right recruiter.

scout exchange processScout Exchange’s predictions pair companies with the right recruiter.

The single best predictor of job placement, Lazarus and his team have found, is the track record of job recruiters. In contrast, pairing the right job description with the right resume remains exceedingly difficult.

“Job specs are horrible,” he lamented. “The data isn’t on the paper. CVs are pretty horrible, too.” (Data augmentation, such as skills testing and video interview decoding, Lazarus noted, offer potential improvements.)

Nonetheless, holes remain. Candidates will never disclose negatives on their resume, and important information might forever remain “non-data,” such as whether a candidate is a good “culture fit.”

Scaling data gathering

Scout Exchange has honed its predictions by focusing on enterprise customers—its algorithms feast on hundreds or thousands of openings from Fortune 500 clients.

As a result, the platform takes in roughly 1 million data points monthly, with each new job posting yielding an additional 50 data points.

scout exchange platform

Higher employer ratings indicate an employer is more responsive than his or her peers. Likewise, higher recruiter ratings suggest a recruiter is more likely to succeed in submitting acceptable candidates than his or her peers.

Still, human assessment by a recruiter—and their client—is necessary. Lazarus drew a parallel: “Would you let machine learning pick your wife? No. But would you let it pick the right matchmaker to help you find a spouse? Yes.”

Those who are trying to solve the most complex human issues aren’t even in the business world.

Predictive analytics with life or death consequences

The greatest challenges for predictive analytics are those that deal with complex, individualized human behavior, such as the likelihood that a patient or crisis-line texter will commit suicide.

Because success or failure is measured in human lives, these challenges are also the most urgent. And while these projects operate beyond the scope of marketing and business, they suggest the potential for predictive analytics as it evolves.

“REACH VET is not about trying to find the veteran who’s sitting in the car in a parking lot with a gun in his lap,” Aaron Eagan, Veteran Affairs deputy director for innovation told a Washington conference.

“What we found,” Eagan continued, “is that veterans at highest risk of suicide [also have] significantly increased rates of all-cause mortality, accident morality, overdoses, violence, [and] opioids.” Proactive alerts that trigger physician check-ins have improved primary-care appointment attendance and reduced hospital admissions for mental health issues.

crisis text line

The project is similar to a collaboration between Periscope Data and Crisis Text Line, a text-based suicide hotline.

Leaning on natural language processing and predictive analytics, the program analyzed conversations, forecasted trends, and trained more than 13,000 volunteers. The results?

  • Wait times decreased to less than 5 minutes, an operational goal.
  • Capacity increased by 10% during peak periods.
  • Responses were prioritized based on machine-identified urgency.

Endor’s technology has taken on similarly serious challenges. Using 15 million data points from 50 known ISIS supporters, Endor identified 80 lookalike accounts in less than half an hour, with only 35 false positives—expert investigation was still necessary yet feasible.

In a collaborative project with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, the platform also analyzed mobile data to identify patterns to predict future riots.

Conclusion

Predictive analytics is not immune to criticism: GDPR rebuffs some of the same collection methods that swell data lakes. And not all predictions, even the most accurate, are well-received. (Famously, Target unwittingly informed a father of his teenage daughter’s pregnancy based on seemingly benign shopping habits.)

Predictive analytics experts point out that their algorithms search for patterns among values, not the values themselves. Regardless, insufficient data is unlikely to hold back the expansion of the industry—the IoT, wearables, and other data collectors already supplement traditional web and app analytics.

User-friendly SaaS platforms are still an emerging opportunity. For most businesses, creating models and predictions from historical data still requires a dedicated employee to navigate complex software solutions or the outsourcing of that work to a vendor.

For those postponing predictive analytics projects until the SaaS options are more mature, you would be wise to keep filling your data lake.

11 Oct 15:36

How to Identify a Product Qualified Lead (PQL)

by Amanda Nielsen

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on the New Breed blog here.

The marketing qualified lead, or MQL, has long been an important and familiar term in B2B marketing. It’s used to identify when a prospect has moved far enough in your marketing funnel (and in their buyer’s journey) to demonstrate buying intent. However, the SaaS industry innovates quickly, and a new type of qualified lead has joined our ranks. The product qualified lead, or PQL, is used to identify a prospect that has signed up to use your software firsthand and provides even greater visibility into buying intent based on how they’ve interacted with your actual product. So move aside MQL! Let’s explore how to identify a product qualified lead.

Why PQL?

Thanks to the internet, buyers have access to more information today than any previous generation. Everything they need to research your product and assist in their buyer’s journey is available in seconds. This has caused two buying phenomenons:

  • Analysis Paralysis: With so much information available, some buyers will feel compelled to read as much as they can before committing to a purchase. This act leads to a buyer getting moved down your marketing funnel into an MQL when they’re not really ready to make that decision.
  • Try it Before you Buy it: On the other hand, with so much content at the ready, other buyers will feel as if the only way to make a decision is to try your product out before committing. This means they won’t read as much content and won’t get flagged as an MQL, but in fact they’re ready to take a next step.

In both situations, your MQL designation isn’t providing quality leads to your sales team for continued nurturing. In both situations, neither prospect has access to your software until getting marked as an MQL. And so enters the PQL: a new qualification criteria centered on offering access to your software and identifying buying opportunities based on a prospect’s interaction with the platform.

What is a PQL?

Transitioning to a PQL system enables your prospects to use your software prior to purchase (on a free trial or freemium version). As prospects utilize the software, they demonstrate buying intent based on criteria related to bottom of funnel product behaviors rather than middle of funnel marketing ones. This criteria can include:

  • Product interest
  • Number of users
  • Features used
  • Spending patterns
  • Usage patterns

After setting your desired mix of product activity, you can flag a prospect as a PQL and have a purchase discussion with an individual who understands what you’re offering and has more clearly demonstrated their intent to buy. As a PQL, prospects haven’t just downloaded a bunch of your gated content — they’ve shown real interest in your actual product.

This system also lends itself to a more frictionless marketing funnel as your best leads are already using your software. You’ll devote fewer sales calories convincing them to purchase and more time providing even greater value to the relationship.

The Takeaway

The cost to acquire a new customer can already be exorbitant. A PQL mindset can save you time and money by better identifying even better leads for your sales team. Prospects using a free trial or freemium version of your software are already customers, so put them at the center of your marketing flywheel. It can be tempting to keep chasing down fresh leads, but the best ones are already right in front of you. (Just remember, they’re “customers” and not “leads”, so your goal isn’t just to sell, but to help and add value.)

The post How to Identify a Product Qualified Lead (PQL) appeared first on OpenView Labs.

10 Oct 20:02

How to Retain and Engage Your B Players

by Liz Kislik

geralt / Pixabay

We’ve heard for decades that we should only hire A players, and should even try to cut non-A players from our teams. But not only do the criteria for being an A player vary significantly by company, it’s unrealistic to think you can work only with A players. Further, as demonstrated by Google’s Aristotle project, a study of what makes teams effective, this preference for A players ignores the deep value that the people you may think of as B players actually provide.

As I’ve seen in companies of all sizes and industries, stars often struggle to adapt to the culture, and may not collaborate well with colleagues. B players, on the other hand, are often less concerned about their personal trajectories and are more likely to go above and beyond in order to support customers, colleagues, and the reputation of the business. For example, when one of my clients went through a disastrous changeover from one enterprise resource planning system to another, it was someone perceived as a B player who kept all areas of the business informed as she took personal responsibility for ensuring that every transaction and customer communication was corrected.

How can you support your B players to be their best and contribute the most possible, rather than wishing they were A players? Consider these five approaches to stop underestimating your B players and help them to reach their potential.

Get to know and appreciate them as the unique individuals they are. This is the first step to drawing out their hidden strengths and skills. Learn about their personal concerns, preferences, and the way they see and go about their work. Be sure you’re not ignoring them because they’re introverts, remote workers, or don’t know how to be squeaky wheels. A senior leader I worked with had such a strong preference for extroverts that she ignored or downgraded team members who were just going about their business.

Meanwhile, the stars on her team got plenty of attention and resources, even though they often created drama and turmoil, rather than carrying their full share of responsibility for outcomes. Some of the team members she thought of as B players started turning over after long-term frustration. When the leader and some of her stars eventually left the company, some of the B’s came back and were able to make significant contributions because they supported the mission and understood the work processes.

Reassess job fit. Employees rarely do their best if they’re in jobs that highlight their weaknesses rather than their strengths. They may have technical experience but no interest, or they could be weak managers but strong individual contributors. One leader I know had been growing increasingly more frustrated and less effective; the pressures of satisfying the conflicting demands of different departments were too much for her. Then she took a lateral move to manage a smaller, more cohesive team focused on developing new products, and was able to focus and be inspirational again once she was freed from the pressures of managing projects in such a political environment.

Consider the possibility of bias in your assignments. Women and people of color are often overlooked for challenging or high-status assignments. They’re assumed “not to be ready,” or they’re not considered because they don’t act like commonly held but stereotyped views of “leaders.” When a midlevel leader who was trying to get more exposure and advancement for one of his team members couldn’t figure out what was holding her back in the eyes of the senior leader, I raised this possibility, and we strategized multiple ways that her boss could showcase the quality and impact of her work in upcoming meetings.

Intentionally support them to be their best. Some people are their own worst critics, or have deep-seated limiting beliefs that hold them back. When one of my clients lost a senior leader and couldn’t afford to replace her at market rates, a longtime B player near the end of his career nervously filled the gap. Although he expanded his duties and kept the team going, he emphasized to both his management and himself that he wasn’t really up to the job, and most of the executive team continued to treat him that way. It was not till after he had retired, and a new senior leader had to fill his shoes, that it became clear how much he had done on the organization’s behalf. The executive team never came to grips with how much more he could have accomplished had they provided the relevant development, support, and appreciation all along.

