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24 Feb 17:42

Medical Marketing in a Digital World: Content, Social Media, and Mobile

For healthcare professionals, the days of hanging a shingle and waiting for patients is long over. So what are the best strategies for healthcare organizations, doctors, and physician practices in today's digital world? Read the full article at MarketingProfs
24 Feb 17:30

6 Simple Tips to Troubleshoot Your WiFi Connectivity on Android Devices

by Steven Scheck

wifi-1989627_960_720

WiFi connectivity issues on Android devices aren’t very uncommon. In fact, plenty of people face WiFi connectivity issues almost each day.

In most cases, it’s seen that these connectivity issues arise due to a handful of petty reasons ranging from carelessness to ignorance. Let’s go through a few simple tips to troubleshoot your WiFi connectivity issues on Android devices.

We’ll start from the very basics first.

  1. Check the password

This might sound very simple but these simple things create a lot of issues.

Your wireless network, whether at work or home is possibly a secured network (if it’s not, you must secure your network immediately to prevent network misuse and data hacks) requiring some sort of a password to get on to.

Ensure that you triple check your password before getting onto the network. Some people make simple errors while entering these passwords and panic when they fail to get onto the network on two, three or four attempts. Just ensure that you aren’t the one making these simple mistakes again and again.

Note: WiFi passwords are case-sensitive.

  1. Check the network name

Another solution that might look very simple from the hindsight but I can guarantee that it’s not. I am quoting from my personal experiences here and you’ll surely get my point in a jiffy.

In my area, the Linksys router was once very popular and was present in almost all houses. The Linksys router used to come up with a default network name called “Linksys” itself.

Several families didn’t even bother to change the network name and hence, that name (“Linksys”) prevailed. They did change their passwords though.

The issues cropped up during network interferences. When families wanted to get onto the network, they failed to get on it because several networks had the same network name. Hence, make sure that your give your network a unique name that stands out from the crowd.

By doing so you will be able to detect your specific network from the crowd and get on it easily and conveniently.

  1. Is your WiFi really on?

Funny question; isn’t it? But to be honest, issues do emerge among people from these types of carelessness.

Just make sure you check your WiFi on phone/tab before getting onto the internet. And if your router has a physical on/off button, don’t forget to check whether it’s physically switched off when you experience “no connectivity” on your Android devices.

  1. The WiFi option on your Android smartphone/tab doesn’t switch itself on

This problem’s a little tricky. The hardware of your Android phone/tab might be the main culprit behind this issue. The software can also play a major role in causing this trouble.

If you want to take a peek at the available fixes, you can refer to this detailed article.

Also don’t forget to check whether your airplane setting’s turned on or not.

  1. The annoying “obtaining IP address” issue

Is your Android phone/tab displaying “obtaining IP address” and is stuck at that point? Using a static IP instead of DHCP can resolve the issue.

Consider doing these on your Android device.

  • Open Settings.
  • Go to “Wireless and networks.”
  • Tap on “Wi-Fi”.
  • You’ll see a list of available networks on this interface. Find out your personal network that you want to get on to. Hold your finger on it for quite some time. A box like this one here (Screenshot 1) will crop up in no time. Tap on “modify network”.

1

Screenshot 1

  • After you tap on “modify network”, you’ll see this dialogue box (Screenshot 2) crop up. Tap on “Advanced options.”

2

Screenshot 2

  • This one (Screenshot 3) follows the previous one in no time. You’ll see the IP settings depicted clearly in this box. Change it from “DHCP” to “static” (Screenshot 4).

3

Screenshot 3

4

Screenshot 4

Do remember that this process can vary on basis of Android versions. But the basic motto stays the same which is changing your IP settings from “DHCP to static.” If you fail to find out your IP settings from these processes, Google can always be your friend.

  1. WiFi network connected but still no internet

This problem’s usually associated with your network router or modem.

Possible solutions are a hard restart. Unplug the power cord of your router, count to 20 and plug it back in. Can you get on the internet now? High chances that you can.

So that’s it I guess. There are many more fixes but these six fixes are the simplest ones of the lot. It’s time to sign off for now. Hope you had a good read.

24 Feb 17:30

Growth Hacking Inbound Marketing – Yes, It Can be Done

by Justin Lambert

I’ll be the first to admit the somewhat scary level of my geekdom.

No, I’m not part of the Sherlock fandom. I don’t (often) wear t-shirts with 80’s video games prominently featured. And, I don’t have a man-bun.

But, there is this: I absolutely love to read and research – probably for far too much of my working day – about subjects like SEO, inbound marketing, conversion optimization, and other topics guaranteed to glaze the stares of nearly anyone I’m likely to meet outside of Comicon or other similar networking events.

