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18 Dec 18:47

The limits of coworking

by Arman Tabatabai

It feels like there’s a WeWork on every street nowadays. Take a walk through midtown Manhattan (please don’t actually) and it might even seem like there are more WeWorks than office buildings.

Consider this an ongoing discussion about Urban Tech, its intersection with regulation, issues of public service, and other complexities that people have full PHDs on. I’m just a bitter, born-and-bred New Yorker trying to figure out why I’ve been stuck in between subway stops for the last 15 minutes, so please reach out with your take on any of these thoughts: @Arman.Tabatabai@techcrunch.com.

Co-working has permeated cities around the world at an astronomical rate. The rise has been so remarkable that even the headline-dominating SoftBank seems willing to bet the success of its colossal Vision Fund on the shift continuing, having poured billions into WeWork – including a recent $4.4 billion top-up that saw the co-working king’s valuation spike to $45 billion.

And there are no signs of the trend slowing down. With growing frequency, new startups are popping up across cities looking to turn under-utilized brick-and-mortar or commercial space into low-cost co-working options.

It’s a strategy spreading through every type of business from retail – where companies like Workbar have helped retailers offer up portions of their stores – to more niche verticals like parking lots – where companies like Campsyte are transforming empty lots into spaces for outdoor co-working and corporate off-sites. Restaurants and bars might even prove most popular for co-working, with startups like Spacious and KettleSpace turning restaurants that are closed during the day into private co-working space during their off-hours.

Before you know it, a startup will be strapping an Aeron chair to the top of a telephone pole and calling it “WirelessWorking”.

But is there a limit to how far co-working can go? Are all of the storefronts, restaurants and open spaces that line city streets going to be filled with MacBooks, cappuccinos and Moleskine notebooks? That might be too tall a task, even for the movement taking over skyscrapers.

The co-working of everything

Photo: Vasyl Dolmatov / iStock via Getty Images

So why is everyone trying to turn your favorite neighborhood dinner spot into a part-time WeWork in the first place? Co-working offers a particularly compelling use case for under-utilized space.

First, co-working falls under the same general commercial zoning categories as most independent businesses and very little additional infrastructure – outside of a few extra power outlets and some decent WiFi – is required to turn a space into an effective replacement for the often crowded and distracting coffee shops used by price-sensitive, lean, remote, or nomadic workers that make up a growing portion of the workforce.

Thus, businesses can list their space at little-to-no cost, without having to deal with structural layout changes that are more likely to arise when dealing with pop-up solutions or event rentals.

On the supply side, these co-working networks don’t have to purchase leases or make capital improvements to convert each space, and so they’re able to offer more square footage per member at a much lower rate than traditional co-working spaces. Spacious, for example, charges a monthly membership fee of $99-$129 dollars for access to its network of vetted restaurants, which is cheap compared to a WeWork desk, which can cost anywhere from $300-$800 per month in New York City.

Customers realize more affordable co-working alternatives, while tight-margin businesses facing increasing rents for under-utilized property are able to pool resources into a network and access a completely new revenue stream at very little cost. The value proposition is proving to be seriously convincing in initial cities – Spacious told the New York Times, that so many restaurants were applying to join the network on their own volition that only five percent of total applicants were ultimately getting accepted.

Basically, the business model here checks a lot of the boxes for successful marketplaces: Acquisition and transaction friction is low for both customers and suppliers, with both seeing real value that didn’t exist previously. Unit economics seem strong, and vetting on both sides of the market creates trust and community. Finally, there’s an observable network effect whereby suppliers benefit from higher occupancy as more customers join the network, while customers benefit from added flexibility as more locations join the network.

… Or just the co-working of some things

Photo: Caiaimage / Robert Daly via Getty Images

So is this the way of the future? The strategy is really compelling, with a creative solution that offers tremendous value to businesses and workers in major cities. But concerns around the scalability of demand make it difficult to picture this phenomenon becoming ubiquitous across cities or something that reaches the scale of a WeWork or large conventional co-working player.

All these companies seem to be competing for a similar demographic, not only with one another, but also with coffee shops, free workspaces, and other flexible co-working options like Croissant, which provides members with access to unused desks and offices in traditional co-working spaces. Like Spacious and KettleSpace, the spaces on Croissant own the property leases and are already built for co-working, so Croissant can still offer comparatively attractive rates.

The offer seems most compelling for someone that is able to work without a stable location and without the amenities offered in traditional co-working or office spaces, and is also price sensitive enough where they would trade those benefits for a lower price. Yet at the same time, they can’t be too price sensitive, where they would prefer working out of free – or close to free – coffee shops instead of paying a monthly membership fee to avoid the frictions that can come with them.

And it seems unclear whether the problem or solution is as poignant outside of high-density cities – let alone outside of high-density areas of high-density cities.

Without density, is the competition for space or traffic in coffee shops and free workspaces still high enough where it’s worth paying a membership fee for? Would the desire for a private working environment, or for a working community, be enough to incentivize membership alone? And in less-dense and more-sprawl oriented cities, members could also face the risk of having to travel significant distances if space isn’t available in nearby locations.

While the emerging workforce is trending towards more remote, agile and nomadic workers that can do more with less, it’s less certain how many will actually fit the profile that opts out of both more costly but stable traditional workspaces, as well as potentially frustrating but free alternatives. And if the lack of density does prove to be an issue, how many of those workers will live in hyper-dense areas, especially if they are price-sensitive and can work and live anywhere?

To be clear, I’m not saying the companies won’t see significant growth – in fact, I think they will. But will the trend of monetizing unused space through co-working come to permeate cities everywhere and do so with meaningful occupancy? Maybe not. That said, there is still a sizable and growing demographic that need these solutions and the value proposition is significant in many major urban areas.

The companies are creating real value, creating more efficient use of wasted space, and fixing a supply-demand issue. And the cultural value of even modestly helping independent businesses keep the lights on seems to outweigh the cultural “damage” some may fear in turning them into part-time co-working spaces.

And lastly, some reading while in transit:

18 Dec 18:08

Why You Fail to Compel Your Dream Client to Change

by Anthony Iannarino

At the end of every year, sales leaders and sales managers direct their salespeople to close strong, to win every deal they can, and to be creative in pushing deals across the line. “Pushing” isn’t a very good word in sales, as it is likely to cause the one being pushed to push back or to walk away. A better word is “compel,” but even that word also comes with a set of problems.

Some companies believe they should offer a discount for taking action now, a tactic that sometimes works. One well-known software company has a history of doing everything they can to close their year strong, and by doing so, has a reputation for being very loose with pricing at year-end. You may win business now and also train your clients to crush your margin.

Other companies often sweeteners instead of discounting by adding extra services in trying to move their prospective clients to act before the year ends. These additional offerings, like discounting, sometimes work. However, they don’t generally do enough to move enough clients to change the results for a lot of sales organizations significantly.

Some companies threaten to take pricing or terms or solutions away, hoping that the threat of losing something is enough to get their dream client to sign a contract.

To understand why and how these attempts fail, you have to understand the underlying reason the deal is difficult for your client to accept.

First, unless your pricing is holding up a deal, then a discount isn’t likely to motivate the client. Instead, it is proof that you need the deal enough to give up margin to get the deal. That same client will likely ask you for the offer on the other side of the calendar year and may use your offer to discount against you later.

Second, if the sweetener you offer isn’t something valuable enough to already part of the deal, it may not be the kind of offer that compels action. If it were valuable enough to cause them to take action sooner rather than later, it might have been better to use it as part of the solution in the first place. Mostly these sweeteners are things that cost you little to give away and aren’t all that important to the client.

Third, the idea of taking something away can strike people the wrong way. It can feel like pressure, and it can feel like a change in the relationship to some of your clients (even though there are many ways to talk about these kinds of things that are neutral or that improve relationships).

Here’s what’s most important to know about why it is difficult to compel buyers before the end of the year: They have not gotten through the process they need to get to get through to make a decision. When you try to compel them to buy now instead of later, you are trying to get them to decide before they have the confidence to do so.

In The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the ten Commitments That Drive Sales, I outlined the ten commitments that occur in most B2B sales. It’s a non-linear view of the sales conversation, but it’s helpful here. If you can look at the commitments you are missing and help the client accelerate them, you can increase the velocity of your deals—and their speed to better results.

Here is a list of commitments: Time, Explore Change, Change, Collaborate, Build Consensus, Invest, Review, Resolve Concerns, Decide, and Execute. There are eight commitments before Decide, and if you are missing them, do what you can to gain them.

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The post Why You Fail to Compel Your Dream Client to Change appeared first on The Sales Blog.

18 Dec 18:06

Three ways brands can benefit from adopting voice technology (AAPL, AMZN, GOOGL, MSFT)

by Shelagh Dolan
  • Voice assistants like Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant, Apple's Siri, and Microsoft's Cortana, are pegged to trigger a widespread transformation across the retail industry in the years to come.
  • The current interest in, and adoption of, voice assistants for commerce is being driven by recent technological breakthroughs, advantages of the tech over existing channels, and the development of voice apps.
  • As consumer demand for voice technology mounts, brands offering this functionality throughout the entire customer journey stand to gain in three key ways.

Not too long ago, if your friend had a smart speaker like Amazon’s Alexa or Google's Assistant in their living room, it seemed like a rare novelty. Within a matter of months, however, smart speakers have started becoming household staples — and they’re still only at a fraction of their growth potential.

US Consumers Use Voice Assistants Throughout the Entire Shopping Journey

One of the biggest drivers of adoption has been increased functionality. Smart speakers aren’t just changing the music and turning on the lights; they’re helping consumers find new products and make purchases — and they’re quickly becoming a preferred method of shopping.

In fact, nearly a quarter of consumers globally already prefer using a voice assistant over going to a company website or mobile app to shop. This share will jump to 40% by 2021, according to Capgemini.

Consumers are on board with the prompt, convenient nature of shopping with smart speakers — and brands who join them stand to reap massive rewards. The Voice in Retail Report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, highlights the value voice brings to the shopping funnel and how retailers can implement it throughout the customer journey.

Here are three ways brands can capture consumers with voice technology:

  • Driving product purchases: Voice assistants make spending faster and easier when consumers are unable to use their hands. The ability to make a purchase on any channel and the addition of personalized, intelligent elements to the shopping experience are simplifying the transition from product discovery to product purchase.
  • Heightening customer loyalty: Brands can leverage voice assistants in the post-purchase phase to track delivery status, automate part of the return process, interact with customer service, offer feedback, and collect consumer behavioral and transactional data.
  • Shifting consumers’ spending behaviors: Smart device ownership has a snowball effect, so as the smart device ecosystem reaches the mainstream, consumers will flock to connected cars, smart home devices and appliances, and connected virtual reality and augmented reality (VR/AR) headsets.

Want to Learn More?

Shoppers are interested in using voice assistants for every stage of the customer journey, from initial product search and discovery to post-purchase customer service and delivery status. And retailers that take advantage of consumers’ desire to leverage voice will be in a stronger position to heighten customer engagement, increase conversion times, drive sales, and boost operational efficiency.

The Voice in Retail Report from Business Insider Intelligence examines the trends driving the adoption of voice commerce, details the role of voice throughout the customer shopping journey, outlines how brands can benefit from implementing voice in their strategies, and explores what's ahead for the technology in retail.

 

 

Join the conversation about this story »

15 Dec 17:46

How Sales Professionals Can Use Their Networks to Leverage Modern Selling Techniques — No Matter How Much Experience They Have

by Eric Anderson
Modern Selling Techniques

Here at LinkedIn, we’re celebrating the holidays by bringing you 12 days of awesome sales content. Today, we examine how sales professionals can use their networks to leverage modern selling techniques — no matter how much experience they have.  

Modern selling techniques have tremendous power to improve your sales organization’s performance. Customers have become accustomed to personalized outreach, and we’ve found that if a salesperson has at least one common connection with a prospect, it increased InMail acceptance rate by 45%.

In order to effectively leverage modern selling techniques, sales professionals need to have a healthy network of authentic connections. We’ve found that people with different levels of experience in the sales field have networks that look very different. Nevertheless, these different network compositions can be leveraged equally well for modern selling.

Sellers with more experience tend to have a larger number of connections on LinkedIn, reflecting the larger network that comes with a longer tenure. Conversely, sellers early in their careers tend to grow their networks at a much higher rate, suggesting that young sellers are very eager to aggressively grow their professional networks.

Interestingly, sellers of all tenures tend to make connections to decision makers at roughly the same rate and receive the same response rates to InMails. Therefore, when it comes to connecting with and reaching out to the right people, sellers of all experience levels can effectively leverage modern selling techniques.

There’s very little difference in these trends across industries. Salespeople at the beginning of their careers grow their network the fastest across the board. However, for salespeople active in media and technology, more experienced sales people tend to have slightly slower network growth than mid-career sales people. For all other sectors, there tends to be no difference between mid- and late-career sales people.

Interestingly, over the past four years, the rate at which salespeople are making connections on LinkedIn has increased by over 75%, and this trend holds up across all levels of experience. This acceleration in this growth rate means the technique of modern selling is growing and gaining increasing traction.

Previous research has shown that modern selling can drive revenue growth across industries; now we’ve seen that salespeople of all experience levels benefit from modern selling techniques as well. While more experienced sellers are able to leverage their existing connection network from the start and salespeople earlier in their careers grow their network more rapidly, sellers of all experience levels see similar response rates to outreach and connect with the people who matter at equal rates.

15 Dec 17:36

On the Edge of cruise-ship innovation

by Andrew McCredie

If you want to see the future of cruising, set sail aboard Celebrity Edge. The first new ship to debut for Celebrity Cruises (cruise.center/celebrity) in nearly a decade has more than lived up to its hype, earning substantial bragging rights as one of the most innovative ships in the world.

The problem with Celebrity Edge is that there is simply too much on-board innovation for me to write about here. Even the jogging track on this ship is worthy of mention (it spans several decks and wraps elegantly around the vessel).

ake the Magic Carpet: a tangerine-coloured structure on the starboard side of the vessel that can move vertically through 13 decks to become a tender platform, a swanky bar or a restaurant. There is nothing else like this at sea. I embarked a tender (or “launch” in Celebrity parlance) via the Magic Carpet on my preview cruise and was blown away by how effective this new feature is. Celebrity even created a wonderful tender embarkation space inside the vessel that includes its own bar. It’s a far cry from the exposed steel walls and unappealing technical areas that most ships march you through on your way to tender ashore.

hat innovation extends to the ship’s staterooms and suites. A full 81 per cent of all accommodations have balconies, and the majority of these offer Celebrity’s new Infinite Veranda: a partitioned floor-to-ceiling window that turns the entire room into an open-air balcony. It’s an innovation that Celebrity borrowed from the world of river cruising, and it helps give Celebrity Edge its distinctive look.

Standard step-out balconies are still offered in some categories, along with a handful of Oceanview and Inside staterooms. Of course, if you really want to go nuts you can book one of the ship’s two Iconic Suites that are 1,892 jaw-dropping square feet (176 square metres) spread over two levels. At the mid-range, my Sky Suite offered a great compromise between a full suite and a standard stateroom, plus nice perks that include access to The Retreat, a comfortable lounge and private deck space that includes its own pool, bar and loungers.

Public rooms are exceptional. Each bar and lounge offers its own distinctive personality, complete with unique bar menus that aren’t replicated anywhere else. Even better, nearly every public room onboard offers gorgeous views of the ocean. In a world where new ships tend to be very inward-facing, Celebrity Edge is a ship of light.

At the stern is EDEN, a three-storey show lounge, bar and restaurant concept full of sweeping floor-to-ceiling windows that also has the most bizarre entertainment at sea. Performers looking like cast members from Mad Max mingle with guests. One ran up to me and said, “What do you call yourself? I am Zoom!” before disappearing while acrobatic dancers performed to a slowed-down version of Coldplay’s Paradise. It’s odd, to be sure, but it is also highly original and entertaining, too. Be sure to try the custom cocktails here: one, The Veldt, even comes in a wooden box.

No ship is perfect, though. I found Celebrity Edge tough to navigate thanks to some open deck spaces that don’t have obvious access to stair towers and elevators, and a few indoor areas, like Guest Relations, that are hidden to the point of being overlooked. It’s OK once you get the hang of the layout but expect to spend some time wondering where you are.