Give permission to take the lead. In 30 years of practice, one of the most common reasons I’ve seen people hold back is if they don’t believe they’ve been given permission to step up. (The people we think of as A’s tend not to ask for or wait for permission.) Some B players aren’t comfortable in the spotlight, but they thrive when they’re encouraged to complete a mission or to contribute for the good of the company. A midlevel leader I coach is quiet, modest, and doesn’t like to make waves. She kept waiting for her new leader to lay out a vision for the future and to provide direction about how the work should be done. I asked what she would do if she was suddenly in charge. She laid out a cogent plan, and I encouraged her to present it to the new leader and ask for permission to proceed. Now she and the senior leader are moving forward in partnership.

We can’t all be A players, and it’s unrealistic to think we’ll only ever work with A players. But that may not be the appropriate goal. Instead, try using these strategies to help employees give their best, and you’ll be ensuring that your whole team can turn in an A+ performance.

10 Oct 20:00

The 10 Best Free Toolbox Apps for Android

by Megan Ellis
android-phones-features

Every day our smartphones find ways to replace other physical items, such as music players and document scanners.

This is no different for the traditional tools used in daily life, DIY projects, and on contractor jobs. Apps have made our toolboxes lighter with their nifty developments. So don’t worry about finding that missing flashlight or your roll of tape measure.

Here are some of the best free apps that turn your phone into its own toolbox.

Distance Measurement and Digital Tape Measure Apps

1. Measure

Using augmented reality to provide measurements of everyday objects is a handy way to create a digital tape measure—and this is exactly what Google’s Measure app does. It’s one of Google’s great lesser-known Android apps.

With the app you can measure distance, length, and height using your camera. Trying to get AR measurement apps to work can be a hit-and-miss affair, but Measure is simple to use. Its tips and help section can guide you if you get confused, making it a user-friendly measurement app.

To get started, you need to scan an area with the app so it can detect the horizontal or vertical plane. Then select the measurement mode you would like to use (distance or elevation) onto the screen. You can adjust the lines to the desired points and the app will estimate the size of the object. Note that the app requires a well-lit and clutter-free area.

Download: Measure (Free)

2. Smart Ruler

This is as simple a tool as it gets. Smart Ruler acts as a digital ruler that you can use for small measurements. Put any object you want to measure on the screen of your Android device, then touch its corner to detect the width or length.

You’ll find a variety of ruler apps available, but we like Smart Ruler because it’s straightforward to use. It also allows you to set the start and end points of an object when you touch the screen, adding an extra element of ease.

Download: Smart Ruler (Free)

Other Measurement and Level Tool Apps

3. Sound Meter

This app measures the decibel values of surrounding environmental noise. To help guide you, Sound Meter also provides examples of equivalent noise levels for comparison. For example, the 30-decibel range is similar to the volume of a whisper, while 72 decibels is closer to loud music.

There’s no shortage of similar apps on the Play Store, but we found that this one had the best accuracy and detection of changing sound levels.

Download: Sound Meter (Free)

4. Laser Level

Laser Level is a leveling app for Android that includes an incredibly useful spirit/bubble level mode. This means that you can measure angles and whether a surface is level in multiple ways using the app.

It even has a built-in clinometer for those who want to accurately measure angles.

Download: Laser Level (Free)

Utility Apps for Android

5. Metal Detector

Metal Detector does exactly what the name states—it uses your smartphone’s sensors to detect the presence of metal based on magnetic fields. This can help you find metal studs in the wall or possible pipes in the ground.

Of course, it’s not as effective as an actual metal detector or stud finder. But it’s free and can help you get a better gauge on the presence of metal for the occasional odd job.

Download: Metal Detector (Free)

6. Flashlight

The Flashlight app by Ruddy Rooster isn’t the most popular app by download numbers, but its simple interface and useful tools make it one of the best flashlight apps for Android. It features a simple flashlight that uses your camera’s LED flash, but it also has Morse code and strobe effects. Like other flashlight apps, it includes a screen light function and a few other features.

It is our preferred flashlight app due to these features and its limited app permission requirements. If you already have a flashlight feature built into your phone, we recommend using that as most flashlight apps are a privacy nightmare.

Download: Flashlight (Free)

7. CalcKit: All-in-One Calculator

While CalcKit is not a traditional tool in the way a hammer is, it is an incredibly useful calculator and conversion app for contractors and artisans. It includes a large variety of conversion tools that make this app relevant to a wide range of professions. Even those in the science field could use it for simple, on-the-go calculations.

The app includes everything from basic mathematical equations (such as the area of a triangle), to more complex electronic calculations. It also has a range of conversion tools, spanning from shoe sizes to fuel efficiency volume metrics.

Download: CalcKit (Free)

All-in-One Toolbox Apps for Android

If you would prefer apps that include a suite of tools, rather than download individual apps for each tool, then all-in-one toolbox apps are a perfect choice. These apps aren’t very specialized, but have enough tools for most people to get through tasks that require them.

8. Smart Tools

Smart Tools has a somewhat unusual assortment of tools, but they are plenty useful in the right situations. It also has some unique tools not often seen in other toolbox apps, including a Morse code converter, a text-to-speech tool, and even a dog whistle.

The app also has a few fun tools that are more for curiosity than anything else, such as the age calculator and cryptography tool. But there are also plenty of useful, practical utilities such as a flashlight, bubble level, and audio recorder.

Download: Smart Tools (Free, premium version available)

9. Tool Box by Maxcom

The Tool Box app by Maxcom is a lightweight and simple collection of useful tools. The app includes features such as a leveler, decibel meter, magnifier, barcode reader, and protractor.

If you want an all-in-one toolbox app that isn’t too crowded, Tool Box is a good choice. Its tools are quite basic, but this means the app takes up less storage space on your phone.

Download: Tool Box Free (Free) | Tool Box ($2)

10. Smart Kit 360

Smart Kit has an appealing look that makes it feel modern and sleek. But it’s more than just a pretty face. It has one of the most extensive collections of varied tools of the toolbox apps available for Android.

It includes traditional tool replacements, such as a leveler and a compass. But it also has some modern tools, such as a heart rate monitor (if your phone’s camera is compatible) and phone storage and management tools. Some unique tools you don’t often see in similar apps are the lux meter and vibrometer.

Download: Smart Kit (Free)

Your Smartphone Can Pack Many Useful Tools

These utility and measurement tool apps for Android can definitely come in handy in real-life situations, especially on older devices. But there are also tools you can use to improve your entire Android experience.

See our list of useful apps that will change the way you use Android to find out how to tweak and improve the operating system’s features.

Read the full article: The 10 Best Free Toolbox Apps for Android

10 Oct 19:56

A look at the battle between Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook for dominance in the home, and their respective strategies, strengths, and weaknesses (Ben Thompson/Stratechery)

Ben Thompson / Stratechery:
A look at the battle between Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook for dominance in the home, and their respective strategies, strengths, and weaknesses  —  If the first stage of competition in consumer technology was the race to be the computer users went to (won by Microsoft and the PC) …

10 Oct 16:25

The 21-year-old who built a robot lawyer to fight parking tickets has a new tool to help you automatically sue companies who get hacked (FB, TWTR)

by Rob Price

joshua browder

  • Automated legal tool DoNotPay is trying to help people lock down their online privacy settings and sue companies that get hacked.
  • Created by 21-year-old entrepreneur Joshua Browder, DoNotPay started out by helping users challenge parking tickets.
  • It has since expanded into more than a thousand new areas, from getting flight discounts to assisting with landlord disputes.

First Joshua Browder went after parking tickets, building a bot that helped hundreds of thousands of users challenge their fines.

Then, the 21-year-old student broadened his focus, expanding into everything from landlord disputes to chasing compensation for lost luggage on flights.

In 2018, Browder  took aim at Equifax after a data breach exposed the personal data the firm held on tens of millions of Americans, and his app DoNotPay was used to help file 25,000 lawsuits against the company.

The British entrepreneur is now expanding into privacy and data security. On Wednesday, he announced that DoNotPay will now help users easily lock the privacy settings on their social media accounts — and help sue those companies that expose users' data through hacks and breaches.

"My data was hacked and sold by Cambridge Analytica," he told Business Insider in an email, referring to this year's Facebook security scandal. "At the time, it seemed like data breaches were uncommon. However, in the past year, it has become the most requested feature to add to DoNotPay.

"The mistakes companies like Equifax are making, such as not encrypting data, are mistakes a high school Computer Science student would avoid. I want to punish these companies for their incompetence and protect people from having their data sold."

So how does DoNotPay work?

DoNotPay is a tool that provides automated, free legal assistance. The user writes in what they need help with, and they're then asked relevant questions before being given appropriate documentation or guidance on how to tackle their problem — from flight refunds to maternity leave requests — sidestepping the need for traditional (and costly) legal guidance.

There's two strands to Wednesday's update. The first is focused on privacy, and helps users lock down their accounts from prying eyes. It automatically makes a series of what Browder calls "no brainer" changes to users' settings on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — like disabling personalized Twitter ads, deleting your call and text history from Facebook, and stopping other accounts seeing when you're online on Instagram.

Google will also be added soon "in light of the recent issues," Browder said, referring to this week's disclosure of a security lapse in the Google+ social network.

The second part is all about hitting back at services that have been hacked, exposing users' data. Using HaveIBeenPwned, a service that lets users know if apps and platforms they use have been hacked, DoNotPay will tell users if they've been compromised — then help the affected user sue the company in question, if they desire.

"By providing these services, anyone who can follow simple instructions can now get justice and protect their data," Browder said. "It seems like the only people who are benefitting from data breaches are a handful of lawyers. I hope to replace them all and bankrupt any company that is careless with user data."