Amid all this research, I’ve come across the concept of growth hacking repeatedly, and it’s always intrigued me. But, since I make my living helping companies accomplish great things with inbound marketing, for the longest time I felt like growth hacking was from “the other side of the tracks.” Like it was nefarious magic they could use, but that nice guys like me didn’t get caught up in.

And here’s why:

One authoritative article after another from sources I love and respect seemed to put growth hacking and inbound marketing on opposite sides of the table, with many of them pitting the two against each other in a no-holds-barred battle for supremacy. In many cases, these marketers even painted growth hacking in an ugly light, as if it was the new kid on the playground and they didn’t like how their girlfriends were smiling at him.

So, I started to investigate. I was hesitant at first, almost feeling like that kid who accidentally comes across an old magazine in the back of his dad’s sock drawer, only to realize a moment later that it’s just Sports Illustrated – and not even that issue. But once I gave into my geek tendencies and started really diving in, I realized that this seeming dichotomy simply doesn’t exist.

In fact, the principles of growth hacking can and should work hand-in-hand with solid inbound marketing to create a killer strategy for impressive results.

Here’s an overview of what I discovered:

First of all, what exactly is growth hacking?

I think this is where some of my fellow marketers and marketing bloggers have gone off-course. Over the years since the concept was first introduced and the phrase was coined by Sean Ellis, then CEO of Qualaroo and an experienced tech startup growth hacker from before it was cool, it’s been both expanded and watered down through overuse and misapplication.

Here’s Sean’s original definition of a growth hacker from 2010:

“A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth… The common characteristic (among growth hackers) seems to be an ability to take responsibility for growth and an entrepreneurial drive. The right growth hacker will have a burning desire to connect your target market with your must have solution. They must have the creativity to figure out unique ways of driving growth in addition to testing/evolving the techniques proven by other companies.”

How do people view growth hacking?

As you can clearly see, when the concept of growth hacking was originally put out there, it wasn’t about growth at all costs or deceiving the public into funding a company’s growth as quickly as possible.

But that seems to be what dominates the view of at least some modern marketers when they discuss growth hacking. Like it can be lumped in with performance-enhancing drugs in sports: an enviable, obviously functional, but nonetheless unethical way to go about achieving success.

And, unfortunately, there are plenty of “experts” out there – in the marketing field and many others, I’m sure – who call themselves growth hackers, but who are actually just individuals looking for the fastest way to get from point A to point B, regardless of the long-term effect on the reputation, resources, or future of the client they’re “helping” with their questionable advice.

How can growth hacking and inbound marketing enhance each other?

When you get down to it, inbound marketing is a marketing framework that includes both strategies and tactics. The bottom line goal is to draw in your ideal customer by offering them informative, helpful, and engaging content that answers their questions, boosts their confidence in your brand, and eventually makes them want to do business with you.

Growth hacking – although it informs numerous strategies and tactics – is actually a mindset more than anything else. It’s a way of looking at commerce, marketing, and many other topics with a singular focus on growing a business.

Growth hacking – although it informs numerous strategies and tactics – is actually a mindset more than anything else.
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So, we can bring together the best aspects of these two ideas – and actually end up with something more than the sum of its parts – by applying a growth hacking mindset to our inbound marketing strategies and tactics. It’s really that simple.

Here are some quick examples:

Inbound Strategy / Outcome Inbound Tactic Growth Hack
Increase traffic to my website Publish quality SEO’d content on my site that appeals to the target audience Distribute a link to that content on every available channel my target audience may frequent
Increase qualified leads Create a premium piece of content that appeals to the target audience and require an email address for access Change the download form to require both an email address and a social share to access the premium content
Enhance my position as a thought leader Write an authoritative book on my chosen niche and self-publish it Include no less than 50 interviews and/or quotes from established thought leaders in my niche and ask them to notify their audiences about the book

These are very simple examples and applying a growth hacking mentality to inbound marketing will get a lot more involved and granular than that. True growth hacking is very much a data-driven discipline that relies on analytics, testing, and optimization to determine just how to keep the company driving forward.

But inbound marketing should be highly data- and analytics-driven as well. If we’re practicing inbound marketing but failing to collect and analyze data regarding its effect, how would we even know we need to grow, much less how to go about doing it?

Can you apply a growth hacking mindset to your inbound marketing strategy?

There’s a lot more to be said about this topic, and I hope to write about it some more in the near future. But for now, take a look at that question in bold above and give it a few minutes of real, earnest thought.