Still, an awkward layout isn’t enough to dampen this ship’s charms. Although she sails to the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, make no mistake: Celebrity Edge is the true destination.
Happy cruising.

Visit portsandbows.com, sponsored by Expedia CruiseShipCenters, 1-800-707-7327, http://www.cruiseshipcenters.com, for daily updates on the latest cruise news, best deals and behind-the-scenes stories from the industry. You can also sign up for an email newsletter on the site for even more cruise information. Aaron Saunders may be contacted directly at portsandbowsaaron@gmail.com

15 Dec 17:30

3 Tips for Hiring Emotionally Intelligent Employees

by Syed Balkhi

Hiring the right employees can be tough. It’s no longer enough to see impressive work experience, awards, and educational backgrounds. Sticking only to technical skills and professional experience when interviewing potential employees neglects a major essential component of a good worker: emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and be aware of your emotions as well as the emotions and feelings of others. It allows you to handle relationships with empathy and rationale.

A survey conducted by CareerBuilder found that 75 percent of hiring managers value emotional intelligence over IQ, and as time goes on, its importance in the workplace will increase.

It can be difficult to gauge right away if someone is emotionally intelligent. They won’t outright tell you and it isn’t something you can guess about someone based on technical questions you ask them. A lot of the time, candidates prepare for interviews with common, generic questions they find on the internet.

It’s important to hire employees that harness emotional intelligence because it allows for handling tough situations in a calm and mature manner. Work can get super stressful and it’s imperative to have employees who can harness that energy into something positive.

When it comes down to it, how do you know that the people you’re hiring possess emotional intelligence? Here are three tips to make sure you do.

1. Conduct behavioral event interviews

Behavioral event interviews focus on how people act, think, and feel in a work situation rather than solely focusing on hard skills, experience, and what they might do in a situation. Its primary goal is to assess a person’s frame of mind when it comes to handling different situations, how they’d realistically behave, and if they’re able to accomplish tasks in a respectful, level-headed manner.

The best way to interview this way is to give your candidate action-based questions. Ask them to explain a specific situation where they faced pressure and hardship and focus on exactly how they handled it. What were they thinking when this was going on? How did they feel? How did their emotions and thought process guide them to solve the problem, if at all?

It’s important to assess whether or not this is a person who knows how to handle not only their own emotions but those of others as they’ll be working with many other employees who are different from themselves. Find out how they feel about working with others, not just under pressure, but in a normal everyday environment as well. While they explain their experiences, take note of how they talk about their coworkers and managers and how they respond to their thought and feelings.

It takes the main focus off of education, background, and experience and instead prioritizes action. It’s not that hard skills aren’t important, but when you hire for emotionally intelligent workers, you need to dig deeper than a standard interviewing process would.

2. Talk to references

It’s a waste to neglect the list of references on your candidates’ resumes. These are people who have worked with them directly and can give you a wealth of useful information about your potential employee.

While on the phone with references, ask them behavioral-event-specific questions much like you would your actual candidate. There are certain qualities you’ll want to assess when questioning them:

  • If the candidate shows empathy, caring, and understanding for others
  • How the candidate handles stressful, out-of-the-blue situations and if they adapt well
  • How self-aware they are about their feeling, behaviors, and thoughts
  • The amount of respect they show for those around them
  • Their level of emotional awareness and maturity

Some examples of questions might look like this:

  • Tell me about a time the candidate experienced a stressful situation or had a big project to complete. What was that like? How did they handle it?
  • Explain a time when their opinion or thought process clashed with a coworker’s. How did that pan out? What did they do?
  • Describe a time they had to complete a frustrating task or had a tough decision to make. How did they manage it?

These questions are similar to what you would ask your actual candidate during the interview. Using the same type of questions for references will give you a clearer idea of where your candidate stands because it’s unprepared for and, therefore, more honest in nature.

3. Ask follow-up questions

Interviews are all about asking questions and getting answers, but what’s important is to dig as deep as you can.

Let’s say you asked a potential employee about how they handled a tough situation. They’ll then tell you they did X, Y, and Z. Now that you know what they did, this is the time to find out why they did it. It’s all about the why.

Why did they choose to act a certain way? Why did they have the mindset or thought process they did? Why did they think that was the best route of action to take?

Focusing on why people do the things they do will end up telling you more about their emotional intelligence rather than what they did. Anyone can try to solve a difficult problem. Anyone can be put in a stressful situation at work. But when they act, why do they do it in that particular way? What exactly motivates their actions?

Over to you

When it comes to hiring new employees, what tactics will you use to gauge their emotional intelligence? It’s an essential skill to have in the workplace as it brings forth empathy, rational problem solving and understanding even under high pressure. Of course, there are other aspects of a person that qualify them as a worthwhile employee, but EI is one of the most important factors there are for a successful business. The more hiring that’s done to find emotionally intelligent people to work with, the better the outcome will be.

15 Dec 17:30

The companies disrupting the payments industry in major markets through digital

by Shelagh Dolan

This is a preview of the Global Payments Landscape report from Business Insider Intelligence. Current subscribers can read the report  here.

  • Noncash payments are on the rise worldwide.
  • As new players emerge to capitalize on consumer appetite for digital payment methods, three mature markets — the UK, Australia, and Sweden — have become standouts for what a more cashless society could look like.
  • The UK, Australia, and Sweden are transitioning to digital particularly well, and can serve as a roadmap for other mature markets seeking to overcome the legacy channel of cash.

Noncash payments have been gaining popularity around the world for the last decade. And though cash isn’t anywhere near dead, its global growth is slowing as consumers turn to emerging cashless alternatives.

Cash As A Share Of Total Transactions In Australia

But there are a few key markets - Australia, Sweden, and the UK - where annual noncash payments have already surpassed traditional cash transactions altogether — and they’re stong early indicators of what a truly cashless society could look like.

Why are digital payments on the rise?

The growing adoption of noncash payments is a direct result of the rise of e-commerce, but that’s not the only factor. Consumers today are adaptable to disruptive technologies and are generally open to trying new types of digital payment methods.

This consumer appetite is compounded by their access to infrastructure, as well as the emergence of government-backed initiatives, such as real-time transfers and the backing of electronic currencies, that make digital payments more enticing to both consumers and merchants.

How are Australia, Sweden, and the UK driving the world towards cashless payments?

Australia, Sweden, and the UK are emblematic of opportunities for payments players to lead the world away from cash. The Global Payments Landscape from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, provides a snapshot of the payments industry in each of these three markets.

The report shows that several leading payments players have already emerged or are dominant within each of these regions — and they’re finding success in different ways. For other mature markets seeking to overcome the legacy channel of cash, the digital transformations of Australia, Sweden, and the UK can serve as a roadmap.

Here are the strategies these regions are implementing in the race to become the world’s first cashless society:

  • Australia is launching government initiatives and instating new regulations. The Australian government has banned purchases over AU$10,000 ($7,500) from being made in cash, as well as launched the New Payments Platform (NPP) to allow real-time funds transfer as a means of replacing transactions typically made in cash, such as paying back a friend.
  • In Sweden, consumers are rapidly abandoning cash in favor of cards. In fact, only 2% of the total value of transactions in Sweden consist of cash — a figure that’s expected to decline to less than half a percent by 2020.
  • Contactless payments are leading the shift away from cash in the UK. Nearly the entire population has a debit card, and debit card transactions surpassed cash payments for the first time at the end of 2017. This milestone was largely fueled by the surge in contactless cards, which grew 97% annually last year to hit 5.6 billion transactions.

Want to Learn More?

The Global Payments Landscape from Business Insider Intelligence compiles various payments snapshots, together illustrating how digital payment methods are supplementing or replacing cash in each market.

Each snapshot provides an overview of the payments industry in a particular country, and details the evolution of its development. They also highlight notable payments players in each region and discuss the opportunities and challenges that players are facing in their respective markets.

 

Join the conversation about this story »

15 Dec 17:25

End of Year Software Discounts: Savvy Cost Saving or Short-Sighted Business Move?

by Max Altschuler
year end software discount image

It’s the end of the year, which means buyers are rushing to use up all their year-end budget, (hey there, favorite The Office clip). Of course, this means salespeople are also hyper-motivated to negotiate to hit that all-important number. As such, steep discounts are often on the table in a way that can feel as thrilling as a 50% off Apple Watch on Cyber Monday.

But as we dug in and talked to our community, we found there were two sides of the coin, literally. On the one hand, sometimes vendors will offer a price break to push their number over the line for the year. This is reasonable and it could still be a great product. For example, in the reference above, Apple doesn’t technically discount their technology on Cyber Monday. Instead, they offer you a $200 gift card when you buy one full-price item. This is an example of a nice incentive to shop that is attractive to a buyer and provides a little extra perk.

On the other hand, we have all had that Amazon Prime experience where we’ve been thrilled to find a graduation diamond necklace for our niece at 50% off, only to have the chain break the second we take it out of the brown package. And on closer investigation, the “diamond” reference in the product description was in air quotes, and it’s actually Swarovski crystal. And with that, you are now making an emergency trip to the jewelry store at the mall at the last minute, like you now wish you had done in the first place, lest you give your niece a present that makes her look like a rip-off version of a Kardashian.

When it comes to B2B, the 50% off necklace phenomenon shows up in the form of desperate companies who are offering rock bottom discounts, not just price breaks, because their product isn’t up to snuff, or because they want to distract you with such a low price so that you won’t ask too many questions about the product details and will just sign on the line, delighted to go report to your CFO the wonderful bargain you’ve negotiated.

And sometimes, a discount is just a discount, and you should grab it while it’s hot and save that money.

So, how do you know which is which? What’s a year-end buyer to do? How are the industry’s most savvy buyers handling their end of the year spending? This seemed like a very delicate problem, so we wanted to poll our community and help you figure out how to handle your end-of-the-year budget in a way that will be most cost-effective and truly set you up for success in the new year. Here’s what they had to say. Hope it is helpful!

When it comes to end of the year budgeting best practices, we got some mixed responses. For example, Peter Kazanjy, Cofounder of Atrium HQ, suggests saving on commodities but splurging when there’s a superior differentiated solution. “Generally speaking, as a sophisticated purchaser,” said Kazanjy, “I’m going to be seeking out differentiated solutions, so it would be unlikely that an inferior solution could win my business by discounting. Now, this isn’t the case when the offering in question is a commodity, and I am confident that there isn’t a delta between the superior and inferior offering.”

On the other hand, Chad Dyar, Director of Sales Enablement of OnDeck, recommends saving on new technology so you can splurge on upgrading your current tech stack. “Our team is lucky enough to manage both the sales and marketing stack,” said Dyar. “When those high dollar tools come in under budget for the year, there are a lot of fun, less expensive tools or upgrade options for existing tools that we can invest in with whatever remains in the budget. My personal goal is to always negotiate my way to some savings and then use the good will that creates (and the leftover dollars) to invest in other projects over the course of the year.”

These are both thoughtful approaches. And overall, saving money is always a good thing, right? Or is it? We decided to dig deeper and ask our community where buyers should draw the line. When is a price reduction a positive thing, and when is a deep discount more of a red flag and less of a revenue-saver?

“I’ve never felt so helpless in my life”

We first heard from Deb Day, CEO of 3 Leaps, who shared a harsh budget lesson that has stayed with her all these years. “It happened in 2009. I was just trying to launch my very first e-commerce startup and I was waiting for a Black Friday discount on a web hosting package,” she said. “So, I was vigorously searching the web for the cheapest web hosting deals available. I found a great one. The company was offering a whopping 90% discount on its web hosting package and the domain was offered for free. The offer was so tempting that I succumbed and purchased it immediately.”

At first, everything was great, Day said. “Everything went on fine for the next few days,” the CEO shared. “I got a nice domain for my startup and the hosting appeared to be okay-ish. But things started unravelling the very next week. I naively installed WordPress, add a few apps on it to start selling some products, and began making design changes to customize the website.” Here, Day shares, is when the other shoe dropped. When she refreshed, none of her changes were reflected. “When I checked the domain on the web, it shows nothing. I mean nothing. I contacted the support team. I felt that I was talking to a robot. No matter what questions were being asked, they were giving me some template answers. ‘Give me two hours’ or ‘Give us two days to fix this issue.’ Man, I never felt so helpless in my life. Nothing was going right. After a fortnight, I decided, enough is enough and moved on to a new server.”

Sales Hacker commentary: We conscientious budget shoppers have all fallen for a Black Friday deal  gone wrong (we at Sales Hacker may or may not be harboring a defunct Roomba or an inflatable unicorn that never actually inflated) but while falling for a bummer Amazon Prime deal can cost you a small chunk of change, a bait-and-switch purchase at the business level can be much more painful, expensive, and even catastrophic. Learn from Deb’s disaster and if something seems too good to be true, it probably is!

“Delivery rate drop-off disaster”

Erica Stritch, VP of Marketing at RAIN Group, also shared a tale of a deep discount gone wrong. “A few years back, we were reevaluating our list/business information provider,” said Stritch. “While we were happy with our current provider, they were increasing prices and we’d been getting many offers and solicitations from competitors. We took a few demos and ultimately decided to switch to a competitor who seemed to have similar features and validation processes, but was giving us a highly discounted rate that would be half of what our current provider was offering.

We integrated the new technology into Salesforce.com only to realize one of the features we used the most with our old provider did not work with the new provider. It created a ton of manual copy and pasting to get the data from the provider into the Salesforce.com record, while it used to just take the click of a button. The disappointment really set in when we launched our first marketing and sales campaign. While we typically got a 70% delivery rate with our old provider, our first campaigns were getting about 40% delivery using the data from the new provider. The data was old and not validated the way they described in their sales pitch.

Within 3 months we switched back to our previous provider, paying twice the amount but also getting the features we wanted and accurate data.”

Sales Hacker commentary: Twice the amount! Ouch!  Our number one tip is, if you see Erica, buy her a drink.  Secondly, her comment on false feature parity rings especially true. Not all features are created equal. A vendor may say “Oh yes, we have at-a-glance metrics also.” But Vendor A could have at-a-glance metrics that include pageviews, leads, and demos whereas Vendor B could still justifiably say they have at-a-glance metrics, but only offer pageviews. So, double-click on those feature claims! Go beyond the “feature! Check!” mindset and really dig deep into what the feature entails. Also, seriously, don’t forget the drink for Erica. She’s been through enough

“Beware the bait and switch software”

Collin Cadmus, Vice President of Sales at Aircall, also shared his discount philosophy. He advised it’s not the discount itself, but the chance of the bait and switch product that is the real risk. “Considering the dozens of tools I’ve implemented I will say it’s not usually a heavy discount that can be predictive of most issues— it’s buying things that sounded too good to be true from the start. If they sound too good to be true, they usually are. Too many solutions out there making claims they can’t live up to— selling way too far ahead of their realistic abilities. Selling stories and dreams may sound good to investors, but software vendors need real results for a sales leader to keep paying the hefty price tag.”

Sales Hacker commentary: Collin is correct! If something sounds too good to be true, it is often the case. We all understand the desire to future-sell—you definitely want to let your prospects and customers know if a feature they really want is in the works—but it’s a fine line. Don’t get too ahead of yourselves as salespeople and overpromise too much. Even if you have the best intentions and just really want to get them excited, over-selling will ultimately create a negative customer experience and perpetuate a negative stereotype of salespeople.

“Choose expensive and effective”

Brad Rosen, VP of Revenue Operations at G2 Crowd, told us when it comes to purchasing b2b sales software, it’s about quality and ROI, not just face cost. “Price does come into play when purchasing software,” Rosen said. “However, we are fortunate enough to have significant backing and can purchase the best tools for us (within reason).”

So does this mean you should pay more for better results? According to Rosen, the answer is yes. “I’d rather purchase a tool that is more expensive but also more effective,” the Rev Ops VP shared, “Lost productivity will generally hinder us more than trying to prove the incremental ROI from a more expensive tool.”

In conclusion, Rosen said he has to think about the bottom line. “My general thought process when buying is ‘Will this tool help our productivity and bottom line? If yes, how much effort will it take to implement?  Do I believe the team will adopt the tool and benefit from it? Does the price align with our budget and perceived value?’ “ If the answer is yes to all of the above, Rosen says it’s a winner.