Originally from the UK, Browder was a student at Stanford University in California and now works full-time on DoNotPay. His startup has raised $1.1 million in funding from venture capital firms including Andreessen Horowitz.

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via Signal or WhatsApp at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at rprice@businessinsider.com, WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.) You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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10 Oct 16:24

The Scale of the Climate Catastrophe Will Depend on What Businesses Do Over the Next Decade

by Andrew Winston
Shana Novak/Getty Images

This week brought some sobering news on the near future of our planet and species. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued an important new report about how dire the consequences of climate change are becoming, and how fast we need to move to avoid the worst.

The report’s beginnings trace back to 2009, when the annual UN global climate conference resulted in an agreement that the world should hold warming to 2.0°C (3.8°F) — a level that seemed politically feasible, but still leads to vast damage, including the death of all coral; even more deadly storms and heat; and rising oceans covering low-lying island nations and major coastal areas. By the time of the Paris climate meeting in 2015, which resulted in the more robust global agreement now supported by every country in the world except the United States, it was clear that we needed to consider a more ambitious target, 1.5°C (2.7°F). The UN then asked the IPCC to study what it would take to achieve that goal.

This week, the report came back, and it’s not pretty. The scientists put out a helpful document with FAQs, but in short, the primary takeaways are these:

  • While the world has already warmed 1.0°C (1.8°F) since pre-industrial times, holding the world to 1.5°C (2.7°F) is still technically possible.
  • Keeping the world at 1.5 degrees will still result in devastation (e.g., 70-90% of coral dying), but is far better for us than 2 degrees (both in terms of overall well-being and economic impacts).
  • Getting to 1.5 degrees will require “rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems” and this transition will need to be “unprecedented in terms of scale…and imply deep emissions reductions in all sectors.”

We will need to cut CO2 emissions by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, the report says, and get to no emissions by 2050.

Keep in mind that this would need to happen as the world most likely adds a couple billion people, with a billion or more entering the middle class. We will need to produce a lot more stuff to feed, house, clothe, and entertain everyone, but with drastically lower emissions.

So, what should companies take away from this latest warning? What should they do?

First, companies must accelerate ongoing efforts to decarbonize their businesses. The list of actions companies take is well-developed and documented, and most large companies do the following:

  • Slash energy use and emissions in operations. This includes investing in more efficient lighting and HVAC systems; using new software and AI to make buildings and operations more efficient; improving fleet logistics and introducing greener vehicles; and reducing packaging and product weight.
  • Engage employees, through awards and incentives, to innovate, find operational savings, and develop products that cut customers’ emissions as well.
  • Embrace renewable energy. More than 150 big brands that have already committed to use 100% renewable energy in their electricity.
  • Set science-based carbon reduction targets for operations. Nearly 500 companies have signed on to set emission reductions in line with science.
  • Work with suppliers on systemic reductions across the value chain and set big goals for them as well.
  • Set internal prices on carbon to incentivize reductions, preferably imposing an internal tax that collects funds or using “shadow” prices to influence investment decision making.

These actions are becoming the norm because they’re just good business. But what this new report is saying, loud and clear, is that it’s not enough. With a few exceptions, most companies are only doing the things that pay off in traditional return-on-investment terms — for example, when solar and wind get cheap enough, they buy it. Really sticking to the latest science, however, requires an accelerating pace of carbon reduction.

So, let me suggest four somewhat uncomfortable actions that companies must take to truly shake things up and accelerate climate action.

Lobby for aggressive pro-climate policies at all levels of government. Today, most companies use their significant lobbying influence (on their own and through trade groups) to fight regulations and defang government. But that has to change in the face of this crisis. The first priority — which the IPCC makes clear — is to put a price on carbon. Companies must lobby for escalating prices on carbon everywhere.

In parallel, the way companies approach all regulation should shift. Consider the example of the U.S. auto industry. As soon as the 2016 election was over, an auto industry group asked the new administration to give them some more wiggle room on aggressive fuel efficiency standards established by the Obama administration. The current administration gave the auto companies way more than they wanted and froze the fuel efficiency levels. It puts companies in a weird position where they want to make improvements, but have no regulatory pressure that moves the whole sector upward.

But imagine if auto companies approached the issue not through a lens of “how do we structure regulations to help us?” but through a lens that recognizes an urgent global climate crisis. They could say to government, “We need much higher fleet efficiency to help the world hold warming to 1.5 degrees. But we’re having some trouble selling the mix of cars that would get us there (people are buying too many big vehicles). What policies can we put in place to make it much more attractive for buyers to get the EVs and smaller cars? Can the government help build the charging infrastructure? Provide aggressive tax breaks for EVs and good incentives for trading in older cars? Can we invest in public-private R&D to bring the cost of batteries down even faster? Could the government commit to buying EVs in all of its fleet? Or, even more radical, how can we work together to greatly increase the availability of all public mobility and transport?”

But even if companies come to the table with an outside-in, climate-change-first approach to their policy goals, a conversation requires two sides. So, to go even further, companies need to also consider who they support for political office. Candidates that don’t advocate for action on climate are not allies, no matter what other issues they support.

Publicly and loudly support truth, science, and scientists. In the era of claims of “fake news,” and attacks on science, companies must help support a key pillar of a working democracy and economy. Most companies let it be known clearly that racism or sexism is unacceptable — why not send a similar message to employees and suppliers about anti-science behavior? They could also support efforts like Let Science Speak and call out government or any institutions that reduce the role of science in policy and decision-making.

Use all available platforms to engage consumers. Within companies, the level of internal conversation about sustainability and climate change is rising. But how many big brands use their advertising, social media, or their packaging to talk directly to consumers about climate change? Besides a few messages around Earth Day, not many. It’s time to break some taboos on what mainstream companies can talk about; they can and should encourage consumers to make better day-to-day choices that reduce their footprint.

Rethink investment decisions and heavily bias them toward carbon reduction. This could mean different things depending on the business, but we have to release ourselves from the arbitrary two-year hurdle rates and capital return ratios that hamstring more aggressive action. Solar and wind power are becoming easy investments, but there are always new efficiency techs that may not be “in the money” yet, like on-site power storage. And what if companies and governments retired some energy-hogging assets before their asset life was up?

In the end, governments and companies have a basic choice: One, move very quickly with large-scale investment in deep transitions across all sectors of the economy, investing trillions to reduce energy costs, improve health, and avoid many other risks. Or two, ignore these warnings and decarbonize the economy at the pace of change that simple-ROI economics allow, not retiring any existing assets early, and transitioning technologies at the pace they would naturally shift under normal market conditions.

Pathway two is what we’re doing now, and it sounds so tranquil and market-based. But it has one heck of kicker: that path will require spending some indeterminate future amount, and soon, on greater levels of adaptation, on resettling people away from coasts, on reduced health, and on managing extreme weather impacts on our communities and supply chains. Pathway two also likely takes us beyond the 2.0°C mark, leading to the non-trivial chance that the world will become uninhabitable by humans.

None of this is easy, but the IPCC report shows we’re truly out of time now. We’re not talking about theoretical models on a computer, but larger versions of the weather horrors we’re already seeing around the world. Business can take the lead here. It has the tools, resources, and the responsibility to help make this rapid transition happen. The improvement in long-run economics and human well-being is more than worth the effort.

10 Oct 16:24

Who Is Your Ideal Customer? Follow These 5 Steps To Find Out

by Betsy Kent

Image_of_man_and_faces, who is your ideal customer

Do you own a mature business? Or, are you just getting started? If you want to grow it’s crucial that you’re totally clear about who is your ideal customer.

Who’s your ideal customer? An individual who immediately sees value in what you offer and is willing and able to pay you for it. It’s that simple.

Here’s another reason why you should nail down the identity of your ideal customer: people tend to hang out with people who have similar interests and lifestyles. When your happy customers tell their friends or colleagues about you, it’s like you have a free sales force out there working for you.

The more you serve your most ideal customers, the more referrals you’ll receive.

But figuring out who your ideal customer really is can be mystifying.

I’m an expert on ideal customer identification, and my entire business is built around helping businesses with this often frustrating exercise. If you haven’t gone through the process, or if you’re ready to re-define your ideal customer, the 5 steps below will help.

[The following is a quick and dirty version of the deep dive exercises I conduct with my private clients.]

Who Is Your Ideal Customer? Start here:

1. Scan your customer list and choose one customer you would love to clone. Tip: This person happily paid your full fee, was thrilled with what she gained from your product or service, and sent you referrals afterward.

2. List every characteristic that you can think of which describes this customer—demographics, lifestyle, and psychographics. Tip: What did he or she want more than anything in the world when it comes to what you offer?

3. Write down how that customer found you. Was it from a referral? Through your website? At a networking event? Tip: Whatever it was, do more of it!

4. Make a list of what you offer and why your company is the perfect choice for this customer. List as many as features and benefits you can think of. The list will help you create your value proposition. Your value proposition answers the question, “If I’m your ideal customer, why should I buy from you instead of one of your competitors?” Tip: Interview your ideal customer.

5. Print out a photograph of your ideal customer and pin it up where you can see it while you’re working at your computer. Tip: Make believe that you’re having a conversation with that person whenever you create marketing such as blog posts, website content, and emails.

Just Launching? Here’s what you can do to find your ideal customer:

If you’re launching a new business, I’ll bet you have a pretty good idea about the identity of your ideal customer. In fact, your ideal customer may be you! Many successful companies were launched because some enterprising person identified a need that wasn’t being met for him or her.

Go through the same process as above but pretend you’re Dr. Frankenstein! Create a prototype of the person who will see immense value in what you offer and will be willing and able to pay you for it. Do your best to be precise.