If you really think about it, I’m confident you’ll find the answer is definitely a resounding “yes.” In fact, I’d be amazed to find any organization in business today who couldn’t apply some level of the growth hacking mentality to whatever inbound marketing strategy they already have in place.

With that in mind, here’s your homework assignment:

Make up a table like the one above and use it as the template for a brainstorming session with your marketing team at your next staff meeting. Fill in your current strategic goals for your inbound program, and what tactics you’re employing right now to reach those goals.

Then, start spitballing ideas for hacks that could produce massive growth. They’re not all going to be viable or even wise. But get them out there on the whiteboard anyway. The more input you receive, the more creative you can be, the more likely you are to run across the ultimate growth hack for your unique inbound marketing program.

24 Feb 17:28

Three Strategies for Engendering Negative Net Churn in Your SaaS Startup

There are three ways to create negative churn that I have observed in the market. First, usage expansion. Second, feature expansion. Third, product expansion.

Usage expansion is the most common way to create negative churn. Utility based pricing models like buying SMS credits on Twilio, or compute on Amazon or data processing on Mulesoft lend themselves to gradually increasing account sizes, as customers use more and more of the product. Per seat pricing also leads to usage expansion if product lends itself to growing within an customer. Slack and Expensify might win more seats as word of the products get out and the company grows.

Of course, the pricing plan has to be structured in a way to encourage this kind of behavior. All-you-can-eat plans won’t engender dollar expansion of accounts.

In the case of per seat pricing, if the initial sale fully penetrates an organization, then there is no usage expansion to be had. This highlights a strategic question facing many per seat pricing companies: Does the business land and expand in order to engender negative churn or maximize the total revenue by closing a comprehensive deal today?

Product expansion is also called cross-selling. This means offering multiple products to the same customer in order to increase the account value. Salesforce might initially lead with their CRM tool, but soon an account executive will offer marketing automation or the Heroku platform to increase the customer’s spend with Salesforce.

However, most early-stage SaaS companies offer only one product, so product expansion is typically limited to later stage companies who can finance multiple product development. Hence, it’s less common.

Feature expansion also called up-selling, involves migrating customers from a lower paying plan to a higher plan. The canonical three pane pricing page often discriminates pricing by feature. For example, Expensify has three pricing buckets: team, corporate and enterprise. Customers upgrading from team at $5 per active user per month to the corporate plan at $9 per user per month benefit from more complex approval workflows and synchronization with upmarket financial packages like NetSuite.

Feature expansion does have some challenges. First, the SaaS startup must demarcate the buckets well. They must decipher which features are going to entice customers to upgrade. Second, upsell opportunities are less frequent. A customer likely only upgrades from one plan to another one every few years, so there’s a limited opportunity to repeat this behavior.

Many SaaS startups are starting to combine expansion strategies. If you use the 3 part tariff pricing strategy, it’s easy to see how feature expansion maps to the platform fee and usage expansion maps to the marginal cost fee.

Expansion strategies raise the question of whether negative churn is always a good thing. Most of the time, it’s a wonderful thing. But, a huge annual account expansion each year can indicate that the entry price point is too low, and the business is leaving money on the table.

Is a high velocity sales team selling lots of $10k deals with 200% annual expansion better than a sales team selling $20k deals with slightly slower sales velocity, but more cash up-front? That all depends on the strategy of the business.

Expansion ties back to the three pricing strategies of a startup skimming, penetration and maximization. Startups that pursue the penetration strategy will likely have substantially better negative churn figures than the ones who pursue maximization. But they might trade that negative churn for better cash collections.

These three types of dollar account expansion techniques can be powerful if used properly. They highlight the importance of aligning the go-to-market strategy, especially the pricing with the customer success strategy, to maximize upsell.

24 Feb 17:28

10 Great New Social Media Tools for Indie Authors

by Penny Sansevieri

Social media is a big part of book marketing. I know that I recently said that there may be less emphasis on social media in the future, and that indie authors should refine their social media, only participating where they NEED to be. But the fact is, it will still be important for quite some time. And, with time increasingly a limiting factor for most of us indie authors, it’s important to use social media tools that will make our book promotion efforts much smoother. So here are 10 of the best new social media tools for indie authors! And, the best part, most of them are free, have free options, or are very low cost!