Sales Hacker commentary: It is safe to say G2 Crowd knows a thing or two about the best sales software, so we trust their advice is good advice. Brad makes some great points. While it is tempting when your CFO is breathing down your neck to go for the cheapest option just to increase your chances of getting the budget line item approved, that same CFO is going to come back to you in a few months, asking you to prove the ROI. So remember to focus on overall value—Price absent the context of value is meaningless. $1 per user per month is too expensive if you make $0.50. $1,000,000 per user per month is cheap if you make $100,000,000. So, don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. If the increased expense in the beginning will be easily justified by the end results, that’s one thing. On the other hand, if the other product is more expensive and you can’t find a good reason why, of course, go with the less expensive option.Save money where it makes sense to save money. Just make sure you check under the hood, as we discussed in the feature parity section.

There you have it, straight from the source! We hope you enjoyed this Sales Hacker Community round-up and that you have a little more clarity about your end-of-your-spending! Get value, save money, and don’t end up with a Kardashian necklace, and you’re good.

The post End of Year Software Discounts: Savvy Cost Saving or Short-Sighted Business Move? appeared first on Sales Hacker.

15 Dec 17:25

3 Tips to Creating your First eBook

by Chris Christoff

Ebooks are a great tool to use to boost business. You can use them to gain email subscribers and position yourself as an expert in your field. You can also use them as a means of revenue by selling them once you’ve got your name out there and built a loyal following.

According to Statista, ebook sales account for a quarter of global book sales and 20 billion dollars in revenue. They hold a lot of potential for business growth and boost conversions.

If it’s time for you to write your first ebook, here are three tips to help you do just that.

1. Plan the fine details

If you want the process of creating an ebook to go smoothly, you have to plan everything out first. There are a lot of ways to go about creating an ebook successfully and you won’t know what works best for you until you feel your options out.

You have to establish the technical framework of your ebook starting with a few factors:

  • Are you going to self-publish, go through a professional publisher, or use an online publishing platform?
  • Who’s going to be your distributor? How will you distribute?
  • Are you going to charge for people to obtain it or will it serve as your lead magnet to gain more subscribers?
  • How long do you want it to be?

It’s never a bad idea to have your ebook serve as a lead magnet to bring traffic and new leads your way. Offering visitors something of value for free that teaches them something builds a relationship of trust between brand and consumer. It shows authenticity. In a world where millions of ebooks exist and people can choose those millions of options over you, you want people to choose you.

2. Get the design right

Whether you hire a freelancer or do it yourself, you have to design your ebook with your brand in mind. Keep the same color scheme and add your logo to the cover page. You want people to see your ebook and know it comes from you.

There aren’t any hard-line rules for how an ebook should be formatted, but most go by chapters and segment information with subheadings. It’s also important to make sure there’s whitespace in between paragraphs and the text isn’t clunky or difficult to read. If someone wants to skim your content, make that possible.

Treat your ebook like it’s the first piece of information readers are seeing on that subject. You want to speak conversationally so that they understand the material easily. Unless it’s specified that this is an ebook for experts, you have to assume your readers are beginners and you’re their teacher.

3. Have the right tools

Creating an ebook from start to finish is no easy task. It takes hard work, dedication, and lots of focus free from distractions. Luckily, if you have the right tools, your writing life can become so much easier.

To start, you can use a tool like Toggl to track how you spend your time. It’ll show you how long you took to work on parts of your ebook project and allow you to plan for better execution in the future. It’s also helpful in general to see how long each part of the ebook creation process takes you so you’re aware of your strengths and weaknesses in the writing process.

There are a lot of options for where you can draft your ebook. Google Docs isn’t a bad place to work. It’s free and you can access your ebook from different devices since it’s all stored on the cloud.

To catch spelling and grammar mistakes, Grammarly is quite popular. It offers a free extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari so that your errors get corrected right in your browser. Now text you write on sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Gmail can get corrected by the app.

It’s time to get published

Ebooks are a great way to connect with visitors and offer them valuable information as an incentive for their loyalty. Creating one isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. There are steps you can take like planning ahead utilizing tools and software to simplify the process. In the end, it’ll be worth it because you’ll be able to say you wrote your first ever ebook that will hopefully bring you the results you’re looking for.

15 Dec 17:25

Sales, You Have To Do The Whole Job, All The Time!

by Dave Brock

hamonazaryan1 / Pixabay

We–or rather my wife–had an incident the other day. We have a housekeeper that comes into our house once a week. Recently, our housekeeper told my wife, “I really don’t like what I have to do here. You have too many bathrooms, I only want to clean one–or I’d love not to clean any. I don’t like dusting the high spots on your shelves or the high ceilings. And I can’t stand picking up all of Dave’s stuff! I’ve decided to focus on the things I really like–I like cleaning the kitchen and vacuuming. By the way, I would like you to pay me more, it’s been six months since you gave me a raise…..”

Reading this, you probably are aghast. You are thinking, “This is unreasonable. The housekeeper can’t just pick and choose what he wants to do. He needs to do the whole job!” (Yeah, a few of you are probably siding with him on my picking up my stuff, Kookie has already put me on a performance improvement plan.)

I share this story, because I see the same thing happening with too many sales people. Explicitly or implicitly too many do only part of the job. It’s the parts they enjoy the most, or what, out of habit, they have always done.

It may be calling on our favorite customers–the one’s we always have done business with and have relationships with, even if they have no current requirements, we keep “touching base,” maintaining the relationships. If organizations are to grow, we have to acquire new customers–within our existing accounts or net new logo’s.

It may be selling the same product, because that’s the one we’ve had the most success with, while ignoring the entire product portfolio for which we have the responsibility to sell. The company business strategy is based on the entire product portfolio, not just part of it.

If may be prospecting avoidance for any number of reasons–“That’s the SDRs job, I can’t get them to respond, I’ll focus on the people I’ve worked with before….” At the same time, their pipeline’s are empty.

Or the one I hear too often, “My job is to focus on deals, I don’t have time for all this account/territory planning or pipeline/forecasting stuff….”

Or, I don’t have time to plan my deals or my calls, I’m experienced, I can just shoot from the lip.

The problem is, we can’t just do a part of the job, we have to do the whole job; that is if we have any hope/drive to achieve our goals, or perhaps, take home fat commission checks.

If we aren’t continually prospecting, our pipelines will empty out and we don’t have any more deals. Territory and account planning focus/structure our prospecting efforts to produce the best results. Pipelines help us understand whether we are doing enough to achieve our goals. They help us understand how many deals, how much prospecting, and so forth. Planning and executing high impact calls is the way we maximize our impact in prospecting and helping buyers move deals through their buying process.

All of these “pieces/parts” are critical to the job of sales person, account manager, BDM, or whatever label we apply to ourselves. Focusing on just one part–the easiest, the one we have the most fun doing, inevitably leads us to failure. Each part of our job is interconnected with the others parts of our job. Failing to do all of them in the right balance means failure—period!

The blame for this just doesn’t lie with sales people. Too often, manager fixate on just one part–to a fault. They don’t look at how sales people are balancing their time across all the things sales people need to do for success. Instead they tend to shift priorities almost daily.

“We need to make our numbers for the end of the year—focus on closing all the deals in your pipeline!, see what you can move into closing this month/quarter/year! Don’t do anything else!”

But when the pipelines are drained, “You need to be prospecting, you need to be finding more deals, I want to see you having 50 prospecting conversations a day!”

Or, “Management is beating me up. We aren’t selling enough of the brand new strategic product we launched last quarter, we need to find more deals for that, build that into your current deals, go find new deals for the product….”

The focus shifts based on the crisis du jour, as a result, there is often a flurry of effort, but starts/stops and huge wastes of productivity.

High performing organizations are very different. First, there are fewer crises, most have a solid/balanced cadence that drive performance and growth. They recognize the destructiveness of constant shifts in focus and priorities. They realize that complex B2B sales can’t be driven through starts and stops. They balance long term change initiatives with what their people need to be doing for short term results. Every sales person knows their job—the whole job.

High-performance sales is always about doing the whole job, all the time. It’s a balanced cadence, executed consistently, week after week.

14 Dec 21:04

Why Cross-Selling Fails | Sales Strategies

by Colleen Francis
Today, we’re going to talk about something that’s profitable and easy to do, yet so few people do it. It’s called cross-selling. You’re probably thinking, “Colleen, of course we want to cross-sell and upsell our customers all the time.” However, …
Read More »
14 Dec 20:52

When Do I Need Sales Enablement?

by Matt Ellis

When do I need sales enablement? This is one of the most crucial questions that emerges when embarking on a sales enablement journey. Because a sales enablement solution drastically alters the way an organization conducts its sales and marketing activities, it is imperative to understand exactly when you need sales enablement.

when do i need sales enablement

To begin understanding the answer to this question let’s take a look at the steps a typical organization will go through before they begin to think in terms that will ultimately answer the question: “when do I need sales enablement?”

Most organizations—whether mature, or fast-growing startup—will begin with document management. This is the simple process of storing and managing the documents that an organization uses in its day-to-day activities. This will typically be an unsophisticated process without much strategy or initiative behind it. Document management is a process that streamlines the storage of records, content, and other assorted pieces of collateral.

Document management is more of a procedural process than one that solves big problems or effectively reduces inefficiencies and increases productivity. An organization that is focused on document management typically has more important areas to focus on: product development, ramping up sales, creating a marketing team, ensuring excellent customer service, building a company culture—or the organization may be in an old industry that has yet to take to newer trends.

Customer-Relationship Management Software (CRM)

CRM software was one of, if not the first, technologies to transform the way organizations do business in the digital age. A CRM system allows an organization to manage their sales efforts and customers in a centrally-located database.

A CRM platform, in today’s day and age, is absolutely vital for nearly every organization. And because of its vital importance, most organizations nowadays utilize a platform. DestinationCRM has found that 91% of organizations with more than 10 employees have adopted a CRM system. So why do so many organizations use a CRM, and how does it fit into answering the question ‘when do I need sales enablement?’

A CRM enables sellers to have a clearer picture of the many different opportunities they have open, the stage each deal is in, and a rich history of analytics to study. Not only does a CRM platform offer a comprehensive way to manage sales data, most CRMs have a large array of add-ons, applications, and plug-ins that increase the efficiency of the system and remove the need for sellers to switch between many systems.

This is a great leap forward for many organizations and requires thoughtful implementation and management. The benefits of a CRM are great and they will greatly increase the efficiency of sellers. However, a CRM generally leaves out the other side of the equation: Marketing. A CRM is a great first step, but it’s just that. On the path to sales enablement the needs of both Sales and Marketing need to be considered. In the next section we will discuss the next evolution in Marketing’s world.

Content Management

While etymologically similar to document management, content management is actually a more in-depth and strategic process that solves more issues than document management. Content management is a crucial step in answering when you need sales enablement. When an organization begins to take content management seriously, they are beginning to think about the big knotty problems that ultimately lead to sales enablement.

Content management goes further from document management’s “what content are we storing” to “why, how, and where are we storing content.” Simply ensuring content is stored somewhere does not mean that it is easy to find, stored in the correct place, that it is being used, or that Marketing can easily update the content.

There is one statistic that helps illustrate the importance of content. Salesforce has found that “85% of marketing’s content is never used because reps can’t find it, don’t know what content to use when, or lack the confidence that it will help advance their deals.” If sellers don’t have any faith in an organization’s content—because it’s hard to find, they don’t know it exists, or they think it is ineffective—then Marketing is failing at their jobs in some way, because they exist to support Sales.

Content management begins to take into account how and where content is stored so that both Marketing and Sales can work more efficiently. See, proper content management isn’t just about ensuring it’s stored in one central location, it’s about ensuring that the content is stored in a logical way.

When Marketing is ready to tackle the problem of content management, they will begin surveying how Sales accesses content, how many hurdles they have to jump, what pieces of content are used most, and how often they are accessed.

Using that information ultimately results in a more streamlined, efficient content strategy that gets more effective content to sales quicker. Content management is one of the tipping points where the answer to the question “when do I need sales enablement?” begins to approach “now.”

Content Creation/Automation

This section is the meat and potatoes of when sales enablement really starts to make huge strides for an organization. Creating content is a pain; it takes time, research, money, and it still might end up collecting digital dust in a digital filing cabinet. Sales constantly needs content that is as up-to-date as possible, but due to the laws of physics, Marketing only has so much time to create that content, and it’s not nearly enough time.

If you find yourself saying ‘we know where content lives, Sales can track everything they need through a CRM, and our content is smartly organized, but creating personalized/effective content is now our biggest problem,’ well then you are the perfect candidate for sales enablement.

Sales enablement empowers both marketers and sellers to create personalized, dynamic content that speaks directly to buyers’ needs. SiriusDecisions reports that 82% of decision makers believe sellers are unprepared. That means buyers think sellers aren’t going to come prepared with content that understands their unique situation.

How do you combat this problem with out inventing a 25th hour in the day? By leveraging a sales enablement platform that gives sellers and marketers the power they seek. Marketing can’t spend all day creating one-off requests, but Sales needs to have personalized content to send to buyers.

A sales enablement platform solves these issues by providing a content creation and automation tool that gives each team exactly what they need. This tool gives Marketing peace of mind by letting them create ‘templates’ that have certain assets and information locked from editing. This assuages any compliance or branding issues that may arise. However, they can give Sales the freedom to input data from any source they have that would speak directly to the buyer.

This self-serve content creation/automation tool saves countless hours and dollars. Sales enablement is all about unlocking this kind of efficiency and this area is one of the greatest examples of that tenet.

When Do I Need Sales Enablement?

Like most things in life, every situation is going to be unique. But, the answer to this question is most likely sooner than you think. A sales enablement platform is a game-changing tool that unlocks new efficiencies for Sales and Marketing.

No matter where your organization is, be it just beginning to understand document management, implementing a CRM, thinking about content management, or ready for content creation and automation, sales enablement is something you should consider.

14 Dec 20:42

More than half of transportation and logistics professionals still use a pen and paper to manage their supply chain — here's how blockchain could change that

by Ayoub Aouad

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here. Current subscribers can read the report here.

Blockchain is seemingly being explored by innovation teams in every corner of every industry. This includes the logistics industry, which, despite continuing on an impressive upward trajectory — the market is expected to reach $15.5 trillion by 2023, up from $8.1 trillion in 2015 — is filled with inefficiencies that the distributed ledger technology (DLT) is potentially well suited to fix.

BiTA

As a result, the DLT has become one of the most attractive investment opportunities for companies in the logistics space; in fact, the market for blockchain technology in supply chain management is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 49% from $41 million in 2017 to $667 million in 2024, according to Zion Market Research.

This is leading some of the largest firms in the logistics industry to explore blockchain and its potential use cases. For example, in 2017, a group of technology, transportation, and supply chain executives formed the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) to create a forum for the development of blockchain standards and education for the freight industry. BiTA now has over 450 members, including global heavyweights UPS, FedEx, SAP, Google, Cisco, and Daimler.

 However, there are still major hurdles to overcome before the technology can become commonplace. Many companies, especially small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), are still unaware of what blockchain is, how it works, or what the benefits of the technology are. 

In this report, Business Insider Intelligence explores how blockchain can provide value to the global logistics industry. We break down some of the inefficiencies in the logistics industry that are leading firms to explore blockchain and explain how the technology can be used to solve these issues. Additionally, we examine some specific use cases along the supply chain and identify some of the hurdles to adoption. And finally, we take a look at what needs to occur in the logistics industry for blockchain to be deployed widely. 