Listen, folks, I know this for a fact. Being totally clear about who is your ideal customer has a long-term positive impact on every aspect of your business. It’s the secret sauce to create websites that connect, blogs that are found, engaging social media posts, and a brilliant elevator speech.

The five steps above will get you started. When you’re ready to really dig in, reach out to me!

10 Oct 16:23

4 Cross-Functional Teams Best Practices You Need to Implement

by Rick Lepsinger

As organizations take on challenges that require increasingly innovative and agile solutions, the value of cross-functional teams is becoming more evident than ever. Bringing together the resources and skills from employees across different departments and functions, these teams are capable of delivering better and faster results if they are well-organized and managed effectively. Through teamwork and collaboration, they can become an invaluable asset to an organization.

Cross-functional teams also present some unique challenges. Their structure and how they function often differs significantly from what people are accustomed to, so careful consideration must be given both to how they are formed and how they are managed. Many of these teams also need to have access to practical tools to be successful. Here are a few best practices that can enable cross-functional teams to perform more productively.

1: Promote Frequent Communication

It’s difficult to overstate how vital good communication is to the success of cross-functional work teams. Whether the team is colocated or virtual, establishing and maintaining clear communication guidelines ensures that everyone will always have the information they need to do their respective jobs. This allows team members to focus on their responsibilities with minimal distractions, confusion, and contradictions. Good communication fosters better collaboration, helping teams come together to solve problems, manage conflict effectively, and make decisions faster. Regardless of their structure, most teams benefit greatly from information sharing.

Expectations and standards for how the team communicates need to be clearly defined from the beginning, with special emphasis placed on transparency, honesty, and collaboration. Since many team members will be coming from different departments and may be accustomed to different expectations in terms of communication, it’s important to clarify how the team will share information and express opinions. Team members should also be aware of who needs to informed about specific issues, as well as when and how to contact them. Employees who tend to work more independently may also need some guidelines for how to work in an environment that promotes teamwork and collaboration. Regular meetings, dedicated software channels, and frequent status updates can all help team members feel like they’re up to speed on the team’s current status and ongoing goals. Good communication can also improve cross-departmental collaboration in general.

2: Establish and Maintain Processes

The members of cross-functional work teams often come from different departments or functions and may not share the same approach to achieving goals. In some cases, they may be accustomed to a different workflow, use different formats and templates to collect and report data, or use different software to communicate and track progress. They may also use different metrics to measure success, causing them to focus on areas that other team members don’t feel are very important to the team’s goals. And they may not be used to a decision-making process in which no one has clear authority to make those decisions.

By standardizing work processes and clarifying roles to support teamwork and collaboration, team members can ensure consistency and continuity across functions and departments, which will ultimately improve workflow and enhance performance. Establishing who has decision-making authority in the event of disagreements is also important because it helps resolve potential conflict and keep the team focused on its goals.

Having a process in place that clearly outlines how the team works also makes cross-functional work teams scalable across an organization. In some cases, this may require service level agreements between departments that increase the likelihood of cross-departmental collaboration.

3: Organize Regular Team Building Activities

Cross-functional team best practices show that teams are far more effective when there is trust and accountability between team members. When teams lack these qualities, people become less engaged, deflect responsibility, and even exhibit negative behaviors that further undermine productivity. Since cross-functional teams are made up of people from different departments, they may lack an inherent sense of trust that an internal team drawn from the same department of function may possess.

While trust is best built over time as team members demonstrate credibility, reliability, and empathy throughout the course of their work, team building activities that give them a chance to get to know each other can accelerate this process. Frequent face to face meetings, celebrating wins, and even engaging in fun activities that are not specifically work related are just a few examples of easily implemented team-building strategies. Learning about the people they are working with helps team members cultivate a climate in which they can trust and confide in each other without the fear of judgement. This makes them more likely to engage in productive collaboration and propose innovative solutions to difficult challenges facing the team, making team building one of the key best practices for all forms of teams.

4: Measure Performance From Multiple Angles

While it’s good to consider ways to bring team members closer together and encourage better collaboration, at some point, cross-functional work teams still have to deliver results. Every team should put a clear set of goals in place when they are formed to ensure that everyone understands what the team is trying to accomplish and what their individual roles are in making progress toward those goals. Highlighting Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that directly relate to those goals makes it possible to determine how well the team is performing and to hold team members accountable for the results.

Employee surveys and other feedback tools can also shed some light on the team’s performance. The results of this review often identify problem areas that affect productivity and hinder effective collaboration. By exposing these impediments and deficiencies quickly, organizations can implement changes to get the team back on track. When administered regularly, these practical feedback tools can help teams determine whether or not problems represent long term, structural failings or represent more fleeting issues that can be easily remedied with a few simple changes.

Outside evaluations are also an important way of measuring performance. If independent stakeholders such as customers and clients are displeased with the team’s results, this external feedback can be used to identify which processes and behaviors need to be adjusted in order to improve the team’s performance. Functional communication training and onboarding programs may be needed if the team is consistently failing to meet expectations.

Building effective cross-functional work teams can be a serious challenge for an organization, but it doesn’t have to be an impossible one. By taking a few easily implemented practices to heart, they can give team members the tools and support they need to achieve the goals set out before them. Developing a consistent approach to cross-functional teams and incorporating key best practices also makes it easier to organize them whenever they are needed.

10 Oct 16:23

Sales Coaching for the Digital Age

by Stefan Funk

Maintaining a position of preeminence in the highly competitive IT industry requires leaders to adapt to changes in the business landscape more rapidly than the competition. Continued success also relies on innovative sales enablement techniques that boost performance, help meet customer needs and achieve bottom line results.

While many corporate sales enablement functions are already leveraging state-of-the-art enablement mechanisms, like online and virtual trainings, chat bots etc., most are still missing an important ingredient: coaching. An analysis published by the Harvard Business Review revealed in 2011 that, coaching “can improve performance up to 19%…even moderate improvement in coaching quality—simply from below to above average—can mean a six to eight percent increase in performance across 50% of your sales force”.

By marrying sales coaching techniques with data analytics and insights, an even higher sales performance improvement can be realized.

So how can you drive sales performance improvement through Big Data and Coaching? Here’s a three-step winning formula:

Step 1: Start with the Why

Before you start, do a careful analysis of your sales executives’ current performance. Then, set target outcomes (in terms of quota achievement, time to revenue etc.) so that you’ll understand what success looks.

Here is how to get started:

  1. Interview your Sales Leadership: Interview sales leadership to discuss options for boosting quota attainment rates and, subsequently, revenue for the organization. Identify the KPIs and skills (such as forecasting, pipeline management, territory planning) that, if improved upon, would help reach your quota and revenue targets. Spend some time interviewing top performing sales reps to identify what they were doing differently as well as the characteristics of winning deals.
  1. Interview your Sales Reps: This part of your analysis is focused on surveys and interviews with members of your target audience (sales reps) to better understand a typical day / week in the life of a sales rep as well as their desire for / perceived value of coaching.

Step 2: Uncover the What

Ideally, your Business Performance Needs analysis you will uncover a variety of KPI areas that need improvement: Below are several that we believe merit consideration:

  • Number of Deals Won
  • Number of (new) Accounts won
  • Total number of Products pitched
  • Number of Opportunities created
  • Value of Pipeline Opportunities created
  • Time to close a deal (Deal Close Time)

Identifying and agreeing on a set of KPI areas is crucial to ultimately measuring the success of your coaching program.

In order to successfully implement a sales coaching program, you’ll need to either 1) identify employees trained in coaching, 2) provide training to upskill employees in coaching, or use 3rd party certified coaches. At SAP, we were able to leverage a large number, approximately 600, of trained and certified coaches with our organization.

Coaches can come from different parts of the organization and do not necessarily need a background in sales. We have had success with coaches from Human Resources, Marketing and even from technical areas. Remember the “expertise” of the coach is in coaching, not necessarily in sales or the product line of the coachee. Prioritize employees with training and interest in coaching over those with domain expertise.

When assigning coaches to sales executives, avoid direct reporting, or even same team, relationships. Using sales coaches who are not direct managers ensures that coaching conversations are strictly coaching sessions (as opposed to check-ins or status updates). This approach also allows for more open discussions than that possible when speaking to one’s manager or even teammate.

Step 3: The How (Implement)

With your needs identified, let’s talk about program delivery. By using Big Data and personalization, you can ensure that coaching sessions are guided by facts and not intuition. Combine sales data with analysis and marry the resulting insights and recommendations with one-to-one coaching sessions. We did this by providing regular reports with the relevant KPIs measuring sales executive performance and behavior to both the coachee (sales executive) and coach.

The reports compare the coachee’s KPIs against those of the top-performing salesperson in the coachee’s line of business and region. A coachee responsible for selling HCM software in North America, for instance, would be compared against the top-performing salesperson selling HCM software in North America.

We have found KPIs such as deal close rates, revenue per salesperson, number of products per deal and overall number of products sold in a year to be useful. We also look at KPIs that indicate risks and probabilities of individual deals closing.

On a regular basis, coaches and coachees receive updated data reports, which help them identify how their performance across relevant KPIs compared the top performers. This allows for a basis for possible topics and goals for each coaching session. For example, a coachee with a low pipeline may believe they need to learn how to close more deals, but the report may show that their deals have significantly fewer products than the top performing salesperson in their region.

The data and insights in the reports, which come from CRM and HCM systems, should help the sales executives and coach decide how best to spend their session. However, while the data can guide, the actual topic and goal of a coaching session should still be driven by the sales executive seeking coaching.