10 Great New Social Media Tools to Help Indie Authors! via @bookgal
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  1. Buffer – If you need to keep track of social media or schedule different content sharing across multiple networks, Buffer is something you may want to consider! The free version is likely all most authors need.
  2. Quuu – Want to engage your readers? Quuu gives you curated suggestions for content to share on social media and automatically shares it to your Buffer account. A free version will work for most authors, though you’re limited to 2 content suggestions per day, and from there, the pricing tiers go up to $30/month.
  3. One Shot – With OneShot, you can post screenshots of images and text to Twitter, allowing you to escape the 140-character limit and share a larger message in one burst. (iOS devices)
  4. Adobe Spark – We’re always on the hunt for great ways to create impactful graphics. Let me introduce you to Adobe Spark, which does just that – social graphics, web stories, and animated videos that pack a punch. And it’s free!
  5. Paletton – Trying to build some really cool images or graphics but having trouble with colors? Paletton may be the answer for you. You can use their free live colorizer to come up with a color scheme that works well together. Once you’ve found your match, export the colors and you’ll get a list of RGB and HTML color codes that you can use to call out specific colors in your software.
  6. Refind – Do you habitually save links to sites or articles that you are interested in and then can’t find them later? This will help you solve that problem!
  7. Legend – This is another tool for animated graphics that allow your text to tell a dynamic story. Available for iOS users.
  8. Engage by Twitter – You want to make Twitter more effective? This does that! It was actually developed by Twitter to help you manage your profile(s), and gives you information about tweets and influencers. iOS only right now.
  9. Animoto – Want to make great videos? With video livestreaming growing more and more every passing day, Animoto can help you make eye-catching videos. Tiered pricing is available based on your needs.
  10. SumoMe – This is a great addition to your website to automate newsletter sign-ups, track social shares, and even creating social share buttons. It has free and paid options and is reasonably user-friendly.

Ultimately there are tons of great apps out there, and it’s up to you to find the ones that work best. With these great options available, we’re sure your 2017 social media will be off to a huge start!

And, predictably, we found more than just these 10 social media tools that we love. So, tune in for another post soon that features more great options.

24 Feb 17:27

How to Be Successful on Social: Prime Your Pump!

by Don Power

In a previous post, I mentioned Napoleon, and how just as many battles are won through logistics and planning as by bullets and bombs. Success in battle, as in social media, comes from having an army of supporters before you even take one step onto the field.

But how do you begin to assemble that network in the first place? How do you command attention, convey authority and earn your followers’ respect? You have to look, act, and be the part. You must be confident, capable—ready to address the naysayers and yet leverage those who look to you for leadership. In short, you have to prime your pump!

Keep Your Followers From Getting Cranky

Remember those old hand-cranked water pumps you’d often see on farms or campgrounds? Perhaps you even grew up with one in your own front yard. Think back to a time when you ran to one of these pumps in thirsty anticipation of a cold drink, only to find that when you cranked the handle, nothing came out.

Crank-crank. Nothing.

Crank-crank. Nada.

Along comes your friend who cranks the handle once and—whoosh! Out comes the glorious, crisp, cold water from what seems like the depths of the earth. From that point on, the water flows unabated. You drink with abandon with every new crank of the handle, and you can literally fill barrels with the rewards of your efforts. Getting thirsty yet?

Similarly, when you present yourself to the world on social media, don’t disappoint your followers by not being ready to provide value right away. Prime your pump so that when people come to visit they’ll reap the rewards of interacting with you on the first pull of the handle. Prepare your public profile and persona so that it clearly states your mission and your value to your target audience. Have a great picture that speaks volumes about you without having to say a word. Craft a snappy bio that doesn’t require a dictionary or a degree in fine arts to figure out. Above all, don’t make your audience have to do a bunch of work before you provide them a payoff.

A Primer in Personal Branding

Pop quiz: think of a soft drink. Now think of a running shoe. Chances are you thought of Coke and Nike, respectively. These brands have spent considerable money over the years so that whenever you think of getting a drink or going for a run you immediately think of their brands.

To achieve business or personal opportunities in the world of social media, we need to think of ourselves as our own personal brands. When our target audience thinks of the products or services we sell, or the ideals that we stand for, we want them to immediately think of us.

The good news is that with the power of social media, building a brand no longer takes millions of dollars and dozens of years. You can start building your personal brand and priming your pump by following the simple steps outlined above. Be ready for greatness, because greatness is ready for you!

The post How to Be Successful on Social: Prime Your Pump! appeared first on Social Media Explorer.

24 Feb 17:27

Trust In the Selling Environment

by Henri Barber

Selling is a people-oriented business. Sales are made in the dialogue, person-to-person. The interaction may be face-to-face or over the phone, but the very essence of a successful outcome is based on trust between seller and buyer.

This means salespeople must be at their very best, bringing value to the table and to their customers. If, instead, they just push products, they sacrifice goodwill and trust. Their sales success is likely to be short-lived, not the basis of a long and mutually productive relationship.