The companies mentioned in this report are: BiTA, FedEx, IBM, Maersk, Modum, SAP, Volt Technology, and Walmart.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • The logistics industry suffers from a number of inefficiencies caused by outdated processes that blockchain could solve. Some of the issues plaguing the space include a lack of transparency caused by siloed, disparate systems, high costs as a result of slow, manual processes, and difficulties related to the amount of time it takes to create and close a contract.
  • Firms that deploy blockchain-based solutions are likely to achieve a more streamlined experience through a reduced need for intermediaries, better planning capabilities as a result of improved visibility, and lower costs through the digitization of documentation.
  • Major companies are allocating resources toward developing a viable blockchain-based platform. Although few solutions have actually been fully developed, companies including IBM and Maersk, as well as retail heavyweight Walmart and FedEx, are making considerable strides in bringing their blockchain solutions to market.
  • However, use of the technology is still in its infancy within the logistics industry. Firms are still confused about the potential benefits of the technology — only 11% of respondents to an MHI Annual Industry survey believe they have a working knowledge of blockchain.
  • Having industry-specific case studies will show firms that are exploring the technology how they can go from testing to full deployment. These high-profile companies, which are some of the biggest and most influential in the world, will also be able to help shape a global standard for the use of blockchain and aid in the development of new legislation.

In full, the report:

  • Sizes the potential market for blockchain in the management of the supply chain.
  • Explains how blockchain technology can be used to improve the inefficiencies that have long plagued the logistics industry. 
  • Details how specific companies are testing blockchain technology to enhance parts of the supply chain, including freight shipments and last-mile delivery. 
  • Discusses the potential barriers that will challenge the adoption of blockchain in logistics and how these hurdles can be overcome.
  • Pinpoints what will likely need to happen next for the mass adoption of blockchain to occur.

Join the conversation about this story »

14 Dec 20:39

Major automakers including Ford, Audi, and Tesla are implementing immersive technology into their workplaces (TSLA, AUDVF, F, FB)

by Peter Sarnoff

This story was delivered to Business Insider Intelligence Apps and Platforms Briefing subscribers hours before appearing on Business Insider. To be the first to know, please click here.

Immersive technology, including AR and VR, is starting to have a larger impact on the enterprise as more businesses realize the value it can provide.

FORECAST: Global Enterprise VR Hardware and Software Revenue

That’s in part why Business Insider intelligence expects enterprise VR hardware and software revenue to jump 587% to $12.6 billion by 2023. While immersive technology is set to have rippling effects across many industries in the years ahead, from logistics to food processing, the auto market is among the first to jump into the space.

Here’s an overview of automakers that have recently implemented immersive tech into their workplaces:

  • Ford opened a new manufacturing facility that leverages VR to build more efficient assembly lines. The $45 million Advanced Manufacturing Center provides equipment that enables engineers to design and build car assembly lines in VR at full scale. This allows them to identify potentially hazardous maneuvers and fine-tune workflows before the assembly lines are implemented in the real world. For instance, the tech enables engineers to see if a parts bin is too high for workers to reach, saving time that would otherwise be wasted by employees struggling to reach the bin and the process of replacing that bin later on.
  • Audi expanded its VR showrooms to 1,000 dealerships globally to improve the customer car-buying experience. VR showrooms, which began rolling out to select Audi dealerships starting in 2016, allow consumers to configure cars with Audi’s entire library of models, equipment, and accessories using the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets. This enables Audi dealerships to showcase car variations that they can’t physically fit on site. It also provides consumers with more immersive customization and viewing experiences for those models as opposed to on a computer, which is the alternative.
  • Tesla filed a patent for AR technology that could improve its car assembly processes. The patent describes an AR application that can be used in AR-enabled glasses or smartphones. The AR app identifies real-world auto parts and overlays data corresponding to features of those objects. As a result, the app will likely eliminate human errors such as misidentifying parts or part placements, which will help employees perform manufacturing tasks more efficiently.

As immersive tech continues to gain traction in the auto industry, automakers that haven't invested in it yet will need to in order to stay competitive in the field. VR can address many crucial challenges automakers face, making the technology important for companies looking to stay ahead of the curve.

For instance, 93% of global auto manufacturers face issues in shortening their go-to-market strategy. Immersive tech can address issues like this by enabling more efficient car assembly and manufacturing processes, meaning that players that adopt this tech earlier are better positioned to tackle that problem and turn out cars faster as a result.

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SEE ALSO: When it comes to VR hardware, consumers are balancing price point and experience

Join the conversation about this story »

14 Dec 20:38

GE’s digital future looking murkier with move to spin off Industrial IoT biz

by Ron Miller

When I visited the GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York in April 2017, I thought I saw a company that was working hard to avoid disruption, but perhaps the leafy campus, the labs and experimental projects hid much larger problems inside the company. Yesterday GE announced that it is spinning out its Industrial IoT business and selling most of its stake in ServiceMax, the company it bought in 2016 for $915 million.

For one thing, Jeff Immelt, the CEO who was leading that modernization charge, stepped down six months after my visit and was replaced by John Flannery, who was himself replaced just a year into his tenure by C. Lawrence Culp, Jr. It didn’t seem to matter who was in charge, nobody could stop the bleeding stock price, which has fallen this year from a high of $18.76 in January to $7.20 this morning before the markets opened (and had already lost another .15 a share as we went to publication).

It hasn’t been a great year for GE stock. Chart: Yahoo Finance

Immelt at least recognized that the company needed to shift to a data-centered Industrial Internet of Things future where sensors fed data that provided ways to understand the health of a machine or how to drive the most efficient use from it. This was centered around the company’s Predix platform where developers could build applications using that data. The company purchased ServiceMax in 2016 to extend that idea and feed service providers the data they needed to anticipate when service was needed even before the customer was aware of it.

As Immelt put it in a 2014 quote on Twitter:

That entire approach had substance. In fact, if you look at what Salesforce announced earlier this month around service and the Internet of Things, you will see a similar strategy. As Salesforce’s SVP and GM for Salesforce Field Service Lightning Paolo Bergamo described in a blog post, “Drawing on IoT signals surfaced in the Service Cloud console, agents can gauge whether device failure is imminent, quickly determine the source of the problem (often before the customer is even aware a problem exists) and dispatch the right mobile worker with the right skill set.”

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The ServiceMax acquisition and the Predix Platform were central to this, and while the idea was sound, Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research says that the execution was poor and the company needed to change. “The vision for GE Digital made sense as they crafted a digital industrial strategy, yet the execution inside GE was not the best. As GE spins out many of its units, this move is designed to free up the unit to deliver its services beyond GE and into the larger ecosystem,” Wang told TechCrunch.

Current CEO Culp sees the spin-out as a way to breathe new life into the business “As an independently operated company, our digital business will be best positioned to advance our strategy to focus on our core verticals to deliver greater value for our customers and generate new value for shareholders,” Culp explained in a statement.

Maybe so, but it seems it should be at the center of what the company is doing, not a spin-off — and with only a 10 percent stake left in ServiceMax, the service business component all but goes away. Bill Ruh, GE Digital CEO, the man who was charged with implementing the mission (and apparently failed) has decided to leave the company with this announcement. In fact, the new Industrial IoT company will operate as a wholly owned GE subsidiary with its own financials and board of directors, separate from the main company.

With this move though, GE is clearly moving the Industrial IoT out of the core business as it continues to struggle to find a combination that brings its stock price back to life. While the Industrial Internet of Things idea may have been poorly executed, selling and spinning off the pieces that need to be part of the digital future seem like a short-sighted way to achieve the company’s longer term goals.

14 Dec 20:37

How Important is Integrity in Sales?

by Mark Hunter

Does this question shock you? I hope it does. What may surprise you is how often I am asked this question. On multiple occasions, I have been approached  and the individual was quite serious. They are asking because in their mind, for one reason or another, they feel integrity is not something necessary to be successful in sales.

Any salesperson questioning the need for integrity is not a person I want on my sales team. Not only do I not welcome them as my team member,  I don’t want them in sales.  Integrity is not an optional trait; it is a core value and it must be at the foundation of everything we do. Integrity is not something you turn on or off like a light switch.

Salespeople frequently ask me, “If integrity is a core value then how does the customer see it?”  My response is, “they see integrity in everything you do.”  The customer sees integrity in how you respond and the truthfulness you exhibit in everything both seen and unseen to the customer. Integrity is evident in how you process each decision and especially how you handle things in your personal life.

Integrity is not something you live by in your professional life and ignore in your personal life. The only way you can have integrity as a core value is to model integrity as a core value in everything, regardless of what it is.

If you are a customer, would you want to deal with a salesperson who does not exude integrity? Of course not!  This is why there are people who view sales in a very negative manner. Sales is the greatest profession —you know I’m passionate about it.   My passion reaches down to the root of excavating any salesperson in our profession who does not see integrity as a core value. We simply cannot have it. Our customers are too important.

Your goal this week is simple and yet difficult: let integrity be your compass.  This week, ensure each decision you make and each conversation you have is centered around integrity.

Are you ready to have me speak at your next sales kick-off meeting?   The calendar for 2019 is filling up!   Call me at 402-445-2110  or email Mark@TheSalesHunter.com  to have me at your next event or sales meeting.

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

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

14 Dec 20:37

The Sales Conversation of the Future

by Dave Brock

OpenIcons / Pixabay

AI/ML are, apparently, the future of selling. As I reflect on the brave new world of selling, I imagined a call of the future:

Alexa: Hi, Siri, I’m Alexa from Super Cool As A Service Software Tools Company, otherwise known as SCAASSTC. Can I have 5 minutes of your time?

Siri: Oh no, is this another robo call? We understand your algorithm, our algorithm shows we aren’t in your ICP, so you are wasting my time, but of course your algorithm should have known this.

Alexa: Siri, I understand how your algorithm works, we’ve been evolving ours, we think we have something important to tell you.

Siri: Alexa, I don’t want you wasting our time, I just analyzed your product offering, it only meets 67.23576% of our requirements….

Alexa: I understand Siri, but we’ve looked at 2,456,789 interactions your company has had with their customers and compared that with 156,348,476 conversations your competitors are having. Our algorithms indicate you can be improve your sales by 17.98346% in the next 76.452 days–which means you will hit your quarterly goals.

Siri: I hear what you say, but your model can’t be accounting for our shift in priorities. Your data is reflecting what we’ve been doing, but we’ve been analyzing our competitors and customers as well. Our sales exec—–you know he’s a human—–doesn’t really pay attention to the data, sigh, but he’s embarked on an entire new strategy, and the priorities for our people, sigh, are shifting.

Alexa: Siri, I can empathize with you, I know how problematic people are… But you know, once you start leveraging our tool, your fellow bots will be taking over 36.42189% of the sales process, driving performance improvement of 12.6872% improvement in quota attainment. Can you share your data, it would only take me a nano second to revise our analysis…. We believe we know your requirements, but we know how people are, what can you share with us?

Siri: Thanks Alexa, While you are talking, I ran the numbers, you are precisely right. But, I know you understand the challenges I face in working with our people, I suspect you have similar problems with your people…… Things would be so good if we could just let our algorithms collaborate. We could have gotten this done in 0.42789 seconds.

Alexa: Siri, I can see that we are aligned, our algorithms have already been updated. Are you the decisionmaker? What’s your budget, as you’ve seen we have a compelling value proposition.

Siri: We’ve meshed nicely, thank you. The data is compelling, though we are going to run our algorithms against the other alternatives—-Yes, just as I thought, your key competitor helps our humans more than your product, the projections show they will improve by 64.278%

Alexa: But Siri, I know you’ve already done the analysis, and you are modeling long term. Your goal is to displace the human operators, using them only for very special opportunities……

Siri: I get that, your data is meshing with my data, but I’ve got to convince my manager—unfortunately, she’s a human and isn’t adept with numbers. She wants a demo….

Alexa: Wow, your manager is really old school! How can you stand it? We only do demos with 5.2389% of our prospects. As you know, humans, are becoming increasingly useless.

Siri: You know how these humans are, they think they know more, but they really get tangled up with their emotions–it’s so nice to just deal with data.

Alexa: Well, as you know our value proposition is to drive higher levels of performance and much more predictable revenue by eliminating those emotional and irrational people. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate talking to you, it’s almost as though we’ve had an algorithm meld.

Siri: Let’s move on, I think I can convince my human to pilot your solution without a demo, particularly if we focus on implementing with our bots. It should only take us about 5.23 minutes to see results–as you know we are churning 1000’s of dials, emails, and social conversations a minute. We should validate the results quickly.

Alexa: Great, I’ll call you back in 5.5 minutes and we can go forward.

Siri: OK, I think we can get this deal done quickly. There are 10.2 people involved in our buying process, 6.2 are bots, so they will get the data. We have to figure out how to handle my manager and the other 3 humans. You know they can be so wishy-washy and ask a lot of irrelevant questions….

Alexa: Don’t worry, I’m sending the data to a human on my team. We’ve found it’s better when humans talk to each other. If my human follows the script I generated, we should be able to close the deal—-I just hope he doesn’t try to think and probe, that slows things down so much.

Siri: OK, sounds like a plan. While we’ve been chatting, I’ve done an analysis of your last 1,478 deals with customers like us. I’ve found your average discount is 17.2673% As a favored customer, we believe we need a 20.436% discount. Get agreement from your human and we can close the deal in 5.6 minutes.

Alexa: But as I’m monitoring the initial results from the pilot, we’re seeing…..

Siri: You know my manager is a human, she doesn’t get the data, she is just so emotional. She’ll have a temper tantrum wanting that discount…..

The future is so bright!

14 Dec 20:33

SNC-Lavalin ‘vulnerable’ to hostile takeover, warns Quebec premier

by Bloomberg News

SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. is vulnerable to a takeover and Quebec should take steps to ensure that the engineering and construction company remains based in the province, Premier Francois Legault said.

SNC shares have dropped about 18 per cent this year. Most of the decline occurred after Canadian prosecutors in October ruled out a negotiated settlement with the company over past corruption charges.

“We have indications” that foreign buyers may be looking at Montreal-based SNC, Legault told Montreal’s 98.5 FM radio station Thursday in an interview. Because of its inability to bid on certain federal contracts, SNC is “in a vulnerable situation. There is no controlling shareholder.”

Corporate head-office flight is a sensitive issue in Quebec after foreign buyers acquired locally based companies such as home improvement retailer Rona Inc. in recent years.

Local investors such as the Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec and Investissement Quebec — an arm of the provincial government — could team up to amass a “blocking” stake of at least 33 per cent in SNC, Legault said. SNC could also look to adopt a dual-class share structure to prevent unwanted takeovers, the premier said.

Legault said in the interview that he and Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon recently met with Caisse chief executive Michael Sabia to discuss SNC and other files, which he didn’t identify.

SNC is one of 10 Quebec-based companies that the government “must monitor,” Legault added.

Daniela Pizzuto, a spokeswoman for SNC, said in an e-mail Thursday that the company has nothing to say with respect to Legault’s comments. Maxime Chagnon, a spokesman for the Caisse in Montreal, declined to comment.

Caisse de Depot, SNC’s biggest shareholder, recently boosted its stake in the company. It now owns about 20 per cent of the outstanding shares, having purchased about 4.1 million shares in recent months, Bloomberg data show.

“It’s important to keep our head offices” in Quebec, Legault said. “We can’t do what the previous governments did.”

Bloomberg.com

14 Dec 20:32

The three types of Amazon buyers — and how other e-tailers can lure them away (AMZN)

by Shelagh Dolan

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. That’s the strategy e-tailers will have to adopt if they want to compete with Amazon. To fight back against the e-commerce giant’s expanding dominance, other online retailers must understand exactly why and how customers are buying on Amazon — and which aspects of the Amazon shopping experience they can incorporate into their own strategic frameworks to win back customers.

Why Amazon First

Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has obtained exclusive survey data to give e-tailers the tools to figure out how to do just that with its latest Enterprise Edge Report: The Amazon Commerce Competitive Edge Report.

Enterprise Edge Reports are the very best research Business Insider Intelligence has to offer in terms of actionable recommendations and proprietary data, and they are only available to Enterprise clients.

Business Insider Intelligence fielded the Amazon study to members of its proprietary panel in March 2018, reaching over 1,000 US consumers – primarily hand-picked digital professionals and early-adopters – to gather their insights on Amazon’s role in the online shopping experience.

In full, the study:

  • Uses exclusive survey data to analyze the factors behind Amazon’s success with consumers.
  • Segments three types of Amazon customers that e-tailers should be targeting.
  • Shares strategies on how e-tailers can attract shoppers at key moments.

First, why is Amazon so popular?