Key Takeaways to Implement Your Sales Coaching Program

  • Use data analytics to help guide coaching sessions. Within your program, produce reports that generate data from your organization’s CRM and HCM, which help coachees select topics to be coached on. Remember though, the sales executive (coachee) should ultimately decide what he or she would like to be coached on.
  • Allow employees outside a coachee’s line of reporting to serve as coach. Any employee who has taken a coaching training could coach others. By not pairing coachees with their managers, it prevents coaching sessions from going off topic into areas managers may typically discuss with their employees, such as ongoing projects or responsibilities.
  • Don’t be afraid to pair up coaches and coachees in different locations. Coaches do not need to be in the same location as their coachee to hold effective coaching sessions. Coaches in different countries or time zones can have sessions over the phone with great success.

The post Sales Coaching for the Digital Age appeared first on OpenView Labs.

10 Oct 16:23

How the Sales Negotiation Skills You Were Taught Are Tanking Your Sales

by deb.calvert@peoplefirstps.com (Deb Calvert)

It’s the dreaded price question, and this is only your first meeting … the buyer is asking for price information before the needs assessment, before the solution has been crafted, and before value has been established.

So, what’s a seller to do? Use these sales negotiation skills ... if you want to torpedo your chances of success.

10 Oct 16:19

The 25 Best PayPal Alternatives of 2018

by Meg Prater

In the second half of 2018, PayPal had 244 million active accounts worldwide. The platform facilitates payments for more than 17 million businesses and offers a fairly transparent fee structure. But what happens if you want to explore alternatives to PayPal?

You might be in this situation if you want:

  • Seller protection for digital goods
  • Lower fees for chargebacks
  • Faster turnaround for withdrawn PayPal funds (PayPal can take up to four business days to show up in your account)
  • A more hands-on customer success team

Luckily, I’ve got the top PayPal alternatives listed below. From Bitcoin-friendly to global-ready -- find a solution that works for you, your business, and your customers.

Best PayPal Alternatives

  1. Google Pay
  2. WePay
  3. 2CheckOut
  4. Authorize.Net
  5. Skrill
  6. Intuit
  7. ProPay
  8. Dwolla
  9. Braintree
  10. Stripe
  11. Payoneer
  12. Amazon Pay
  13. TransferWise
  14. Venmo
  15. Square
  16. Payline
  17. Payza
  18. Shopify Payments
  19. Worldpay
  20. Wirecard
  21. BlueSnap
  22. Merchant Inc.
  23. Viewpost
  24. FastSpring
  25. Avangate

1. Google Pay

Your customers can pay in app, in store, or on your website. Google Pay allows businesses to enable shopping across all devices reducing the frequency of forgotten passwords and missed conversions. You can also deliver custom mobile offers and recommendations to your customers, share loyalty and gift cards, and reduce the need for ticketing.

2. WePay

WePay offers integrated payments for platforms. It’s built to enable instant onboarding and processing “with the scale of JPMorgan Chase.” Specializing in unique online, POS, and omnichannel software platforms, WePay enables businesses to embed transaction and payout capability with a single integration.

3. 2CheckOut

Looking for a global option? Consider 2CheckOut, which offers eight payment types, 15 languages, and 87 currency options in more than 200 global markets. They provide a mobile-friendly experience with branding customized to your business.

Plus, you’ll enjoy 300 fraud rules per transaction, higher PCI compliance, and easy integration with more than 100 online carts and extensive documentation.

4. Authorize.Net

Accept electronic and credit card payments in person, online, or over the phone with this payment gateway service. Working with small businesses since 1996, Authorize.Net has more than 43,000 merchants, handles more than one billion transactions, and facilitates $149 billion in payments every year.

It’s a subsidiary of Visa and sold through resellers including Independent Sales Organizations, Merchant Service Providers, and financial institutions. You’ll receive free, 24/7 support and an award-winning API integration.

They also integrate easily with PayPal, Apple Pay, and Visa Checkout allowing you to accept customer payments worldwide -- as long as your business is based in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, or Australia.

  • Implementation: Developer documentation
  • Pricing: All-in-One Option, no setup fee, free monthly gateway, 2.9% + .30 cents per transaction; Payment Gateway Only, no setup fee, monthly gateway $10, .10 cents + a daily batch fee of .10 cents; Enterprise Solution, tailored pricing, data migration assistance, interchange plus options

5. Skrill

Skrill allows you to send and receive money, store cards, link bank accounts, and make payments with just your email address and password. Skrill “wallet holders” also only pay fees of 1.45%, so you get to keep more of the money from every transaction. Whether you’re using Skrill for business or personal use, you’ll receive access to global support in more than 30 countries.

6. Intuit

QuickBooks Payments promises you’ll get paid twice as fast if you use their service. They allow you to take mobile card payments, send invoices online, and set up recurring billing. You’ll get real-time alerts when customers view or pay invoices -- and payment reminders are all automated. And all that invoice data entry? It appears in QuickBooks in real-time without needing any adjustments from you.

  • Pricing: Pay as you go, $0/month; Bank transfers (ACH), free; Card - Swiped, 2.4% + .25 cents per transaction; Card - Invoiced, 2.9% + .25 cents; Card - Keyed, 3.4% + .25 cents
  • QuickBooks Payments for Web Stores: Pay as you go, $0/month; Pay monthly, $20/month; Swiped qualified rate, 2.4% pay as you go or 1.6% monthly; Keyed qualified rate, 3.5% or 3.3%; Transaction fee, .30 cents for pay as you go and monthly

7. ProPay

ProPay offers payment solutions for small businesses, enterprise businesses, and a variety of industries, including direct selling, auto dealers, and legal. They facilitate credit card payment and payment processing and offer global disbursement and commission payment options.

ProPay also offers payment solutions for SaaS platforms, marketplaces, and software providers through pay-by-text or “one-click,” email payments.

8. Dwolla

Dwolla prides itself on being developer-friendly and easily integrated with your application. They have a white-label API, which means your customers always interact with the interface they trust -- yours. Customer identity is verified without third-party site involvement and it’s easy to add bank accounts.

Dwolla will also automate your payments and send up to 5,000 payments with a single API request. And they boast a 99.9% uptime, sophisticated security, predictable pricing, and a hands-on customer success team.

  • Implementation: Developer documentation
  • Pricing: Start plan, coming early 2019; Scale plan, starting at $2,000/month; Enterprise plan, pricing available upon request

9. Braintree

Braintree is actually a PayPal service. Braintree Direct, Braintree Marketplace, Braintree Auth, and Braintree Extend offer payment solutions customized to the unique needs of your business.

They make it easy to accept online and mobile payments in more than 130 currencies and more than 45 countries. And adding Hosted Fields to their Drop-in UI means your users will enjoy a seamless checkout experience.

10. Stripe

Running an internet business? Stripe could be right for you. They’re a “developers first” company that believes “payments is a problem rooted in code, not finance.” With their easy API, you can have Stripe up and running in just a couple of minutes.

  • Implementation: Developer documentation
  • Pricing: Pay as you go, 2.9% + .30 cents/successful card charge, + 1% on international cards; 0.8% and a $5 cap on ACH debits; Custom pricing available upon request

11. Payoneer

Whether business owner, freelancer, or professional, Payoneer can help you get paid quickly, securely, and at low cost by international clients. They specialize in diverse markets and industries, so it doesn’t matter whether your company is focused on e-commerce, online advertising, or vacation rentals.

Payoneer has 4 million users in more than 200 countries and can handle your business with ease. Simply sign up for Payoneer, begin receiving online payments to your Payoneer account, and withdraw funds from your local bank or ATMs worldwide.

  • Implementation: Developer documentation
  • Pricing: Payments from other Payoneer customers, free; Receiving accounts using Payoneer’s Global Payment Service, free; Payments directly from your customers, 3% on credit cards in all currencies and 1% on eChecks; Payments via other marketplaces and networks, pricing varies

12. Amazon Pay

Amazon has portals for merchants, shoppers, and charities. Your customers will find it easy to use because they’ll log in using their Amazon account information and check out using the same Amazon process they already trust.

Plus, you get the extra security of Amazon’s fraud protection at no additional cost. All transactions are completed on your site and Amazon Pay integrates with your existing CRM. It’s also available across devices, so you can manage payments on the go.

  • Implementation: Developer documentation
  • Pricing: 2.9% + .30 cents/domestic U.S. transaction, 3.9% for cross-border processing fee, and $20 for disputed charges

13. TransferWise

TransferWise bills itself as “a cheaper way to send money internationally.” Send and receive money with a TransferWise borderless account, join the waitlist for a TransferWise debit card, run payroll or batch payments, get paid as a freelancer, and even explore the payouts API.

They also claim to have the fairest exchange rate, banish hidden fees, and complete 90% of transfers from the U.K. to Europe in one business day. If you conduct a high volume of international transactions, TransferWise is worth checking out.

14. Venmo

You’ve probably used Venmo to pay a friend back for pizza or concert tickets -- but did you know Venmo works for business transactions as well? Add the platform to your mobile website or app and use Venmo’s social benefits as bonus marketing for your business.

You’ll need to integrate with either Braintree or PayPal Checkout to add Venmo as a payment option, but if the social aspect of payments intrigues you, Venmo is worth a look.

15. Square

Select your business size and type and you’re signed up for Square. They work best for retail and in-person transactions and offer two main plans. Square Point of Sales allows you to accept cards, cash, check, and even gift cards, print or digitally send receipts, process invoices and recurring payments, and enjoy real-time inventory management.

A big bonus here? You can also swipe cards without a connection, so you never have to worry about losing business from outages again.

Square for Retail allows you to sell faster with search-based point of sale, track, adjust, and transfer inventory, manager your vendors, and create customer profiles with every sale. You can also create cost of goods sold reports, send purchase orders, and set up employee time cards and permissions.

16. Payline

Payline offers products that fit your business -- whether you’re in-store, mobile, or online. Payline has a variety of partnership options which allow you to customize your plan.