Many articles have been written about the parade of scandals in the financial industry: overly aggressive sales goals leading to the unauthorized opening of accounts; funneling billions of wealthy customer accounts offshore; manipulating global interest rates; the whole subprime mortgage crisis. And such bad behavior extends beyond banking into other industries and the political environment, where instability and uncertainty are causing greater distrust among customers, who are increasingly wary of salespeople and selling tactics.

I recently read an article that called for a new business model, and while the writer was referring to the financial industry specifically, the advice applies more broadly. Companies need to focus more on advocating for their customers rather than exploiting customers to move more product. They need to make sure whoever is touching their customer — whether it’s someone in sales, service, or support — provides a uniform and positive customer experience. And while this should be needless to say, I’m going to say it anyway: The customer experience should be one that builds credibility and trust while reinforcing the strength of the relationship.

I’d like to share a few personal examples that illustrate the value of a customer-centric approach. Last summer, I was meeting with a customer’s Learning and Development people to talk about phase two of a training program for their salespeople. I asked one question that resulted in a 150 percent increase in the training budget for the program. That question was this: “After you’ve made the sale, who is interacting most closely with your customer?”

The answer: the service people, to the tune of 10 to one. So, I asked a follow-up question: “How can you risk having service people, who touch the customer 10 times as often as salespeople, not be as upskilled as the salespeople?” It was an aha moment in which the C-level executive realized the necessity of putting all its customer-facing people through the training to create a uniform customer experience.

Another story reveals just how important this kind of approach is to companies that want to keep the development of their people as their own competitive advantage. I am occasionally asked by my colleagues at Richardson whether a current customer would be willing to be a reference for us with a prospective customer. What I have been hearing back from current customers is they don’t want to give away the “secret sauce” to their competitors — or even to companies in other industries. They view their partnership with Richardson as a differentiator, raising the game of their sales and support organizations, and they don’t want everyone else to know the reasons for their success.

I consider this a powerful objective measure of the value they place on training and their investment in people — and Richardson. Not only do they see the benefit in sales performance, but also in talent retention. For customers, dealing with the same person over time helps in building trust. If there’s constant turnover in the sales force, trust and confidence suffer.

Salespeople deal with barriers and challenges every day. They can’t get prospects to pick up the phone or agree to a meeting. They have to find new ways to engage with customers. They are brought into the buying cycle late in the process. There are many more decision makers brought into the sales process than ever before. And within their companies, salespeople continually face rising quotas, adding pressure to make more sales in any way possible.

While the challenges are daunting, there are solutions. Progressive companies understand that now is the time to invest in their people, giving them the skills and resources to operate more effectively and gain customer trust. There’s one last story I want to share. A customer recently came back to me to say, “Three years ago, you told us we should be doing this, but we didn’t do anything. Now, we’re three years behind in our growth curve. We need to start moving. Our competitors aren’t doing anything like this, so even though we’re three years behind, we may be years ahead of them.”

The point is it’s always a good time to invest in the people who touch customers. Help them get ahead of the curve when it comes to the next selling opportunity. It takes time to build the trust needed to convince skeptical customers, but starting the process today will put you further down the road than those who don’t do anything. Theirs will be an uphill battle, no matter if they’re in financial services or other industries. Customer expectations have never been higher or trust levels lower, but there’s no time like the present to begin making changes that will lead to different, and better, results.


Our latest eBook offers practical ideas to build, maintain, and regain trust with your customers. You can download it here, or by clicking on the image below. If you need immediate assistance please contact us at 215-940-9255 or info@richardson.com.

build trust between seller and buyer

The post Trust In the Selling Environment appeared first on Richardson Sales Training and Enablement Blog.

24 Feb 17:26

Innovation Best Practices — Three “Periscopes” to Help Rise Above

by Lisa Fernow

Anyone leading a well-established business faces the challenge of needing to innovate within a large organization while still getting the day-to-day business done. It’s not easy. Innovation is risky. It involves change. And in the heat of battle, it’s tempting to put innovation on the back burner.

As someone who built my early career at PepsiCo, I always gravitated to the unknown, and―let’s face it―I enjoyed disrupting the status quo. I had to find ways to innovate on big brands and convince the company to back those efforts (my bosses helped a lot with the latter!). At the same time, I thought of it as deliciously subversive behavior, but looking back on it now, I understand that PepsiCo fully supported its employees and innovation. I was fortunate to have worked there.

Today, I wanted to share some best practices that helped me rise above the day-to-day work to innovate more successfully. I’ll call them “Periscopes.”

Three “Periscope” Innovation Best Practices

1. Look for “Eureka Moments”

Eureka moments are insights that cause you to see something new, different, and profound about your consumers. Often they turn conventional wisdom on its head and reveal big untapped opportunities.