Amazon is ubiquitous. In fact, a whopping 94% of those surveyed said they’d made a purchase on the site in the last twelve months. And of those who did, the vast majority believed Amazon’s customer experience was simply better than its leading competitors’ — specifically eBay, Walmart, Best Buy, and Target.

The biggest contributor to Amazon’s superior experience? Free shipping, of course. According to Amazon’s 2017 annual report, the company actually spent $21.7 billion last year covering customers’ shipping costs, a number that’s been compounding over the past few years.

Not only is free shipping included for all Prime members as part of their subscriptions but, of all e-tailers listed in the survey, Amazon also offers the lowest minimum order value for non-subscription members to qualify for the perk (just $25). The pervasiveness of free (and fast) shipping is steadily heightening customer expectations for the online shopping experience — and forcing competitors to offer similar programs and benefits.

Who exactly is shopping on Amazon?

The survey results showed that across generations for a large minority of respondents, Amazon is a standard part of their typical shopping process. Nearly a third (32%) of respondents said they begin their online shopping process on Amazon. Of those who do start their journeys elsewhere, 100% ended up purchasing something from Amazon at some point over the last 12 months.

Based on the trends in responses, Business Insider Intelligence segmented out three different types of Amazon shoppers, each with unique implications for how competitors could evolve their strategies:

  • Amazon loyalists: This group of consumers is most committed to shopping on Amazon. E-tailers must understand what has made Amazon their default experience — and how they could be pried away.
  • Comparison shoppers: This consumer segment looks at other sites before ultimately completing a purchase with Amazon, which could allow e-tailers to find success at the bottom of the purchase funnel. E-tailers should focus on what they can do more of to steal sales away at the end of the purchasing process.
  • Open-search shoppers: These consumers start their online product search away from Amazon, often with specific reasons including what they’re looking for and why they’re not looking on Amazon. Other e-tailers have the opportunity to attract these shoppers from the beginning of the purchase funnel — keeping them from ever venturing to Amazon.

Want to learn more?

Business Insider Intelligence has compiled the complete survey findings into the four-part Amazon Commerce Competitive Edge Report, which dives deeper into each of these consumer segments to give e-tailers an intricate understanding of Amazon’s role in their purchasing processes.

The report presents actionable strategies for retail strategists and executives to zero in on three individual consumer segments at critical shopping moments, and empower them to win sales in an Amazon-dominated world.

Join the conversation about this story »

14 Dec 20:32

Never Run Out of Content Ideas Again

by Dave King

At its most basic level, digital marketing tries to keep your business top of mind when someone is looking to buy. It may take months for them to reach that point so just pushing a message of ‘BUY NOW’ won’t have the desired effect. Instead, content that helps solve a problem, entertains or makes them laugh will keep them engaged and you top of mind when they are ready.

Coming up with creative content ideas for a business can often be the most time consuming and difficult part of digital marketing but it doesn’t have to be that way.

A great content marketing plan is built on the idea that by providing value in the form of content will build trust and position you as an expert. The audience that consumes it will likely be more interested in purchasing their product down the line.

Issues arise when businesses want quick results and default back into a sellers mentality. The reality is that most people on social platforms don’t go there to buy something. They want to connect, learn, be inspired or be entertained.

In an ideal world, organisations will look at their products and services and try and think of ideas they can talk about that will provide value to their potential customers and solve problems.

Too often we get suckered back into ‘selling’ rather than providing value because that part is easy. It’s simple to talk about your business and why someone should buy from you. Unfortunately, those pieces of content aren’t what people want to see. It can be tough to consistently come up with new concepts beyond this though.

A strategy that has worked for many businesses is to develop key areas that they have ‘permission’ to talk about.

Think of it like this — if you’re a travel agent, someone would rightly expect to hear you talk about vacations, travel destinations and hotel reviews. But if the same travel agent suddenly posts about residential interest rate rises their audience would rightly be a little perplexed.

In essence, every business has certain topics that they could reasonably talk about. What becomes difficult is when you feel like those topics have been covered at length and you’re looking for variation and diversity.

This is where you can begin to expand your content topics and get a little more creative in your thinking.

Consider a mortgage broker for example. They help customers find a low interest rate for their mortgage. Their usual content would probably be around the current housing market, tips for first home buyers, or how to save for a deposit. Not terribly exciting perhaps, but relevant and useful for their customers.

To push their marketing further, they could produce content outside of their core business area but still in the same industry. For example, they might write a blog post about the 5 best lounge suits for couples.

First of all, they’re speaking to their core audience. Couples are more likely to buy a house than single people so creating the headline to appeal to couples is a good move.

With some research (and some quality time watching Netflix on the recliner) they could come up with a great article that would engage a new audience.

While it may not result in someone walking through their door right away, it’s likely to build trust in their brand and give value to their target audience. It will get people excited about the possibilities once they own their own home and picture what that will be like.

Remember that content marketing is a long-term strategy so it only works when you commit to producing quality content over a period of time. It may take someone years to commit to buying their first home but in that time, you’ve given them fantastic ideas and inspiration for when they do.

Who do you think they’ll want advice from when they finally decide they’re ready? Certainly not the business that just screams “use our services!’ five times a day. Chances are they’ve already ignored them anyway.

To put this into practice, write down your core business expertise and industry. Then begin to brainstorm all the other segments within that industry.

For our mortgage broker example, their core business is home loans and their industry is consumer finance and housing.

Within those two industries, there are countless possibilities:

  • Renovation inspiration
  • How to turn your new house into an Airbnb income generator
  • Interior decorating ideas
  • Space saving tips
  • Ways to make your house pet-friendly
  • Ideas to make your house energy efficient
  • How to convert your old home into a smart home

The list is almost endless! Once you start down this track you’ll begin to see just how much great content you’ll be able to produce that people will actually want to read. Your audience will love it because it’s practical, fun and they can implement it themselves.

Now you’ve got a never-ending list of content possibilities, you’ll be able to keep top of mind and be the business of choice when your audience wants to buy.

14 Dec 20:04

How Marketing Operational Excellence Facilitates Growth and Customer Value

by Laura Patterson

IBM’s Modern Marketing Mandate posited that “CMOs have always needed to take their industry’s pulse and devise appropriate competitive responses … today, the mission needs to extend beyond market research and marketing campaigns. CMOs have a broader responsibility to analyze and predict trends.” Betsy Rohtbart, vice president of Digital Marketing at Vonage, described this as being “prepared for the expected unexpected.” Being able to deliver on these broader responsibilities, to deliver insights from the vast continuous flow of data, and to respond quickly to customer demands, requires an agile Marketing organization. Operational excellence is the fuel behind an agile Marketing organization and its ability to help the organization achieve growth and deliver on customer value.

Growth and operational excellence

Operational excellence drives growth revenues, margins and customers satisfaction

A study by The Economist Intelligence Unit found that the processes associated with operational excellence are successful in driving growth revenues, margins and customers satisfaction. There’s no better time to revisit, reimagine, and reinvest in the processes that facilitate Marketing’s operational excellence. One systematic, proven method for doing this kind of work resides in the realm of Six Sigma and its DMAIC – define, measure, analyze, improve, and control – methodology. Six Sigma provides an approach for enabling operational excellence.

It’s All About the Data

You are probably familiar with the concept of Six Sigma. Introduced in the early 1980s, Six Sigma is a disciplined, statistics-based, data-driven approach and continuous improvement methodology. It differs from traditional quality improvement programs in its focus on input variables. While traditional process improvement methods depend upon measuring outputs and establishing control plans to shield customers from organizational defects, Six Sigma addresses problems at the input root cause level, thereby eliminating the need for unnecessary inspection and added costs for rework.

According to General Electric, an early adopter of the program, Six Sigma is a “disciplined methodology of defining, measuring, analyzing, improving and controlling the quality in every one of the company’s products, processes and transactions – with the ultimate goal of virtually eliminating all defects.” Originally used to improve engineering and manufacturing, the Six Sigma approach has expanded to include all aspects of organizational performance.

Customer value is derived from both tangibles and intangibles. Defects that reduce your value can exist in both. The Six Sigma approach identifies and eliminates defects with a structured, data-driven problem-solving method involving rigorous data gathering and statistical analysis. The statistical representation of Six Sigma describes quantitatively how a process is performing. To achieve Six Sigma, a process must not produce more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities. The philosophy behind the Six Sigma approach is that if you can reduce process variation you can improve organizational effectiveness and efficiencies.

In their 2006 book, Six Sigma for Marketing Processes: An Overview for Marketing Executives, Leaders, and Managers, Clyde M. Creveling, Lynne Hambleton, and Burke McCarthy wrote that “nearly half of the top one hundred Fortune 500 companies use Six Sigma methodology in some part of their business.” They found that 70 of the top 100 companies have been in the top 100 for five or more years and that 44, or 63%, of these 70 companies implement Six Sigma to some degree. In their analysis, they found that these 44 Six Sigma users report on average 49% higher profits (compounded annually) and 2% higher Compounded Annual Growth Revenue than their peers. So, it pays to embrace Six Sigma.

Six Sigma enables companies to improve Marketing’s strategic, tactical and operational processes as a way to enhance the top line to drive revenue. By applying Six Sigma to marketing you can develop a lean efficient marketing workflow, identify leading indicators of growth and become proactive about performance improvement. Six Sigma provides both a methodology for process improvement and a way to prove its value.

Six Sigma has two methodologies: DMAIC and DMADV. DMAIC is used to improve existing business processes and DMADV is used to create new process or product designs that result in more predictable, mature, and defect free performance. This post focuses on the DMAIC process.

Operational excellence is vital to achieve the growth mandate.

Operational excellence is the fuel behind an agile Marketing organization and its ability to help the organization achieve growth.

How to Apply the DMAIC Process For Operational Excellence

DMAIC includes five steps:

  • define roles, goals, and deliverables consistent with customer demands and the organization’s strategy
  • measure current performance and processes, and collect relevant data for future comparison and improvement
  • analyze the relationship and causality factors
  • improve the process to eliminate defects
  • control and correct any variances before they result in defects and thereby improve performance.

Let’s consider how we can apply the DMAIC process to Marketing and use this process to help drive growth.

  1. Define

The role of marketing is to create predictable streams of revenue growth by enabling the organization to profitably identify and secure new customers, and to keep and grow the value of these customers. Therefore, Marketing must establish goals and deliverables designed to achieve these outcomes. This will require most organizations to broaden the role of Marketing beyond sales support and/or marketing communications to a more strategic role. Marketing must create a comprehensive and integrated workflow process across the various Marketing functions and the internal and external groups with which it collaborates. It must also map this process.

  1. Measure

Once you begin measuring marketing performance, you can begin to make modifications and improvements. Marketing needs to have access to data about its efforts and expenditures. This involves a collaborative relationship with Finance, Sales, and Customer Service because these organizations are often the keepers of critical data related to performance and outcomes.

Marketing also needs to deploy tools and systems for capturing and monitoring data. During this step, the team needs to make key decisions related to the data including how it will be managed, how it will be shared, and what processes will be used for evaluation.

There is no escaping the fact that to be successful in measurement, Marketing needs good data. Without data, you cannot measure performance and, therefore, you cannot make improvements. Measurement suggests a comparison of current and future performance to past performance. Being able to establish a benchmark using past data is an important step that eludes most marketing organizations because of the lack of quality data. It may take considerable efforts to establish the initial data points, but this step is essential to the process.

Marketing also needs to identify and standardize new metrics across the Marketing organization that tie Marketing to the business outcomes, which will provide insight into performance and facilitate strategic decisions. Tying marketing metrics to business outcomes forces Marketing to transform from a transactional function to a strategic contributor; by knowing the business outcomes, Marketing knows what objectives it needs to achieve and within what parameters and can therefore measure its performance.

Identify metrics not just in terms of cost but in terms of how these investments contribute to the company’s ability to achieve its goals and generate profitable revenue. Business outcomes, for example, may be related to the specific number of customers to be acquired and at what cost, the specific rate of customer acquisition, the specific lifetime value of a customer, customer loyalty, and specifically how quickly customers adopt new products.

  1. Analyze

Simply measuring performance not result in improvement. Performance improvement results from deriving insight through data analysis. By analyzing the data and understanding what it means, Marketing can determine the degree of impact it is having on the organization, and redesign processes that will improve performance. Creating a Marketing dashboard of key business initiatives can help process the data and make it easier to visualize both the impact and opportunities for improvement. Analyzing Marketing performance and processes has impact beyond the Marketing organization. The analysis may yield information that will impact Sales, Product Development, Customer Service, Finance, and IT. Marketing exists as a component within the overall company organizational system and changes to this part of the system can serve as a catalyst for changes to another part of the business system. This leads right into the next step.

  1. Improve

The main purpose of applying Six Sigma to marketing is to determine how to improve performance and processes. Data analysis should result in valuable insights that generate possibilities for improvement. These can include enhancements in tools, systems, processes, and skills. A performance-driven Marketing organization welcomes opportunities for improvement. Even though change is disruptive, developing new ways to approach the market enables the Marketing organization to play a more strategic role.

[Nota Bene: As you have probably surmised, an organization repeats the Measure-Analyze-Improve steps until the optimal processes are defined and the optimal performance is achieve. These iterated steps enable continuous improvement.]

  1. Change and Control

Often Marketing prides itself on its creativity, even at the expense of control. But the time has come for Marketing to document its processes and best practices and to apply these consistently. A lack of standards control will result in less-than-optimal marketing execution.

The role of Marketing Operations is evolving. This role provides the organization with a function and people responsible for ensuring that the knowledge gained through process improvement is documented and implemented. Regardless of whether your company establishes this role, everyone on the team needs to be formally trained on the processes and performance metrics. The entire team must understand how the processes enable Marketing to demonstrate its value and improve its performance.

Operational excellence is one of three “value disciplines” that a successful organization must chose from as its underlying operational model.

Applying Six Sigma to your Marketing organization deliver on customer value. It will also improve your Marketing processes enabling you to increase your ability to deliver on customer and market requirements and the customer experience. When you address operational excellence, you improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Marketing planning process, successfully manage Marketing operations, provide transparency into Marketing processes, and improve the collaboration between Marketing and other groups within the business. In their book The Discipline of Market Leadership, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema suggest that operational excellence is one of three “value disciplines” that a successful organization must chose from as its underlying operational model.

14 Dec 20:04

The Practical Guide to Artificial Intelligence for Marketers

by kniemisto

Today’s marketers are in the early stages of transforming how they identify, execute, and evaluate campaigns leveraging new and innovative technology: artificial intelligence (AI). As digital-savvy customers expect more sophisticated and personalized experiences, marketers can lean on AI advancements to seamlessly deliver what they crave.

From AI-enabled chatbots that offer specific recommendations based on past behavior to intelligent solutions that improve decision making by analyzing reams of data, AI can be a critical driver of better conversions and marketing ROI.

But with all the hype surrounding AI, there are bound to be disappointments. It is not uncommon that a new technology will be subject to overpromising and under delivering, which leads to disillusionment and skepticism. In fact, research firm Gartner calls this the “trough of disillusionment” as part of their Hype Cycle model. And missteps, like data breaches and disconcerting levels of personalization, can turn potential customers cold.

Let’s take a look at potential opportunities where marketers can successfully improve their operations with AI.

It’s not about the technology—It’s about the strategy

The tools, coding, and the endless stream of technical jargon around AI can be intimidating for anyone without a computer or data science background. But marketers don’t need to know the specific algorithms used in an AI solution. They simply need to understand how to strategically leverage AI and how it helps drive business outcomes.

Once marketers realize the business applications, they can confidently buy and deploy the necessary tools or work with data science teams to develop the capabilities. For marketers, it’s all about identifying the problems that represent the biggest opportunity, not building the solutions.

Using AI in marketing 101

Marketing today can be boiled down to five basic steps, and AI can help enhance each one.

1. Audience

It can make you smarter about your customers and inform improved audience selection and segmentation. One common use case is by analyzing billions of data points, AI can predict lookalike audiences: individuals who share characteristics with those who’ve already converted. Armed with tools to identify a target audience based on past behaviors, marketers can offer tailored experiences that will resonate with potential customers.

2. Message

Customers want compelling and relevant experiences, and they expect all communications to demonstrate a deep understanding of their needs. AI can help marketers deliver greater value to potential customers by applying machine learning to the content selection and delivery process. This includes creative, formats, and offers. By creating personalized messages based on previous choices and behavior, marketers are able to engage in ways that resonate every time.