17. Payza

Looking for a payment platform that supports Bitcoin? Look no further. Payza allows you to send money instantly from anywhere and process payments on your e-commerce website. It supports credit cards, bank accounts, and Bitcoin -- to name a few -- in over 25 currencies worldwide.

Add payment buttons to your website, centralize your product management, use their shopping cart integration, and handle corporate disbursements with one simple click.

18. Shopify Payments

Accept credit cards directly with Shopify -- no third-party required. Track your balance and payment schedule from a convenient store dashboard and get email alerts when new funds arrive in your bank account. Shopify POS makes it possible to accept credit cards -- whether you’re on the go or in a retail store -- all while taking advantage of rates as low as 2.4% + .0 cents.

Shopify also facilitates Pinterest Buyable Pins, Facebook shops, Facebook Messenger, Amazon, eBay, and Enterprise-level accounts.

  • Pricing: Basic Shopify, $29/month, online credit card rates of 2.9% + .30 cents, in-person credit card fees of 2.7% + .0 cents, and 2% additional fees for non-Shopify payment providers; Shopify, $79/month, online credit card rates of 2.9% + .30 cents, in-person credit card fees of 2.5% + .0 cents, and 1% additional fees for non-Shopify payment providers; Advanced Shopify, $299/month, online credit card rates of 2.4% + .30 cents, in-person credit card fees of 2.4% + .0 cents, and 0.5% additional fees for non-Shopify payment providers

19. Worldpay

Terminal, point-of-sale, or online -- your payment method doesn’t matter to Worldpay. Worldpay facilitates EMV chip card payments and offers alternative payment options in card-not-present situations. Their motto is “Turn your online payments into a strategic advantage” and they do that with a specific focus on helping you grow your business through strategic payment processes.

20. Wirecard

Wirecard is another great option if you’re a globally focused business. They’re connected to more than 200 international payment networks and work with over 100 transaction currencies. In-store payment, mobile payment, risk management, issuing, value-added services, and integration are just a few of the services they offer. If you need a multi-channel payment gateway, Wirecard might be the one for you.

21. BlueSnap

Get a payment gateway solution, merchant account, and a suite of other features to help you grow your business. Intelligent payment routing offers optimized conversions, payment analytics, chargeback management, and risk management along with the ability to process more than 100 global payments.

BlueSnap also integrates with the platforms you already use, including your shopping cart, ERP, and CRM systems to make implementation a breeze.

  • Implementation: Developer documentation
  • Pricing: No monthly maintenance fee during your first year -- after the first year the monthly fee is waived if your transaction volume is greater than $2,500/month; Visa/Mastercard debit, $2% + .30 cents; Visa/Mastercard credit, 2.70% + .30 cents; Visa/Mastercard Corporate/Discover/Diners, 2.90% + .30 cents; American Express and non-U.S. transactions, 3.70% + .30 cents; Custom pricing available upon request

22. Merchant Inc.

Merchant Inc. differs from PayPal in several ways. First, funds are deposited directly in your account giving you full federal protection. You have the ability to fight disputes directly -- as long as they’re within the grace period. Application and setup fees are included at no cost, and credit and debit cards are accepted directly on your website (without consumers needing a PayPal account).

You’ll also receive payments in as few as two days. PayPal can take up to 21 days to make funds available, and you still need to transfer those funds to your bank account. Finally, Merchant’s Advanced Fraud Detection Suite allows you to customize filters and control how suspicious or fraudulent transactions are handled.

  • Pricing: Retail discount debit rate (swipe), as low as .35%; Qualified discount rates (internet/mail/phone), 1.99%; Transaction fees, .25 cents/transaction

23. Viewpost

Send and track professional, customized invoices, and access early payment discounts for greater control over working capital. Plus, save time with a full-featured billing and payment solution that works whether you’re a freelancer or enterprise company.

24. FastSpring

This “end-to-end” ecommerce platform specializes in companies selling software, content, or apps online. They enable global subscriptions and payments for digital companies (across web, mobile, and in-app) and integrate with the digital products you need to grow your business.

They offer omnichannel distribution enablement, a personalized ecommerce shopping experience, popup checkout for customers, and subscriptions and recurring billing. They also facilitate global payments with localized experience and offer tax management help.

25. Avangate

Avangate is an all-in-one monetization platform helping global businesses grow digital commerce revenue streams. You’ll get global payment options, integration with your CRM, and real-time customer reports.

Avangate also allows you to automate affiliate onboarding and administrative tasks, including payment. Avangate allows you to sell in over 100 countries using one payment gateway and facilitates instant PCI compliance. With their API, you can also embed commerce into almost any customer touchpoint you wish.

  • Implementation: Developer documentation
  • Pricing: Growth Edition, 3.99% + .99 cents limited to 15K/month; Standard Edition, 4.9% + $2.50 or 8% and $2.50 minimum; Enterprise Edition, pricing available upon request

Entrepreneurship and business ownership isn’t easy, but these PayPal alternatives make it easier for you to manage the revenue coming in and out of your company, so you can get back to running it.

HubSpot Free Sales Training

10 Oct 16:19

3 Ways to Give Your Readers a Fresh Take on a Well-Worn Idea

by Ali Luke

The post 3 Ways to Give Your Readers a Fresh Take on a Well-Worn Idea appeared first on ProBlogger.

Give your readers a fresh take on a well-worn idea

Today’s post is by ProBlogger writing expert Ali Luke

Whatever topic you write about, you’ve probably seen a lot of ideas that have already been done to death.

If you’re in the weight loss niche, you might have seen a dozen posts on “How to beat the weight loss plateau”. If you’re in the freelancing niche, you’ve probably come across quite a lot of advice on “Should you charge per project or per hour?”. And if you blog about pregnancy and babies, you’ve probably read post after post about “Why breastmilk is better than formula”.

The problem is, you may also want to cover these well-worn ideas. Perhaps your readers have asked for a post on that particular topic, or maybe you want to make sure your beginner-friendly blog covers all the basics.

Of course, this is where I reassure you that your post will be different because you’ll be bringing your unique voice and perspective to it. (After all, that’s the advice I read time and time again when I started blogging.)

But while that’s true to a degree, I’ve read a lot of posts over the years across various niches that all seemed a bit too derivative.

Without a strategy in mind, it’s all too easy to write a post that just summarises other posts you’ve read on the topic. It ends up bland and boring, or skates over a topic without really giving any new insights.

So how can you offer something more for your readers? Well, I’m going to cover three options in this post, although I’m sure there are plenty more. You could:

  1. Use an analogy to make your post more engaging
  2. Acknowledge the other posts out there and subvert them
  3. Go much deeper into a particular topic than most people do

(If you’ve got other ideas for adding value to a well-worn idea, please share them with us in the comments.)

Method #1: Use an Analogy to Make Your Post More Engaging

If your topic is quite basic, or even slightly boring, an analogy can make it far more engaging. It will be not only more fun to read, but also thought-provoking for your reader. It can also be a lot of fun to write.

To create an analogy, pick something from outside your niche that you could compare with your topic. For instance, you might write about “How writing my PhD thesis taught me how to break my weight loss plateau” or “What McDonald’s can teach you about pricing per hour vs per project”.

Analogies can come from almost anywhere: other areas of your life and experience, or movies / TV shows / books you love.

Examples:

7 Unconventional Birth and Business Lessons from a New Mom – Nathalie Lussier, NathalieLussier.com. This great post from the founder of AccessAlly shares some key business lessons as they relate them to giving birth.

What Classic Monsters Can Teach Writers About Monster Clients – Amanda Stein, Craft Your Content. While there are plenty of posts out there about dealing with difficult clients, this post (published just before Hallowe’en in 2017) offers insights in a fun way.

Method #2: Acknowledge the Other Posts Out There and Subvert Them

Sometimes it’s best to openly acknowledge there are lots of posts on your particular topic out there. You can then explain how your post will be different. Maybe you’ll be going against prevailing wisdom in your niche, or offering a very different take on something.

If your readers are fed up with bland, one-size-fits-all advice this can be a great tactic. Just make sure you can stand by your opinions. Don’t write a controversial post you don’t really agree with.

Examples:

13 Effortless Productivity Tips To Keep You Sane (And Profitable) – Naomi Dunford, IttyBiz. From the first line of this post, Naomi makes it very clear she won’t be giving the type of advice readers have often seen elsewhere: “Productivity tips are generally things that make me want to poke my eye out with a spoon”.

When Life Happens: A Totally Doable Morning Routine for Writers – Hailey Hudson, Craft Your Content. In this post, Hailey (who has a chronic fatigue illness) goes beyond the standard advice on how to adjust your morning routine “when life happens”.

Method #3: Go Much Deeper Into a Particular Topic Than Most People Do

Sometimes, tackling a familiar topic means digging into it much deeper than most people do. Instead of just explaining the basics, you could give an in-depth guide with the hows and whys, or drill deep into one aspect of the topic.

This can be a great tactic if you think a lot of the content in your niche is a bit surface-level. Your readers may know all the basics, but they may be having trouble implementing them, or want to know more than most bloggers are offering.

Examples:

100 Mostly Small But Expressive Interjections – Mark Nichol, Daily Writing Tips. While plenty of writing-related sites explain what interjections are and give examples, this is an impressively long and detailed list.

Your Ultimate First Chapter Checklist, Pt. 1: Hooking Readers – K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors. There are plenty of posts out there on “How to write a first chapter”. But K.M. takes it a big step further, creating a series of three posts that each tackle the process from a different angle.

If you’ve always wanted to write about an idea but haven’t yet because it’s been done to death by other writers, I hope I’ve given you some ideas on how you could give your readers a fresh take on it.

And if you’ve got your own tips on how to tackle a well-worn idea without boring your readers, share them with us in the comments.