  • Ask provocative, even naïve questions.

What would it take for our product to be ten times as good as it is today? What would it take to be known as the best service provider in America? CEOs and new employees tend to be good at this. So are outside thought partners.

Questioning can happen as part of a formal process or opportunistically, but there needs to be a process to ensure the best ideas get developed and tested.

  • Question your most deeply held assumptions.

Sacred cows are a great place to start.

At Frito Lay, back in the days when mom was the main grocery shopper, we traditionally targeted female heads of household for Fritos, because we believed moms were buying corn chips for their kids’ lunches. Then we asked a different question―who is actually eating Fritos? It turned out that dads were the real heavy users, so we changed our marketing to target them.

Ask questions like: Do we have the right target audience? Is there a new audience that we have not thought about? Has the value proposition changed in some way?\Is there a different benefit we haven’t considered?

  • Search outside your industry.

Someone somewhere has solved your problem before.

The King County Library System wanted to make it easier for patrons to find materials on their own, without having to ask a librarian or search a catalog.

We interviewed Disney on how they managed way-finding at their theme parks. We looked at how the British Museum helped visitors from all over the world find the highlights of their collection. We looked at how hospitals channeled people to the emergency room when they needed urgent care in a crisis. Those insights led to innovation best practices that KCLS used in designing their new libraries.

2. Set Your Innovation Thinking Free

People often become too anchored to how their company operates in the present day, which can make it difficult to envision breakthrough possibilities for the future. To free your team from this trap and find innovation, create structured ways for them to break out of their day-to-day mindsets.

Your competitors will take your future from you if you don’t seize it for yourself.

  • Imagine your success far into the future.

I worked with the division of a technology company whose leader wanted to get her team thinking in more strategic and longitudinal ways.

To prepare for a strategic planning session, I asked team members to gather and synthesize facts that would be important for the discussion. They came to the session primed to contribute.

We started the session with this question: “It’s 20 years from now. You’re about to give a talk and your company is being recognized for a major achievement. Where are you―being interviewed by Fortune? On stage at TED? Accepting a Nobel Prize? What did your company do and why was it so special?”

At the meeting, we talked about their various visions of success.

That exercise opened up a more robust discussion about what goals would make sense for the division longer term and what strategies would be required to achieve them. They weren’t constrained by what they thought they could or couldn’t do. Their leader was able to use this discussion to set the division’s future direction with the team engaged and fully prepared to act.

  • Alternatively, return to the past.

What was the passionate spark, the core purpose that got your company started? Have your employees lost that narrative?

Starbucks at one point considered going into furniture―that business didn’t leverage their core equities. CEO Howard Schultz brought them back to their roots, saying, “We are about the coffeehouse experience―about community, a place for people to get together and exchange ideas.” They changed their mission statement to:

“To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”

This statement is far more inspiring than “Let’s go for five more share points.”

On a practical note, when you engage your team around the bigger purpose your company or brand serves, they can make better strategic decisions and it will help them decide what belongs and what doesn’t belong on their priority lists.

  • Ask questions that force you out of your normal point of view.

For example: Imagine you are a startup company in your market. What would you do and what innovation could you create to disrupt your industry?

Or pretend you are your most hated or feared competitor. What could that rival do to take your company down?

Or pretend you are a market leader from another country, entering your market. How might they approach the opportunity?

Then ask what might that imply for you next innovation and what you can do differently.

3. Invite Focused Play into You Office

Offer opportunities for focused play, to create a climate for your employees to attack your most pressing business problems in unstructured, non-traditional ways.

The 2010 Nobel Prize for physics went to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov for their work on graphene, a material which is expected to revolutionize the electronics industry.

Their lab had a Friday afternoon tradition of doing crazy experiments, and that’s where their breakthrough began. The Nobel committee cited the scientists’ playfulness when they awarded the prize.

Neuroscience shows our brains work better when they are relaxed. Companies need ways to encourage creativity and help employees make unexpected connections that lead to big ideas, solutions, and innovation.

  • Conduct special work events to tackle an important problem.

Curaspan Health Group organized a weekend hackathon where employees created apps to deliver better health care. The winning project was funded and the winners got the opportunity to lead the project.

Once a year, or even once a quarter, you might consider setting aside a day to form teams and solve a particular problem. Offer a prize to the one with the most usefulness. Or consider an employee choice award. Either way, make sure the solution is acted upon and the right people are rewarded.

  • Incorporate play on a small scale during brainstorming sessions.

Try brainstorming sessions for when your team is kicking off a project or when they have hit the wall on a particular problem.