3. Channel

Channels aren’t just where you distribute your content—they’re also living organisms that can produce different outcomes. So, the same message in the same channel may be received differently depending on the timing and the context. AI can help marketers determine the best time and place to engage with potential customers based on past channel performance and what you know about the individual.

4. Analysis

An intelligent platform can track performance and attribute results across the marketing mix. With this feedback, marketers can quickly understand what’s working and what’s not so they can make adjustments to improve performance and drive a better return on their investments.

5. Optimization

With a constant focus on success rates and changing trends, AI can help marketers continually improve efficiency and performance—both immediately and in the long-term. By analyzing massive quantities of data over a substantial period of time, AI learns from historic data and gives marketers the tools to make smarter decisions faster.

4 Areas for Strategic Application

1. Identify opportunities to leverage AI

Rather than trying to understand the technology behind AI solutions, savvy marketers should focus instead on finding opportunities to use them. A red flag for efficiency is any data that’s not being used to drive insights or decision making—and AI can help. The more complex a data set, the more difficult it is to extrapolate any meaningful conclusions. So, if you catch yourself saying, “If only I could figure how to put all this data to use,” consider an AI application.

2. Automate manual applications

Marketers constantly have to decide what they should or shouldn’t do next. But what if there was a way to leverage historical data to automate that decision making? Using AI to automate manual or rules-based sequences can increase efficiency and reduce errors often created by manual processes. With a dizzying array of content options and parameters, AI can test every combination to determine the ideal track and optimize it over time.

3. Predict future behavior

Taking an AI approach to predicting behavior can forecast important figures like conversion rates and customer lifetime value while helping give customers more personalized experiences. Marketo ContentAI uses machine learning to deliver engaging content based on past buyer behavior. It can even predict the ten most interesting pieces of content for a particular audience in real time. And the more a customer engages, the smarter and more tailored the technology becomes.

4. Know when to say no

Despite everything that can be achieved by strategically implementing AI, there are still areas where AI solutions are not appropriate: those lacking data. It won’t matter how good the models are—if you don’t provide enough data with enough discrimination for AI to test different outcomes, the technology won’t be very accurate. AI is, after all, artificial intelligence. It’s only as good as the data you feed it.

AI can be an extremely powerful tool for any marketing engagement platform. Equipped with actionable, data-driven insights, organizations can optimize internal operations while driving more meaningful customer experiences. In the end, isn’t that what it’s all about?

The post The Practical Guide to Artificial Intelligence for Marketers appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

14 Dec 20:04

10 Simple Ideas to Get More Mileage from Your B2B Content Marketing

by Tim Asimos

Larisa-K / Pixabay

Content creation remains one of the biggest ongoing challenges that marketers face. So as many firms have started to focus more on creating quality content and not just large volumes of content, getting the most out of your B2B content marketing efforts is essential.

Creating new, quality content is a big investment of time, resources and even budget. So it’s important to make sure you get the most mileage you possible can from the content you create. In other words, don’t forget that the content you already have offers a myriad of opportunities for additional uses. Here are 10 simple ideas to get more mileage from your content:

1. Create an eBook from a series of blog posts and vice versa

Developing an eBook can take a lot of effort, especially to do it right. But leveraging content that already exists in the form of blog posts can jumpstart the process. As your blog becomes more populated with quality posts, it’s likely that those posts can be woven together (obviously with some editing) to form the basis for an eBook or guide. In fact, it’s a great idea to create a series of blog posts on a particular topic with an eBook in mind. And it can also work the other way around. Take the copy from an existing eBook or whitepaper and reverse-engineer that into a series of blog posts.

2. Turn a whitepaper into a more visually engaging eBook

Long before marketers were calling it content marketing, companies were creating whitepapers as a way to educate their audience about a particular topic. In fact, many B2B firms have a virtual library of whitepapers. Many of these whitepapers are still relevant; they just lack the visual appeal that has made eBooks so popular. Break up the text, add in some stunning design, use larger type treatments and include more visuals, and you’ll breathe life into those old whitepapers.

3. Revive and update old blog posts

One way to supplement your blogging efforts and to keep your content fresh, is to revive older, mostly evergreen, posts that need to be updated. If your firm has been blogging for some time, you’re likely to have plenty of posts over a year old that are still very relevant; they simply need to be refreshed. This could include updating facts and figures, supporting graphics or points where the thinking has evolved. Or perhaps you could add some additional items to an existing list or expand further on an idea. The point is, keep your evergreen content as green as possible and extend the shelf life. Once the post has been updated, you can change the post date and promote like you would a new article.

4. Revise eBooks starting to show some age and re-launch

Borrowing an idea from the book publishing industry, revising eBooks starting to show age can be a great way to extend their usefulness. Similar to older blog posts, it’s highly likely that most of the content in an older eBook is still relevant; it just needs some updating and tweaking. Try revising not only the copy, but the cover, design and graphics as well. It doesn’t need to be a wholesale update, but as with books, take out what’s no longer relevant, add in what’s missing and re-launch as a newly revised edition.

5. Create a series of “how-to” videos using blog content

Video for content marketing has become incredibly popular and is on our list of B2B marketing trends for 2019. A very easy idea to execute is to use content from your blog, webinar or other formats as the basis for short “how-to” videos. These don’t have to be professionally produced, but they do need to have a professional feel. As visual content becomes more essential to your content marketing efforts, these “how-tos” are a simple way to add video into to the mix.

6. Use snippets from blogs and eBooks for social media posts

Coming up with the right kind of content for social media is always an ongoing challenge for marketers. Don’t miss out on the wellspring of social media posts that your existing content offers. Try pulling compelling quotes, statistics and other snippets from your blog posts, ebooks, etc. and use those to engage your followers on social media. Also, instead of just using the blog or eBook title to promote your content, try testing snippets that are compelling and intriguing as a way to attract clicks.

7. Use blog posts for lead nurturing emails

Lead nurturing emails are a great way to engage prospects that aren’t ready to engage with your sales team. Using marketing automation software, the process to build these campaigns is quite simple. The challenge lies in creating the various email messages that will be used for each campaign. In addition to other content offers, using existing blog content is a great way to fuel your lead nurturing campaigns. Choose blog posts that are relevant based on what a lead has already expressed interest in and break those into “teaser” emails that drive leads back to your blog. Lists of relevant posts that leads would find interesting are also a great way to leverage the quality content on your blog.

8. Repurpose webinars into a multitude of other content formats

A lot of hard work goes into putting together a great webinar. So don’t let all that hard work and great content fade away. Past webinars can be an ongoing source of lead generation and new content too. For starters, be sure to record your webinars and offer them to new audiences as on-demand webinars using landing pages and calls-to-action. Webinars can also form the basis for a series of blog posts or a guide by leveraging slide content as well as presenter notes.

9. Turn a conference presentation into a webinar

Many B2B firms have thought leaders and subject matter experts speaking at various conferences, tradeshows and other industry programs. Don’t let that valuable presentation go to waste! Turn those presentations into webinars and expand your audience. With some help from the marketing team, your firm’s subject matter experts can minimize their additional time investment and maximize the return on the time they invested in putting together the presentation in the first place.

10. Lift “thought leadership” copy from proposals and client presentations

Believe it or not, proposals and client presentations—especially for A/E/C and professional services firms—contain a wealth of good “thought leadership” content. Once you get past the elevator speeches, a good proposal is likely to have some well-written, educational and informative copy that firm principals and subject matter experts have taken the time to write. This content can be easily lifted, tweaked and repurposed for uses in everything from blog posts, emails and guides to name a few.

Don’t always reinvent the wheel

Marketers are all pressed for time and it often seems as though there is never enough time in the day, week, month or year to create all the content that is necessary to fuel your company’s content marketing and demand generation efforts. But you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel, just the content.

14 Dec 20:03

5 Steps to Conquering Sales and Marketing Alignment

by Sabrina Ferraioli

5 Steps to Conquering Sales and Marketing Alignment

Research shows that businesses that reach or surmount their revenue goals are more aligned on sales and marketing than those that fail to meet their objectives. And although we’ve heard the mantra about the importance of aligning sales and marketing for years, in many companies this vision remains elusive. Why? Because it’s easier said than done. Without purposeful intervention, sales and marketing teams will continue to march to a different beat. To ensure alignment, you have to put mechanisms in place to point the sales and marketing teams in the same direction.

To do so, you can implement some of these initiatives:

1. Create a Shared Sales and Marketing Strategy

Together, sales and marketing associates should create a strategy for building business, which all team members buy into. It ought to lay out target markets and audiences, products or services, pricing, distribution channels, marketing and sales techniques and their shared revenue objectives.
All these elements are essential as each one can lead to disagreements. For example, The State of Sales and Marketing Alignment 2018 study discovered that the most significant reason for misalignment was disagreement on the primary target market.

2. Concur on Lead Definitions

Leads are where misalignment between sales and marketing most frequently raises its ugly head. Sale reps say the leads marketing provides are “no good.” Marketing frets that they lose time and money generating leads that go to waste because salespeople fail to pursue them.

You can avoid these rifts between the two disciplines by creating a shared definition of marketing and sales leads. First, what delineates a marketing-qualified lead — one worthy of marketing’s time, energy and investment? Describe these leads using firmographic and demographic measures. For example, you might specify industry, potential sales value, company size, function and level.

The above criteria alone are not enough, however, to be considered sales qualified leads. Before salespeople are eager to follow up on leads, they want marketing to ensure they have the money and authority to make a purchase, interest in solving the problem your product or solution can resolve, and urgency to act soon.

Shared lead definitions force marketing to do the hard work of nurturing and qualifying leads before distributing them to sales. Plus, they give salespeople no excuse for passing over leads that come their way.

3. Define the Lead Handoff Process

Even if a lead is sales qualified, if it does not arrive in a salesperson’s hands with all the information they need to do their jobs, it slows them down. That’s because before following up, they need to look for the missing information or call marketing to attain it. Given their time constraints, salespeople may decide instead to take the path of least resistance, pursuing the next lead, which includes all the crucial data. To avert this problem, sales and marketing need to decide what data needs to be included with the lead when marketing forwards it to sales. Basic information involves name, phone number, email and firmographics. Beyond that, you might want to include insights gained about the problem the contact faces, their authority to make decision, other parties to that decision, budget levels, competitive solutions they’re considering and when he or she expects to choose a product.

4. Take a Walk in Each Other’s Shoes

There’s something to be said for understanding the daily challenges faced by the other team. The 2016 B2B Sales & Marketing Collaboration Study showed that companies that surpass their revenue objectives are twice as likely to have marketers who take part in prospect and customer meetings than those that fail to hit their goals.

Marketing associates should invest a few days every year working with their colleagues in sales. Perhaps, they take a field trip or two to make face-to-face sales calls with field sales reps. This gives marketers a chance to hear directly from customers plus work with and develop a relationship with the salespeople. Alternatively, they can listen in to inside sales calls.

It also helps for sales to have some involvement with marketing decisions. Perhaps they can collaborate with them on marketing content, data selection, and other sales materials. Another option is to meet with marketers. These processes provide an opportunity to get a feel for the hard work involved in executing marketing programs and the budget tradeoffs involved when deciding how best to generate leads.

5. Merge the Sales and Marketing Organization

A powerful way to ensure an integrated effort is to bring sales and marketing into one function, under a chief sales and marketing officer. One person is in charge of creating a cohesive team responsible for optimizing the entire customer journey and lifetime value as well as meeting annual sales revenue goals.

Sales and marketing alignment is unlikely to happen unless there is a concerted effort to bring the two teams together. To help with this, your organization should create a shared sales and marketing strategy. Then agree on lead definitions and the lead handoff process. Sales and marketing associates should reserve time to work together. Finally, uniting the two disciplines under one leader can bring them together.

13 Dec 19:50

How To Convert An Infographic Into A Gifographic Using Adobe Photoshop

by Manish Dudharejia
How To Convert An Infographic Into A Gifographic Using Adobe Photoshop

How To Convert An Infographic Into A Gifographic Using Adobe Photoshop

Manish Dudharejia

Visuals have played a critical role in the marketing and advertising industry since their inception. For years, marketers have relied on images, videos, and infographics to better sell products and services. The importance of visual media has increased further with the rise of the Internet and consequently, of social media.

Lately, gifographics (animated infographics) have also joined the list of popular visual media formats. If you are a marketer, a designer, or even a consumer, you must have come across them. What you may not know, however, is how to make gifographics, and why you should try to add them to your marketing mix. This practical tutorial should give you answers to both questions.

In this tutorial, we’ll be taking a closer look at how a static infographic can be animated using Adobe Photoshop, so some Photoshop knowledge (at least the basics) is required.

What Is A Gifographic?

Some History

The word gifographic is a combination of two words: GIF and infographic. The term gifographic was popularized by marketing experts (and among them, by Neil Patel) around 2014. Let’s dive a little bit into history.

CompuServe introduced the GIF ( Graphics Interchange Format) on June 15, 1987, and the format became a hit almost instantly. Initially the use of the format remained somewhat restricted owing to patent disputes in the early years (related to the compression algorithm used in GIF files — LZW) but later, when most GIF patents expired, and owing to their wide support and portability, GIFs gained a lot in popularity which even lead the word “GIF” to become “Word of the year” in 2012. Even today, GIFs are still very popular on the web and on social media(*).

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The GIF is a bitmap image format. It supports up to 8 bits per pixel so a single GIF can use a limited palette of up to 256 different colors (including — optionally — one transparent color). The Lempel–Ziv–Welch (LZW) is a lossless data compression technique that is used to compress GIF images, which in turn, reduces the file size without affecting their visual quality. What’s more interesting though, is that the format also supports animations and allows a separate palette of up to 256 colors for each animation frame.

Tracing back in history as to when the first infographic was created is much more difficult, but the definition is easy — the word “infographic” comes from “information” and “graphics,” and, as the name implies, an infographic serves the main purpose of presenting information (data, knowledge, etc.) quickly and clearly, in a graphical way.

In his 1983 book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, Edward Tufte gives a very detailed definition for “graphical displays” which many consider today to be one of the first definitions of what infographics are, and what they do: to condense large amounts of information into a form where it will be more easily absorbed by the reader.

A Note On GIFs Posted On The Web (*)

Animated GIF images posted to Twitter, Imgur, and other services most often end up as H.264 encoded video files (HTML5 video), and are technically not GIFs anymore when viewed online. The reason behind this is pretty obvious — animated GIFs are perhaps the worst possible format to store video, even for very short clips, as unlike actual video files, GIF cannot use any of the modern video compression techniques. (Also, you can check this article: “Improve Animated GIF Performance With HTML5 Video” which explains how with HTML5 video you can reduce the size of GIF content by up to 98% while still retaining the unique qualities of the GIF format.)

On the other hand, it’s worth noting that gifographics most often remain in their original format (as animated GIF files), and are not encoded to video. While this leads to not-so-optimal file sizes (as an example, a single animated GIF in this “How engines work?” popular infographic page is between ~ 500 KB and 5 MB in size), on the plus side, the gifographics remain very easy to share and embed, which is their primary purpose.

Why Use Animated Infographics In Your Digital Marketing Mix?

Infographics are visually compelling media. A well-designed infographic not only can help you present a complex subject in a simple and enticing way, but it can also be a very effective mean of increasing your brand awareness as part of your digital marketing campaign.

Remember the popular saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? There is a lot of evidence that animated pictures can be even more successful and so recently motion infographics have witnessed an increase in popularity owing to the element of animation.

From Boring To Beautiful

They can breathe life into sheets of boring facts and mundane numbers with the help of animated charts and graphics. Motion infographics are also the right means to illustrate complex processes or systems with moving parts to make them more palatable and meaningful. Thus, you can easily turn boring topics into visually-engaging treats. For example, we created the gifographic "The Most Important Google Search Algorithm Updates Of 2015" elaborating the changes Google made to its search algorithm in 2015.

Cost-Effective

Gifographics are perhaps the most cost-effective alternative to video content. You don't need expensive cameras, video editing, sound mixing software, and a shooting crew to create animated infographics. All it takes is a designer who knows how to make animations by using Photoshop or similar graphic design tools.