Image credit: Cody Davis

The post 3 Ways to Give Your Readers a Fresh Take on a Well-Worn Idea appeared first on ProBlogger.

      
10 Oct 16:18

Identifying 4 Common Challenges for Building a Sales Team at a Startup

by Tracey Wik

This guest post was contributed by Tracey Wik, Managing Director, GrowthPlay.

Your startup has gone from just one or two founders working all hours of the day and night to a dozen or so employees. Now, you have a team. You’re excited to have landed the funding you needed to grow your vision and move into this next phase of growth.

Except growing now is difficult.

Today, your business is experiencing a host of new problems—people who shouldn’t be selling are spending too much time selling, you’re losing people, and you’re not meeting your numbers or growing as you thought you would (and maybe not as much as you promised your investors.)

As the founder or tech person in your business, you were likely the best salesperson your business has seen. Eventually, the market outpaces your capacity to sell and you need to hire salespeople, so you can lead your company. When your business was getting off the ground, you were (and still are) passionate about your product. Maybe it’s something you invented or created—either way; it was yours. Your passion project.

Truth: No one will ever sell your product with as much devotion as you.

But to grow your business, you can’t be both the salesperson and the CEO. You need to clone yourself. If only it were that easy. You can’t clone your fire and passion, but you can certainly hire the right kinds of people who will thrive in sales at a startup.

The good news is that this is okay. Let’s dig a little deeper to understand the challenges as a startup starts growing a sales team:

1. Selling is different in your company today

Before we look into this challenge, let’s first give some credit to the new salesperson trying to fill your shoes. When you first launched, you had the momentum of a new product or idea behind you, and probably enough caffeine grit to get out there. Today, your product or service is getting closer to maturity, its newness has faded, and a new salesperson has to recreate yourself in their image. That’s no easy task and if you expect them to step in your shoes and sell the same way you did, you could be in for disappointment.

2. You can’t organize your sales organization like the big players

Large businesses organize their sales roles by the type of activities a buyer would look    for based upon the market and buyer behavior. Startups must tailor a sales role to a smorgasbord of activities. Simply stated, a startup is not a smaller version of a large company. Startups don’t have the ability to create sales teams around discrete tasks until their revenue merits that kind of a sales structure. Until that time, the key is to create flexibility and responsive to customer needs.

3.The need to be all things in a startup

Because most employees working in a startup wear so many hats, it can be difficult for people to focus most of their time on where they naturally excel. This is why we so often see our people shine at one thing and settle into mediocrity in so many others. When looking at sales specifically, they need to be all things—farmers, hunters, and maybe even proposal writers too. With bigger companies, they have the ability to hire both inside and outside sales roles, and since you don’t have the luxury, you’ll hire and train people with a blend of skills.

4. Buyers will buy from you differently

When you were the one out in the field doing the selling, you trained your buyers to buy from you in a particular way, so when you start to hire salespeople, your buyers will need to relearn how to buy from your company. They will show up differently from you with a whole new set of processes.

Many startups don’t even realize these problems exist. These SMBs are busy doing their executive thing, digging into the numbers, and constantly walking away confused as to why they’re not seeing the growth they’d planned for.

Identifying these four challenges are a critical step in beginning to solve them. Most CEOs and CTOs of small startups don’t recognize it’s an issue at all. They’re continuing to hire the wrong people, not codifying the sales process enough to know what to do when, and not understanding the value of their product or service when they uncouple it from themselves.

To keep pace with the latest thinking in sales, subscribe today to the LinkedIn Sales Blog.

10 Oct 16:17

B2B Marketing Trends: Why You Should Be Skeptical

by David Crane

You should pay attention to the hottest B2B marketing trends of 2018, but not for the reasons you might expect. You should be wary of them.

We B2B marketers ruin everything. We jump on the bandwagon of new channels, tactics and tools, following the herd under the auspice of “marketing best practices.” Then, everyone is using the hottest new marketing “hack,” and it stops working due to over-saturation.

The biggest example of this is probably email lead nurturing (see Trend 2 below). Five years ago, nurturing prospective customers via email nurture tracks worked well. Now, B2B marketing orgs are investing heavily in sales and business development rep functions (SDRs and BDRs, respectfully) and chat tools as prospects ignore email outreach in greater numbers and conversion rates drop off.

To some degree, you can look at B2B marketing trends the same way you look at stocks. Buy low, sell high.

If a marketing tactic you’re currently using shows up in the trend list below, it doesn’t mean your organization shouldn’t employ it. Depending on your buyer persona profiles or account-based marketing targets, these channels could definitely work. However, until your organization has real test data, it’s wise to make any trending tactics part of a balanced demand generation strategy. The main point here is: don’t buy into any B2B marketing “cure-all.” Diversify your tactics and tools just like you’d diversity your investment portfolio.

B2B Marketing Trends in 2018: Where is the Herd Now?

To demonstrate the status of several B2B marketing trends, we’ve curated some graphs from Google Trends. These visualizations show both search volume and topic volume over time. To read the graphs, pay attention to the line. The smoother the line, the higher the volume and the more consistent the interest in the trend.

To uncover B2B marketing trends that are just beginning to rise, look for jagged lines with a general upward trend. (We’ll show you one at the end of this post.) This kind of line indicates a strategy that isn’t too saturated and may provide higher-than-expected ROI.

Trend 1: Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing hasn’t officially peaked yet, at least not according to the visualization from Google Trends, but it’s probably close. On the graph below, interest in influencer marketing between 2004 and present is displayed in blue:

b2b marketing trends influencer marketing

Over the past two-year period, there’s been a dramatic spike in interest surrounding this topic. This is likely boosted by recent studies which show influencer marketing can be a highly effective B2B marketing tactic when leveraged correctly – sometimes yielding 11 times the average ROI of display ads.

If you try to approach influencer marketing like everyone else, you’ll probably find this B2B marketing tactic is too saturated to yield really high returns. In contrast, if you approach influencer marketing from the angle of gradually building authentic relationships with key experts, it can greatly enhance your demand generation efforts.

Trend 2: The 2nd Wave of Email Marketing

Email marketing has experienced two distinct waves of popularity. The second wave peaked in 2017.

b2b marketing trends email marketing

B2B marketers should continue investing in email, but ensure they’re being wise about creating highly targeted email campaigns for every stage of the funnel. Using marketing automation platforms (MAP) to the fullest potential can facilitate behaviorally triggered email campaigns to connect the right prospects with the right email marketing message at the right time.

Within an omnichannel demand generation strategy, email marketing plays an important role. However, achieving remarkable returns on email requires marketers to create email marketing campaigns that are both well targeted (by funnel stage, buyer persona and prospect behavior) and complemented by other tactics and channels.

For example, successful ABM strategies require both emailing current known contacts in your database and also leveraging 3rd-party demand gen tactics to acquire net-net contacts at target accounts. Further, as I mentioned in the intro, email nurturing should be supplemented with BDR/SDR/MDR support.

Trend 3: The 2nd Wave of Social Media Marketing

The 2nd wave of social media marketing capped in 2016. LinkedIn marketing as a subset peaked a little before the second wave of social, in 2015.

b2b marketing trends social media marketing

Don’t quit doing social media for B2B, but be wise about how you invest your resources for social and which social features you’re using. B2B decision-makers still rely on LinkedIn and other networks as a tool for networking, consuming and sharing influencer content and sharing peer recommendations.

However, as specific tactics within social media marketing become saturated, you’ll want change up your use of various platforms. LinkedIn, for example, is continuously releasing new capabilities, so it’s a good idea to stay on top of these updates and try to leverage them before their value is decreases due to overuse.

B2B buyers want high-quality, relevant, data-backed content from sources they trust. Marketers who can use social media to distribute content to the right audiences can still experience returns on investment. Merely having a presence on social media isn’t a guarantee of marketing ROI. However, demand marketers who understand how to use social media for research, listening, lead generation and lead nurturing can achieve full-funnel returns.

Trend 4: The 2nd Wave of Podcasting

Podcasting underwent a dip in popularity after it hit the mainstream in 2004. Then, podcasting roared back with a surge in late 2014, which coincided with two major milestones in the history of podcasting. In October 2014, Ira Glass of This American Life explained how to download a podcast on Jimmy Fallon’s television show. The same month, the wildly popular investigative journalism podcast Serial was released.

b2b marketing trends podcasting

Podcasting hasn’t yet peaked. It’s a highly efficient medium with a lot of use cases. An audio file is much cheaper to produce than a video file, and podcasts can provide an opportunity to deep dive into niche topics. However, podcasting brands face the challenge of standing out with quality content and gaining traction through smart distribution tactics.

Given this recent surge in interest, one strategy to consider is promoting your team as guests on industry podcasts. Start there and consider the move to hosting your own podcast after you get some experience under your belt.

The main idea to keep in mind is that, as much as the B2B marketing world loves to single out individual marketing factors as the reason for success, effective marketing teams and strategies are typically those that intelligently incorporate a wide range of tactics and tools, and often test novel ideas before they become saturated and lose their impact.

How do your organization’s demand generation efforts stack up? Download the free “Demand Marketing Assessment Guide” and worksheets to assess your organizational maturity, technology stack and more.

10 Oct 16:17

Email Marketing Funnel: Matching Message to Buyer Journey

by VerticalResponse

What is an email funnel?

Great question. Like a marketing funnel, an email funnel is a method of attracting potential customers and converting them to established customers through email. This method works well because you can control the messages your email recipients receive, unlike social media where content can get lost in the mix or get pushed aside with algorithm updates.

You want the email funnel to match up with the buyer’s journey below. This journey matters because potential customers go through different mindsets before purchasing. By understanding their journey, businesses can more aptly communicate with people where they’re at and give them the information they need to move on to the next stage.