Create exercises that purposefully invite exaggeration to make people comfortable sharing their closer-in ideas, for example. Set the innovation climate for everyone to feel comfortable, particularly introverts who need time to process their ideas on their own before discussing them.

The Beauty of These Practices

They don’t cost much. Just a mind shift.

I’d love to hear what other practices you find helpful.

24 Feb 17:26

Master Email Personalization With These 5 Best Practices

by Monica Montesa

Email Personalization Best Practices_ Feature

Targeting subscribers and sending them personalized, hyper-relevant emails is a great way to better connect with the people on your email list. It allows you to deliver the right message to people who want and need it most. And the more you can do that with your emails, the more likely you are to expand your reach and nurture your audience until they become customers and loyal advocates of your brand. But how can you optimize your emails so you’re making the most out of the opportunity to engage subscribers? Let’s take a closer look at best practices for personalizing your emails to the right people on your email list.

1. Identify your goals.

If you haven’t written down what you hope to achieve by personalizing your emails, now’s the time to do so. Whenever you think about ways to optimize your emails, it’s important to understand why you’re optimizing them. You don’t want to throw in a subscriber’s first name simply because someone else did it and you thought it was fun. Make sure it helps you achieve your goal, whether that’s to boost your engagement rates like email opens. After all, there are different ways to personalize your emails. You can send an email with a personalization field, like a subscriber’s first name, or you can email specific, contextual content to a targeted group of subscribers. By identifying your goals, it’ll make it easier for you to determine how to personalize your messages. As you think about how you want to improve your communication with subscribers, some questions you might ask yourself include:

  • Do you want to embrace a more conversational tone?
  • Do you want to include specific details of subscriber information?
  • Do you want to send more relevant content based on your subscribers’ needs and interests?

For each scenario, consider how you might be able to achieve the goal you’re looking for through personalization. If you want to embrace a more conversational tone, for example, addressing a subscriber by her first name can be a subtle way to achieve that. Adding a first name personalization field might also help your email stand out in the inbox and catch your subscriber’s attention. Or, if you want to send the right message to the right group of people who would find it most relevant, you may want to segment subscribers to deliver targeted content. By having an idea of what problem you want to solve, you’ll be able to identify the best way to segment subscribers and deliver more personalized emails.

2. Collect the right data.

Once you have an idea of how you want to send targeted emails, make sure you’re collecting the right information so you can make it happen. If you want to send targeted emails that include a subscriber’s first name, confirm you’re collecting first names in the sign up form. If not, adjust your form to include a first name field, like this sign up form featured on our Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing:

Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing _ Email Personalization Best Practices

If your goal is to send personalized emails based on a subscriber’s specific interests, you might want to ask for that information on the sign up form. Or, send a survey out to your subscribers so you can see what people are interested in, and follow up with relevant email content. If you want to send a one-off email based on how subscribers engaged with a previous message, you can also create a segment based on actions like opens and clicks. As you consider ways to optimize your sign up form so you can send personalized emails, avoid asking for too much information. Including too many fields can be overwhelming for your potential subscribers, and you don’t want to create a barrier that could prevent them from joining your list. If you do include more than just name and email address, I encourage you to emphasize the value of your emails. You might even want to explain what kind of targeted content you’ll deliver if a subscriber shares more information about themselves.

3. Use personalization naturally.

Once you’re collecting the right data, there’s one rule to keep in mind: With great personalization power comes great responsibility. Personalized content should feel natural and not forced. Do it if it makes sense for the goals you have for your broadcast emails or automated campaigns. Does adding the first name to a subject line bring additional value, or are you just doing it to try it? Do you really need to set multiple campaigns for different sign up forms if the emails aren’t too different from one another? Another helpful way to think about it is by looking back at the goals you originally set. Whether you use personalization fields or contextual content, it should either make it easier for you to create the email or help you establish a personal connection with your email community.

4. Get creative.

While there are a variety of ways in which you can personalize your emails, I like to break it out into two strategies: personalization fields and contextual content. Personalization fields allow you to automatically populate an email with specific subscriber’s information, like their first name or city. Contextual content allows you to send relevant content to targeted segments of subscribers, like a broadcast message to re-engage those who haven’t opened an email in over six months. Since there are so many pieces of information you can collect about your subscribers and ways to send hyper-relevant emails, there are endless opportunities for you to get creative with both strategies. For example, personalization fields aren’t limited to subject lines. You can pepper them into your email content to better hold the attention of your readers. Here’s an example from one of our customers Honoree Corder, a writer, speaker and coach to authors looking to publish books:

Email-Personalization-Best-Practices-AWeber

For contextual content, consider how you might be able to target automated campaigns to your different subscribers. You can send them campaigns based on what incentive they signed up for, their geographical location or experience level. One way to find out what your subscribers really need is by referencing any common questions they’ve asked. Are there individuals who want information based on their industry or personal situation? Are there others like that person? If you’re low on ideas, this can be a good place to start.