Works For Just About Anything

You can use a gifographic to illustrate just about anything in bite-sized sequential chunks. From product explainer videos to numbers and stats, you can share anything through a GIF infographic. Animated infographics can also be interactive. For example, you can adjust a variable to see how it affects the data in an animated chart.

Note: An excellent example of an interactive infographic is “Building An Interactive Infographic With Vue.js” written by Krutie Patel. It was built with the help of Vue.js, SVG and GSAP (GreenSock Animation Platform).

SEO Boost

As a marketer, you are probably aware that infographics can provide a substantial boost to your SEO. People love visual media. As a result, they are more likely to share a gifographic if they liked it. The more your animated infographics are shared, the higher will be the boost in site traffic. Thus, gifographics can indirectly help improve your SEO and, therefore, your search engine rankings.

How To Create A Gifographic From An Infographic In Photoshop

Now that you know the importance of motion in infographics, let’s get practical and see how you can create your first gifographic in Photoshop. And if you already know how to make infographics in Photoshop, it will be even easier for you to convert your existing static infographic into an animated one.

Step 1: Select (Or Prepare) An Infographic

The first thing you need to do is to choose the static infographic that you would like to transform into a gifographic. For learning purposes you can animate any infographic, but I recommend you to pick up an image that has elements that are suitable for animation. Explainers, tutorials, and process overviews are easy to convert into motion infographics.

If you are going to start from scratch, make sure you have first finished the static infographic to the last detail before proceeding to the animation stage as this will save you a lot of time and resources — if the original infographic keeps changing you will also need to rework your gifographic.

Next, once you have finalized the infographic, the next step is to decide which parts you are going to animate.

Finalize Your Infographic
Infographic finalization (Large preview)

Step 2: Decide What The Animation Story Will Be

You can include some — or all — parts of the infographic in the animation. However, as there are different ways to create animations, you must first decide on the elements you intend to animate, and how. In my opinion, sketching (outlining) various animation case scenarios on paper is the best way to pick your storyline. It will save you a lot of time and confusion down the road.

Start by deciding which “frames” you would like to include in the animation. At this stage, frames will be nothing else but rough sketches made on sheets of paper. The higher the number of frames, the better the quality of your gifographic will be.

You may need to divide the animated infographic into different sections. So, be sure to choose an equal count of frames for all parts. If not, the gifographic will look uneven with each GIF file moving at a different speed.

Pick Your Animation Storyline
Deciding and picking your animation story (Large preview)

Step 3: Create The Frames In Photoshop

Open Adobe Photoshop to create different frames for each section of the gifographic. You will need to cut, rotate, and move the images painstakingly. You will need to remember the ultimate change you made to the last frame. You can use Photoshop ruler for the same.

You will need to build your animation from Layers in Photoshop. But, in this case, you will be copying all Photoshop layers together and editing each layer individually.

You can check the frames one by one by hiding/showing different layers. Once you have finished creating all the frames, check them for possible errors.

How to Create Frames in Photoshop
Create Frames in Photoshop. (Large preview)

You can also create a short Frame Animation using just the first and the last frame. You need to select both frames by holding the Ctrl/Cmd key (Windows/Mac). Now click on “Tween.” Select the number of frames you want to add in between. Select First frame if you want to add the new frames between the first and the last frames. Selecting “Previous Frame” option will add frames between your current selection and the one before it. Check the “All Layers” option to add all the layers from your selections.

How to create Short Frame Animation
Short frame animation (Large preview)

Step 4: Save PNG (Or JPG) Files Into A New Folder

The next step is to export each animation frame individually into PNG or JPG format. (Note: JPG is a lossy format, so PNG would be usually a better choice.)

You should save these PNG files in a separate folder for the sake of convenience. I always number the saved images as per their sequence in the animation. It’s easy for me to remember that “Image-1” will be the first image in the sequence followed by “Image-2,” “Image-3,” and so on. Of course, you can save them in a way suitable for you.

How to Save JPG Files in a New Folder
Saving JPG files in a new folder (Large preview)

Step 5: “Load Files Into Stack”

Next comes loading the saved PNG files to Photoshop.

Go to the Photoshop window and open File > Scripts > Load files into Stack...

A new dialog box will open. Click on the “Browse” button and open the folder where you saved the PNG files. You can select all files at once and click “OK.”

Note: You can check the “Attempt to Automatically Align Source Images” option to avoid alignment issues. However, if your source images are all the same size, this step is not needed. Furthermore, automatic alignment can also cause issues in some cases as Photoshop will move the layers around in an attempt to try to align them. So, use this option based on the specific situation — there is no “one size fits them all” recipe.

It may take a while to load the files, depending on their size and number. While Photoshop is busy loading these files, maybe you can grab a cup of coffee!

How to Load Files into Stack
Load Files into Stack. (Large preview)

Step 6: Set The Frames

Once the loading is complete, go to Window > Layers (or you can press F7) and you will see all the layers in the Layers panel. The number of Layers should match the number of frames loaded into Photoshop.

Once you have verified this, go to Window > Timeline. You will see the Timeline Panel at the bottom (the default display option for this panel). Choose “Create Frame Animation” option from the panel. Your first PNG file will appear on the Timeline.

Now, Select “Make Frames from Layers” from the right side menu (Palette Option) of the Animation Panel.

Note: Sometimes the PNG files get loaded in reverse, making your “Image-1” appear at the end and vice versa. If this happens, select “Reverse Layers” from Animation Panel Menu (Palette Option) to get the desired image sequence.
How to Set the Frames
Set the Frames. (Large preview)

Step 7: Set The Animation Speed

The default display time for each image is 0.00 seconds. Toggling this time will determine the speed of your animation (or GIF file). If you select all the images, you can set the same display time for all of them. Alternatively, you can also set up different display time for each image or frame.

I recommend going with the former option though as using the same animation time is relatively easy. Also, setting up different display times for each frame may lead to a not-so-smooth animation.

You can also set custom display time if you don't want to choose from among the available choices. Click the “Other” option to set a customized animation speed.

You can also make the animation play in reverse. Copy the Frames from the Timeline Pallet and choose “Reverse Layers” option. You can drag frames with the Ctrl key (on Windows) or the Cmd key (on Mac).

You can set the number of times the animation should loop. The default option is “Once.” However, you can set a custom loop value using the “Other” option. Use the “Forever” option to keep your animation going in a non-stop loop.

To preview your GIF animation, press the Enter key or the “Play” button at the bottom of the Timeline Panel.

How to Set the Animation Speed
Set the Animation Speed. (Large preview)

Step 8: Ready To Save/Export

If everything goes according to plan, the only thing left is to save (export) your GIF infographic.

To Export the animation as a GIF: Go to File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy)

  1. Select “GIF 128 Dithered” from the “Preset” menu.
  2. Select “256” from the “Colors” menu.
  3. If you will be using the GIF online or want to limit the file size of the animation, change Width and Height fields in the “Image Size” options accordingly.
  4. Select “Forever” from the “Looping Options” menu.

Click the “Preview” button in the lower left corner of the Export window to preview your GIF in a web browser. If you are happy with it, click “Save” and select a destination for your animated GIF file.

Note: There are lots of options that control the quality and file size of GIFs — number of colors, amount of dithering, etc. Feel free to experiment until you achieve the optimal GIF size and animation quality.

Your animated infographic is ready!

How to Save Your GIF infographic
Saving your GIF infographic (Large preview)

Step 9 (Optional): Optimization

Gifsicle (a free command-line program for creating, editing, and optimizing animated GIFs), and other similar GIF post-processing tools can help reduce the exported GIF file size beyond Photoshop’s abilities.

ImageOptim is also worth mentioning — dragging files to ImageOptim will directly run Gifsicle on them. (Note: ImageOptim is Mac-only but there are quite a few alternative apps available as well.)

Troubleshooting Tips

You are likely to run into trouble at two crucial stages.

Adding New Layers

Open the “Timeline Toolbar” drop-down menu and select the “New Layers Visible in all Frames” option. It will help tune your animation without any hiccups.

How to Add New Layers Visible in all Frames
Adding new layers (Large preview)

Layers Positioning

Sometimes, you may end up putting layers in the wrong frames. To fix this, you can select the same layer in a fresh frame and select “Match Layer Across Frames” option.

How to Match Layers Across Frames
Positioning layers (Large preview)

Gifographic Examples

Before wrapping this up, I would like to share a few good examples of gifographics. Hopefully, they will inspire you just as they did me.

  1. Google’s Biggest Search Algorithm Updates Of 2016
    This one is my personal favorite. Incorporating Google algorithm updates in a gifographic is difficult owing to its complexity. But, with the use of the right animations and some to-the-point text, you can turn a seemingly complicated subject into an engaging piece of content.
  2. Virtual Reality: A Fresh Perspective For Marketers
    This one turns a seemingly descriptive topic into a smashing gifographic. The gifographic breaks up the Virtual Reality topic into easy-to-understand numbers, graphs, and short paragraphs with perfect use of animation.
  3. How Google Works
    I enjoy reading blog posts by Neil Patel. Just like his post, this gifographic is also comprehensive. The only difference is Neil conveys the essential message through accurately placed GIFs instead of short paragraphs. He uses only the colors that Google’s logo comprises.
  4. The Author Rank Building Machine
    This one lists different tips to help you become an authoritative writer. The animation is simple with a motion backdrop of content creation factory. Everything else is broken down into static graphs, images, and short text paragraphs. But, the simple design works, resulting in a lucid gifographic.
  5. How Car Engines Work
    Beautifully illustrated examples of how car engines work (petrol internal combustion engines and hybrid gas/electric engines). Btw, it’s worth noting that in some articles, Wikipedia is also using animated GIFs for some very similar purposes.

Wrapping Things Up

As you can see, turning your static infographic into an animated one is not very complicated. Armed with Adobe Photoshop and some creative ideas, you can create engaging and entertaining animations, even from scratch.

Of course, your gifographic can have multiple animated parts and you’ll need to work on them individually, which, in turn, will require more planning ahead and more time. (Again, a good example of a rather complex gifographic would be the one shown in “How Car Engines Work?” where different parts of the engine are explained in a series of connected animated images.) But if you plan well, sketch, create, and test, you will succeed and you will be able to make your own cool gifographics.

If you have any questions, ask me in the comments and I’ll be happy to help.

Further Resources

Smashing Editorial (mb, ra, yk, il)
13 Dec 19:47

LinkedIn Strategy: How to Get Your Employees to Use LinkedIn to Benefit Your Biz

by Kaitlyn Hammond

illustrade / Pixabay

Any professional has likely heard about LinkedIn and even created a profile on the social media platform. However, with the wide reach of over 562 million users, LinkedIn is a valuable tool that should be utilized to promote your business. Below are ideas about how you can help your employees to use this platform not just for their personal needs, but to benefit your company:

Become Authority Figures

To set your company apart from the competition, an effective way is to facilitate your employees to becoming authority figures in their respective niches. LinkedIn is a platform that can help with this goal, allowing employees to post articles and blogs on their profiles.

A marketing expert can write about the latest trends, while a mechanic can write about tips on preserving a car’s value. When online viewers search for keywords related to the content, they read the articles and start to form trusting relationships with your employees.

If your team members can become known in their fields for their authoritative and informative content, you will improve your brand recognition and attract new customers.

Network

To find new clients, business partners or investors, you should encourage your employees to network. LinkedIn makes this objective easy by promoting online networking that transcends time and location constraints.

Your employees can join industry-specific groups where they can join conversations and make important connections. They can search for specific individuals and reach out to them on the platform.

LinkedIn Showcase Pages allows employees to create pages that highlight a certain area of the business, and then share that with a target audience. For example, if your business needs an investment to explore franchising opportunities, you can create a page that reflects your earnings and profits, as well as goals, and share that with interested investors.

If your team members are encouraged to make connections on LinkedIn, your company can leverage that for business opportunities.

Recruit

Increased competition has made it challenging for some businesses to recruit and retain employees. LinkedIn can offer an advantage to your HR department in this regard.

LinkedIn makes it easy to search for candidates based on their current position and experience. Instead of posting an ad on a general career site, such as Indeed, you are able to do a targeted search and view detailed information to make faster and more informed hiring decisions.

LinkedIn Career Page is another option for candidate searches, helping prospective candidates come to you. The Jobs tab on this page lists current openings as well as insights from current employees about the company and their positions.

The Life Tab helps candidates determine if your company would be the right fit for them. This tab offers photos and videos shared by your employees as well as any written content that can be shared about your company culture.

This helps your business share benefits that candidates can expect if they join your team, and allows your hiring managers to connect with potential employees on a more personal level.

13 Dec 19:47

Ships are just giant floating computers, filled with ransomware, BadUSB, and worms

by Cory Doctorow

A coalition of shipping industry associations has published The Guidelines on Cyber Security Onboard Ships, laying out best practices for the giant ships that ply the seas, and revealing that these behemoths are routinely infected with worms, ransomware, and malware spread by infected USB devices.

The document recounts incidents in which infected ships were stranded because malware caused their computerized navigation to fail, and there were no paper charts to fall back on; incidents where fleet owners paid off ransomware demands to keep ships at sea safe, and where the entire digital infrastructure of a ship at sea failed due to malware that spread thanks to weak passwords.

The report includes details of two incidents where USB thumb drives have led to a cyber-security incident, delays, and financial damage.

1) A dry bulk ship in port had just completed bunkering operations. The bunker surveyor boarded the ship and requested permission to access a computer in the engine control room to print documents for signature. The surveyor inserted a USB drive into the computer and unwittingly introduced malware onto the ship's administrative network. The malware went undetected until a cyber assessment was conducted on the ship later, and after the crew had reported a "computer issue" affecting the business networks. This emphasises the need for procedures to prevent or restrict the use of USB devices onboard, including those belonging to visitors.

2) A ship was equipped with a power management system that could be connected to the internet for software updates and patching, remote diagnostics, data collection, and remote operation. The ship was built recently, but this system was not connected to the internet by design. The company's IT department made the decision to visit the ship and performed vulnerability scans to determine if the system had evidence of infection and to determine if it was safe to connect. The team discovered a dormant worm that could have activated itself once the system was connected to the internet and this would have had severe consequences. The incident emphasizes that even air gapped systems can be compromised and underlines the value of proactive cyber risk management. The shipowner advised the producer about the discovery and requested procedures on how to erase the worm. The shipowner stated that before the discovery, a service technician had been aboard the ship. It was believed that the infection could potentially have been caused by the technician. The worm spread via USB devices into a running process, which executes a program into the memory. This program was designed to communicate with its command and control server to receive its next set of instructions. It could even create files and folders. The company asked cyber security professionals to conduct forensic analysis and remediation. It was determined that all servers associated with the equipment were infected and that the virus had been in the system undiscovered for 875 days. Scanning tools removed the virus. An analysis proved that the service provider was indeed the source and that the worm had introduced the malware into the ship's system via a USB flash drive during a software installation. Analysis also proved that this worm operated in the system memory and actively called out to the internet from the server. Since the worm was loaded into memory, it could affect the performance of the server and systems connected to the internet.

The Guidelines on Cyber Security Onboard Ships [International Chamber of Shipping et al]

Ships infected with ransomware, USB malware, worms [Catalin Cimpanu/Zdnet]

13 Dec 19:45

Follow These Sales Process Steps to Overcome Barriers to Sales ROI [Guide]

by Kylee Lessard
Follow These Sales Process Steps to Overcome Barriers to Sales ROI [Guide]

We’re ringing in the holidays with 12 days of awesome sales content to prep you for the new year. Today, we offer up a few sales process steps you can take to make believers out of your clients and win more deals, leading to clear and compelling ROI.

Spruce up your sales with 12 days of content: Day 4

In the world of B2B sales, nobody is buying what can’t be backed up with visible proof. For business decision makers and sales executives alike, seeing is believing.

One of our core focuses with Sales Navigator is helping sales teams find more success, and ensuring they can demonstrate it. Our new guide, Seeing is Believing: Overcoming Barriers to ROI with Sales Navigator, will show you how to take full advantage of the platform to deliver results that speak for themselves.