Buyers Journey Marketing

(image courtesy of Mohit)

Why should I care about email marketing funnels?

Other than having control over who gets content, it’s a strong way to communicate with your customers. Even if you don’t convert recipients into customers at the rate you aim for, the information you can glean from analyzing your funnel is priceless. Likely, you won’t have to add anything new to your marketing strategy; it’s just about taking the emails you already send and making a greater impact through the use of funnels.

What are the parts of the funnel?

The email marketing funnel has three broad stages: Attraction, engagement and nurturing. The most important thing is to have strong content across all of these to lead customers through the buyer’s journey with email.

Attraction

This is the widest part of the email sales funnel. It aligns with the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. It’s where you connect with the widest range of customers by using a certain page or post. On the page, you can include something like an opt-in form to collect their email address. To do this well, you’ll need to have enough traffic and interest to be able to understand which topics people want to learn more about. Then, you’ll be able to craft a compelling reason for readers to trust you with their emails: What can you offer your subscribers that’s valuable? Search engine optimization can help you gain traffic while analyzing that traffic will help you see which content is most popular.

Engagement

Once you’ve attracted people, you’ll want to engage them with compelling content — this aligns to the consideration phase of the buyer’s journey. Since you have their email, you can send them relevant content based on what they’ve expressed interest in. Some ideas are eBooks, blog posts, videos or other information about topics important to them. This is where you should focus on building authority and trust by providing helpful content. You can end your emails with specific calls to action (CTAs) that you want subscribers to take, such as exploring other content from you or engaging with your business in some way.

Nurturing

The final part is where it all comes home. You will persuade your subscribers to purchase, the decision phase of the buyer’s journey. The engagement emails from the previous part of the funnel have helped your business gain trust from the readers who are considering which business to buy from. To drive home that your business is the right choice, you need to continue to share relevant content and connect it with your services. Now’s the time to offer discounts, limited-time promotions, free trails or other incentives for the reader to decide to buy. By having specific CTAs, you can point potential customers in the right direction by getting them to buy something, to donate, or to do whatever the ultimate goal of your business is.

When your email marketing is aligned with the buyer’s journey, you are sure to see conversions that satisfy your business.

10 Oct 16:16

Selling to Non-Prospects

by Anthony Iannarino

There are always salespeople who believes they can convince those who do not buy and use what they sell to buy what they sell. Even when there is little evidence that this is possible and more than enough evidence to the contrary.

They believe that the people and companies that aren’t already buying what they sell will recognize their need when presented with their product or solution. They think that what they sell will serve anyone and everyone. Why wouldn’t it? If some other company buys what they sell and benefits doing so, undoubtedly other company should be doing the same, right?

But They Just Need Time

These poor, lost souls spend time with contacts and companies that have never purchased what they sell before. They sincerely believe they can help, continually sharing their value proposition, working to convince the unconvinced to see the error of their ways.

When they leave the customer meeting, they report, “That call went very well. They asked many questions, and I think they’re interested. They need more time to decide.” You must be optimistic and sales, but not delusional. Non-buyers aren’t often making a mistake. Instead, they recognize that what you sell isn’t valuable to them, even if it works well for others.

The Three Sins

Three sins are being committed here. First, you’re wasting the non-prospect’s time. That’s time that they can never recover, and that would be better off devoted to something that is important to their business. Second, you’ve wasted your own time, time that you should be spending with people and companies that already buy and value what it is you sell. For most of us, we’re in a competitive displacement business, meaning we have to take customers away from our competitors.

Third, and finally, you are depriving your real dream clients of the time and attention they need from salespeople who can improve their results and who can help them create a better future.

Engagement is essential, but it isn’t enough to indicate you are selling. There are some you should not try to sell.

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10 Oct 16:16

Harness the Power of Customer Questions for B2B Lead Generation

by David Cunningham

Lead generation—it’s the workhorse of any B2B revenue stream. The more effective a brand’s lead gen efforts, the more prospects get converted into paying customers.

We know what you’re thinking… this isn’t exactly breaking news. What might be, however, is the fact that lead generation efforts are one of the biggest obstacles marketers struggle to overcome. According to HubSpot, 61 percent of B2B marketers in 2018 list “generating traffic and leads” as their top challenge.

b2b lead generation

(Source.)

It makes sense, too. Today, marketers are consistently being asked to generate more leads, faster. As a result, the quality of those leads has started to plummet—leading to wasted time, resources, and effort nurturing and engaging leads that have no intention of converting.

To fix this, marketers need a better lead generation funnel that helps them sift through the large number of prospects at the top of the funnel, identify the most viable leads for sales, and nurture them into paying customers at the end of the funnel.

An integral component of this lead gen funnel? How marketers leverage questions. A lot of content on the subject of lead generation will list off some “must-have” qualifying questions to ask prospects, yet, not many of them focus on the questions the prospects have themselves.

Modern prospects are digitally connected, savvy researchers who take the time to explore their options before making a buying decision. As a result, prospective customers now expect brands to connect them with the resources and opportunities that help them understand a brand’s products or services and how they can help solve the prospect’s problems.

With this in mind, we’ll explain how understanding customer questions can help marketers meet this demand. Additionally, we’ll dive into the ways marketers can identify these questions and put them to work for more effective lead generation.

The Importance of Customer Questions

B2B lead generation revolves around how well marketers understand their target audience. Demand gen and marketing teams that know the unique needs, interests, and pain points of their prospects will be best equipped to deliver the personalization B2B prospects now demand. What’s more, it now takes between six to eight touchpoints just to turn a prospect into sales qualified lead—further emphasizing how important it is to be able to know where, why, and how to engage prospects.

In order to understand how to best engage prospects and connect them with the different kinds of content and interactions that help move them down the sales funnel, marketers need to understand what their prospects want. More specifically, they need to know what their prospects want to learn.

via GIPHY

By asking prospects about their unique questions, marketers will be able to better align their efforts to drive engagement, influence prospects, and move them down the funnel. With custom content influencing 61 percent of consumers’ buying decisions, having better insights into opportunities for personalized content and engagement can make all the difference.

(Source.)

Additionally, having the answers to prospects’ questions goes a long way toward differentiating one brand from another. Take these two scenarios for example:

Competitor one understands the main questions their target audiences have regarding their products or services. They then use those insights to tailor their marketing efforts to speak directly to those customers. At the top of the funnel, they answer high-level questions. As leads progress down the funnel, content begins to align with the increasingly specific questions those leads have.

Competitor two doesn’t know what their prospects want. Their content and marketing efforts are geared toward general topics they think their audience may find useful, but these efforts aren’t tailored to anything specific. As a result, prospects find it harder to get the information they find pertinent and will often visit outside sources to educate themselves.

Can you guess which competitor a prospective customer is likely going to buy from? We thought so.

Simply put, by paying attention to the questions customers ask, marketers can provide the right engagements that connect prospects with the right tools and resources to help them reach a buying decision faster. What’s more, they’ll be able to identify the questions prospects ask when they’re interested in converting—valuable information that can help separate the good leads from the bad.

With that said, let’s take a look at how marketers can leverage customer questions:

Identifying Customer Questions for Better Marketing Efforts

In order to of harness the power of customer questions for better lead generation efforts, it helps to understand what kind of questions are being asked. With this in mind, marketers should consider using the following tips and tricks when trying to learn what their customers are asking:

Explore Questions from Your Target Audience:

Marketers have a wide range of tools and resources they can use to better understand the questions driving their target audience across the sales cycle. For example, marketers can look at Quora questions or topics related to their product or brand. Additionally, LinkedIn groups, social media, industry publication, and even your own site’s site search data all provide clues as to the common questions prospects want to know.

Ask the Sales Team for Input:

As we’ve mentioned before, aligned sales and marketing efforts can go a long way toward generating more revenue. Since sales teams interact with prospects one-on-one, they can provide insights that can be leveraged by marketers for better lead gen efforts. For example, say sales has noticed that the majority of prospects are interested in how a product can increase their organizations efficiency. From there, this question can be answered at a high-level for top-funnel prospects and more specifically as prospects move closer to conversion.

Ask Your Current Customers:

If there’s anyone that understands what prospects want to know, it’s the customers that have been there and done that. In other words, they can provide valuable insights when asked about the questions and answers that helped convince them to convert, as well as the questions they have while using a product or service.

Now that we’ve identified some strategies for identifying customer questions, let’s dive into how these questions can be used for better lead generation efforts.

Incorporating Customer Questions into Marketing Efforts

To keep the funnel packed with high-quality leads, marketers need to leverage customer questions to guide the content, resources, and engagements they provide to their prospects.

Customers have access to tons of content related to your (and your competitors’) products and services and use that abundance of information to make an informed buying decision. Considering half of all B2B buyers decide whether or not they’ll make a purchase before talking to sales, the impact of providing relevant marketing engagements has never been so important.

Being able to answer the right question at the right time can set your organization apart. By understanding the questions most pertinent to prospective customers, marketers will be able to better align their qualifying questions with their prospects. Marketers can leverage the insights gained from customer questions using interactive tools like polls, calculators, and quizzes.

These assets make B2B marketing easier on two fronts. First, they provide opportunities for prospects to engage with the potential problems, interests, and needs most relevant to them. Second, they can directly answer prospect questions the moment they have them with a series of personalized engagements.

Final Thoughts

Lead generation can make or break the success of marketing efforts. In order to make sure a brand’s proverbial cup runneth over with quality leads, marketers need to understand what their prospects want to know. Moreover, they need to quickly provide those prospects with answers.

Simply put, if marketers don’t understand their customers’ questions – and take concrete steps to address them — their lead generation efforts will lag behind the competitors that do.

If you’re interested in ensuring that you can understand and answer your customers’ questions, consider taking a look at these interactive content examples that can help you get the most out of your demand gen efforts.