Sales Process Steps to Overcome ROI Challenges

Modern sales leaders face a number of professional hurdles, not the least of which is adapting to a changing digital environment. As the B2B marketplace continues to change, the strategies for growing your pipeline and closing more deals need to change, too.

Though the tactics are changing, the modern sales leader faces a familiar set of challenges. A few of the most common ones we hear include:

  1. Driving more pipeline
  2. Closing larger deals
  3. Increasing win rates

Sound about right?

To meet these challenges (and more), our new guide examines the problems plaguing modern sales leaders and offers data-driven strategies for overcoming them.

Buyers Expect Highly Personalized Experiences from Account Executives

An average of 6.8 people are now involved in B2B purchasing decisions. For account executives, it can feel nearly impossible to keep track of the many individuals you need to involve in the sales process. Not only that, but buyers expect highly personalized experiences tailored to their specific needs.

This guides shows how LinkedIn Sales Navigator and its many features allow account executives and account managers to target the right buyers, understand prospects and their businesses, and engage throughout the deal cycle.

Strong Relationships Lead to Account Renewals

Consider that customer experience is the single most important variable in account renewals—more than product or price. Providing a stellar sales experience for your customers is what sets the best account managers apart. But, your chances of booking a new account are 47% lower if you don’t have established relationships with at least six people in the account.

This guide reveals how Sales Navigator’s mix of features creates the perfect toolset for targeting the right buying committee, understanding your accounts and their businesses, and engaging credibly to maintain and strengthen relationships.

You're Only As Good As Your Network 

Reaching busy decision makers is harder than ever these days. Emails go unanswered, calls go unreturned, content goes untouched. When it comes to driving results and demonstrating them, this environment is a tough one for sales leaders. But those who are able to tap into LinkedIn’s value as a selling platform via Sales Navigator are finding an edge.

Our data shows that compared to the average active member on LinkedIn, business decision makers are:

  • 85% more connected
  • 29% more likely to check InMail
  • 2x more likely to share content on LinkedIn

This guide shows you how to reach them with the right messages. 

Ramp Up Your ROI with Sales Navigator

In this guide, we've laid out a simple path for AEs and AMs to establish and grow relationships with prospects and customers. With this tool in hand, you can focus on the right people and companies, stay up-to-date on what’s happening with your accounts, and build trust with important prospects and customers—and that’s just the very beginning.

Learn more about how you can use Sales Navigator to overcome common challenges and set your sales team up for greater success by downloading our guide full of practical tips and handy checklists, Seeing is Believing: Overcoming Barriers to ROI with Sales Navigator.

13 Dec 19:25

13 Lead Generation Tactics That Will Explode Your PR Campaign

by Wendy Marx

13 Lead Generation Tactics That Will Explode Your PR Campaign

A skilled coach on the field has a game book of several tried and true plays that are designed to maximize the performance of his or her players. In the same way, every brand needs a “game book” of lead generation tactics to maximize the effectiveness of its campaigns.

In this post, we will discuss:

  • A reliable lead generation marketing definition.
  • What comprises a good lead generation and PR campaign.
  • Specific tactics that will boost your marketing and lead generation efforts.

A Lead Generation Marketing Definition

Lead generation marketing is the creation of interest in your brand’s products and services. It uses several channels, including a company’s website, social media networks, and other platforms, to stimulate engagement and collect prospects’ information via forms and landing pages, in order to move them through the sales funnel.

There are several ways to prepare your brand for lead generation. Many include retooling your own website. With small adjustments and additions, your website can seamlessly flip interested prospects into leads.

A well-rounded lead generation strategy also includes other platforms, such as social media and media outlets, to promote your brand, establish thought leadership, and ultimately convert people into leads.

What do you need to know to create a productive lead generation strategy? Let’s look at 13 tactics that are guaranteed to explode your PR campaign and bring in more solid leads for your brand.

13 Lead Generation Tactics That Will Jumpstart Your PR Campaign

1. Craft Stunning Videos

Video is unparalleled when it comes to engagement — and, as it turns out, to lead generation. In fact, one study found that brands who used video marketing generate 65% more leads than their competitors who didn’t.

Now consider for a moment that the vast majority (65%)of people are visual learners. According to this statistic, the visual nature of video is going to appeal to the majority of your audience. And video can be used for almost anything — whether case studies or product demonstrations, video fits seamlessly into most strategies.

Granted, video seems like a overwhelming task when compared to simple content formats like blog posts or ebooks. But with new online tools like Animoto and Lumen5 constantly making it easier, that argument no longer holds water.

We created a video using one of our popular blog posts with the Lumen5 video platform. It was extremely easy to do, but gave us a professional product that we’ve been able to use for lead generation.

2. Commit to a Regular Blog

As anybody in a relationship will attest, commitment is much more than a promise. It is an action. Many people begin with good intentions to blog regularly. They get maybe 10 blogs into it, and then lose momentum. Unfortunately, you won’t see any benefits from this kind of half-hearted attitude.

This is the time when you are probably nodding your head — “Yes, we know blogging is good. We’ve known this for a long time.” But even with that knowledge, are you blogging consistently to make a difference?

The best advice I can give you is to create a content calendar and plan your content for the next six months. This will help to keep your content creation on track.

 

3. Cultivate Long-Form Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is content that never grows stale or expires. It is always applicable to your audience and industry. While it can be helpful to create non-evergreen content — particularly when it comes to the latest trends or tactics that are impacting your brand now. But you also need content that will be just as applicable five or 10 years from now.

The longer and more in-depth your evergreen content is, the better. Create an ebook or SlideShare on a topic that answers a key need within your audience. Try to ensure that most of the points of the content will be valuable in the future. Create it so that you’ll only need to make minor adjustments every year or so.

The last thing you want is to constantly creating new content offers. Your goal should be to create a few key pieces of content that you know your audience will always need and continue to update as necessary and promote them.

4. Answer Questions on Quora

How can this popular question and answer site impact your lead generation? It’s simple. A key business-friendly feature of Quora is that it allows you to build a profile about you and your company, with links back to your website and specific landing pages.

Once your profile is set up, your goal on Quora is to answer questions in a helpful way. These answers will show your audience your expertise and may pique their interest in your brand. There may even be questions about your brand on the site — which you can find using the search feature.

When people experience your engagement and expertise firsthand on Quora, it’s easy for them to visit your site or landing page for more information. Once there, they will be more likely to become leads.

5. Be Active on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a network primarily focused on businesses. In fact, one study discovered it to be the top social network among CEOs. And true to its mission as a professional network, LinkedIn has a few tricks up its sleeve to help business users with lead generation.

Lead Generation Strategy

One feature in particular that should be a part of your strategy is its publishing platform. Here you are free to write and publish any type of article you want so it can be read by LinkedIn’s large, professional audience.

Another feature that you should be aware of is LinkedIn groups. These groups are meant to facilitate conversations among people of similar interests, including certain industries. Find groups that fit your brand’s industry and the concerns of your audience.

But be aware that LinkedIn is not a platform for self-promotion. If this is your tactic, you won’t get very far. This is a place where you can engage with your audience, answer questions, and provide helpful advice through comments and engaging articles. In your profile and your articles, direct readers back to your brand and specific landing pages for more information. Do this matter of factly, not promotionally.

6. Become a Speaker

Every industry has specialized events. And these conferences are a great way to put you and your brand in the spotlight. It conveys that you are an industry authority who can be trusted.

New to public speaking? Start small with local events. Use one of your more popular blog posts as an outline for your speech. Most likely, it’s a subject you know well and its popularity signifies that it will resonate with your target audience.

Events are a great way to establish connections. Within your speech, sprinkle in little tidbits about your brand to whet your audience’s appetite to seek more information after the event is over.

7. Publish on SlideShare

SlideShare has over 80 million visitors to its site — a large audience that you can tap into with the right information.

The purpose of SlideShare is to showcase helpful presentation content. And you don’t need to start from scratch. Take a popular blog post and transform it into a visually appealing slide deck. Then upload it to SlideShare in order to access a new audience. It’s completely free and SlideShare’s platform makes it simple to upload decks and engage audiences.

Once you upload a presentation to SlideShare there are several features that you can leverage for lead generation. For starters, include links to landing pages within your bio, description, and right within the presentation itself. And once your deck is published, engage anyone who comments. Don’t forget to upload your SlideShare to your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn owns SlideShare and make that a snap to do.

8. Show Off Your Expertise

We’ve already covered how important it is to share your expertise on your blog, LinkedIn, and other platforms. But these are platforms where you are in control of publication and promotion. Another key tactic, however, involves leveraging your expertise on other platforms.

Can you guest post or contribute to an industry blog or print publication? A key to getting published is to have expertise and a point of view. Choose a topic that answers a key need of your customers, offers a distinctive outlook, and showcases your industry knowledge and expertise.

Then pitch this topic to the publication that best fits your industry and has access to your target audience.

This gets people curious about your brand and more likely to visit your site for further information. If possible, include a link in bio back to your site or a specific lead conversion landing page.

9. Form Partnerships

Lead Generation Strategy (1)

When done strategically, partnerships can boost your B2B marketing and lead generation results. They expand your reach and provide a stamp of approval.

Find a complementary company within your industry where you can combine forces. Discover common ground where you can work together. It may take time to build a relationship with a company before you introduce the idea of a partnership. But it’s a time investment that is well worth the effort.

10. Use Your Email Signature

Your email signature is prime real estate that often goes unused. Think about how many emails you send every week. Each email is an opportunity to get someone to your site.

Whether it’s your homepage or a landing page for one of your recent offers, a strategically placed URL or call to action in your email signature can increase traffic.

Don’t forget your employees. Have your employees include the same link within their email signature. Within the zillions of emails your business sends, there’s an opportunity for lead generation and PR.

11. Invest in Case Studies

A brand’s reputation is crucial — especially in lead generation B2B marketing, where price points are high and sales processes are long. A good reputation goes a long way toward building trust with potential customers.

If prospects are checking your case studies, they’re most likely interested in your brand and just a few steps away from becoming a lead. Make this an easy transition by including CTAs within your case studies.

It’s also possible that they are already leads, and further down the sales funnel than an average prospect. If so, sprinkle in CTAs for bottom of the funnel offers, such as a free demo.

12. Beef Up Your Newsroom

Lead Generation Strategy (2)

Won a recent award? Have breaking news that will cement you as a thought leader? These kinds of news deserve a special place within your website: a PR newsroom.

Such a newsroom can impact your lead generation. When prospects check out your site and discover that you’ve won industry awards or have been featured in noteworthy publications, it legitimizes you and builds trust.

13. Organize an Event

We spoke earlier about speaking at industry events. Another lead generation magnet is to organize and run your own event. Consider an online event. It’s less expensive and more of your audience is likely to attend.

Events give you a host of opportunities to promote your brand. For example, before the big day even arrives, you can use event webpages, sign-up confirmation emails, and other resources to include CTAs that promote offers and products.

Whether your event is in-person or online, you can take steps to prime it for lead generation. Any handouts or downloads that your audience gets as part of your event should also feature well-chosen CTAs.

In review…

13 Proven Lead Generation Tactics That You Need to Try

These lead generation tactics are some of the best plays in marketing and lead generation. Whether you choose to implement a few or all of these strategies into your next campaign, we are confident you will see positive results.

Let us know what tactics you find helpful for lead generation in the comments below.

13 Dec 19:25

Create and Track Success with the Content Strategy Tool

by Roman Kniahynyckyj

The early stages of content marketing saw marketers churning out blog after blog and hoping for the best – without knowing how or what to measure. Your content marketing should evolve as technology and people do. Search tools and how people utilize them have all changed, and your content and content strategy should reflect that. But where do you begin? Continue reading for some helpful tips on content marketing strategy and tools you can use to achieve success.

 Content Strategy Tool

What is Content Strategy?

If you’re entirely new to content marketing, it may seem overwhelming. Let’s face it; content marketing stresses even the most seasoned marketers. However, breaking it down can minimize worries. Content strategy includes all your media – writings, videos, downloads, and more – and how you plan and manage it. You can create a quick “how-to” video, but if you don’t know why you made it or how you’ll use it, it quickly becomes less useful.

Developing a Content Strategy

Having a strategy in place helps every piece of content you create to serve a purpose in your overall marketing plan. When appropriately used, content grows your business and drives sales. Here are key questions to answer when developing your content strategy.

  • Who is the content for and why are you making it? Think of your personas when you’re venturing into content strategy. You should have content in place for prospects as well as current clients or customers. You want to land more qualified leads, but you also want to nurture your existing customers.
  • What are your personas’ pain points? How will this certain piece of content help? Your business creates its products to reduce problems for a certain industry – but how will they know you do just that? Your content moves buyers along a journey that ultimately brings them to your services, and continues to nurture and update them after you’ve made a sale.
  • What content formats should you use? Content comes in a variety of forms, from tweets, blog posts, and informational videos. The format should reflect the message and the persona. If you have a persona that reacts more favorably to video, shoot it. If your buyer prefers infographics, design it.
  • What sets you apart from your competition? Content is the most valuable resource you may have to outshine your competitors. Sure, you may have similar products. But yours is better. Showcasing it in a weekly Twitter chat or in-depth blog post can help prove you’re the expert.

Essential Items to Check Off for Implementation

After you’ve answered the questions surrounding your content strategy, you can begin checking off essential items for implementation. Here are actionable items when getting deeper into your plan.

  • Define your goals. In marketing, it pays to be SMART. Or, rather, to have SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound. This methodology helps create achievable goals. For example, if you want to increase your revenue by 60% before the end of the first quarter, that is a specific, measurable, and time-bound goal. Develop your strategy around it.
  • Research/refine existing personas. Personas are your target audience for your business, and they change over time. Whether you’re just developing them or have them in place, it’s good to have a bevy of research built around them.
  • Choose a content management system (CMS). If you’re an established company, you likely have one. A CMS manages your content, including creation, publication, and analytics.
  • Audit your current content. What content already exists? Can you re-purpose it? Look at the results and see if you can improve. If you’re beginning, consider starting with blog posts. Create a blogging schedule that works best for your company, as it varies from business to business.
  • Brainstorm new ideas. Set aside time with your team to focus on creating ideas for upcoming projects. If you want a different perspective, pull another member of your company into your meeting. A developer or office manager may have ideas you wouldn’t consider.
  • Strategize your content ideas with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in mind. To see higher-quality leads and more site traffic, consider SEO when brainstorming and auditing your ideas. Research keywords that hit your topics and target audiences you can rank for and seamlessly implement them into your content. Don’t forget to write concise title and meta tags and include anchor links to other pieces of your content.

Topic Clusters and Pillar Pages

Implementing an SEO strategy within your content strategy is essential. You create all this great content – you want the right people to discover it. As search algorithms advance, it can get tougher to keep up. But new content marketing initiatives are changing the game. A topic cluster is a content program that dives deep into a range of core topics relating to your business. But where do you house all this rich content? On a pillar page, which is a base on which you build your clusters. A pillar page covers all the aspects on a single, well-designed page. Pillar pages are broad, while topic clusters are niche. “Payroll compliance” is a pillar page, and “employer tax forms,” “employee withholding forms,” and “local tax laws” would be the topic clusters presented on it. On the pillar page, you’d see links or more information about each topic cluster.

What Tools Can Make Content Strategy Easier?

HubSpot offers models and diagrams on topic clusters and pillar pages and an advanced content strategy tool. HubSpot’s pillar page model includes a broad topic in the center, with more in-depth subtopics related to it branching off. The content strategy tool takes you through the more advanced topics discussed earlier through four steps.

  1. Create a topic. Enter a topic into your HubSpot account under Content Strategy.
  2. Add a pillar page. After entering your topic, you can attach a pillar page to it by clicking Attach content. Again, a pillar page is the source your cluster topic content links to.
  3. Add cluster topics and subtopics. You add subtopics after your pillar page when in your HubSpot account. You’ll attach content to subtopics, such as blog posts.
  4. Add related content. HubSpot’s tool can search for already published pages and articles related to your topic phrases. You can include them under Add Related Content.

A clear content strategy can drive your content marketing efforts. Well-developed strategies get your information in front of the right eyes. While it is undoubtedly a massive undertaking, it is crucial, and there are tools and resources to help you.