5. Test your emails.

Testing your emails is a must-do for most people who send email, and it’s especially important if you’re doing things like adding personalization fields or triggering multiple types of automated campaigns. After you create your emails that feature personalization fields, send a test to yourself to make sure the right information is being pulled in correctly. If subscribers first names should appear, confirm that’s actually happening. If you’re using AWeber to send your emails, you can add personalization field content so you can view it in your test email. If you’re sending broadcasts to a targeted subscriber segment, carefully set up the process so that the email is only going to that group. If triggering different automated campaigns, test the sign up process to make sure the right follow up sequence is launching with the right actions. Tweak and test as needed until everything looks good to go!

Start personalizing your emails today

There are a variety of ways in which you can better connect with subscribers and I encourage you to choose one of these new tactics to try in your next email send! Want more ideas to help you write better emails? Sign up for our What to Write in Your Emails Course (and get 20+ free email copy templates)!

whattowrite_aweber_course

24 Feb 17:26

The Surprising Truth About Sending Too Many Emails

by Kenny Silva

What do information overload, brain freeze, and hangovers have in common?

Each one is an example of what happens when you get too much of a good thing. Whether we’ve swamped ourselves with news stories from Twitter, overindulged with a tub of Phish Food, or hit the town a bit too hard, we all know what it’s like to wish we hadn’t gone so far.

Today, we want to look at a common myth surrounding email marketing. Like our examples above, a conservative dose of effective email marketing can be a great thing. Too many emails, on the other hand, will give your list a severe headache.

Forget the bottle of aspirin, though. They’ll just unsubscribe.

Here’s our myth in a neat little package:

Too Many Emails Will Lead to a Spike in Unsubscribe Rates.

On one level that doesn’t sound like much of a myth. Every one of us struggles daily to reach that loftiest of goals: inbox zero. And we all know how frustrating it is when some inconsiderate email marketer distracts us from our seemingly impossible task.

So, when we look at charts like this one that show the #1 reason for email opt-outs is excessive frequency, we yawn and ask, “what else is new?” The principle seems obvious enough: If you talk too much, people will stop listening to you.

Top-Reasons-Consumers-Unsubscribe-Emails

But is that principle correct?

TV show hosts like Stephen Colbert and Samantha Bee talk for a living, and yet millions of us tune in every night for more. Back to marketing—if people were genuinely excited to hear from you, do you think excessive email frequency would be their top concern?

So, if we’re going to get to the heart of today’s myth, we need to dig a little deeper and ask what else causes people to drop out… Well, I lied… We don’t have to dig that far at all.

The #2 reason people unsubscribe is that they find the emails to be irrelevant. Call me crazy, but that makes me wonder. Would the person who cited frequency as their top reason have been so quick to unsubscribe if they found real value in the emails they received?

On the flip side, was frequency just not an issue for the #2 respondents? In reality, we can’t isolate either question from the other. It seems our myth needs a little qualification.

What Counts as Too Many?

email unusbscribes

As a threshold, “too many” is too squishy to be helpful.

First off, different industries interact with email marketing in a variety of ways. According to Constant Contact, the average unsubscribe rate for fitness-related emails is a trim .08%. Landscapers, on the other hand, can expect .34% to opt out per email.

Unsubscribe rates don’t tell us the whole story, but they do tell us how we can expect subscribers to react to specific content categories. In other words, a spike in unsubscribes may have more to do with the nature of your campaign itself than the frequency of your contact.

Even more important than unsubscribe rates, however, are the expectations we set up for subscribers. If people sign up for your daily tip, weekly newsletter, or monthly update, then you’ve set a clear expectation. Go beyond that, and you may get yourself in trouble.

Content, Context, and the Health of Your List

If your campaign isn’t themed around a particular frequency, then the search for that magic threshold of too many is probably misguided. To be blunt, the problem isn’t with sending too many emails. It’s with sending too many irrelevant emails.

The relevance of your emails is a strand of three cords: content, context, and list health:

Content

This one is almost too obvious to be interesting. If you put together crummy emails that either misinform or fail to communicate anything worthwhile or helpful, then you can expect people to unsubscribe the minute you become annoying. When it comes to worthless emails, just one can be enough to turn people off.

Context

Know your list! It’s not enough for your content to be awesome; it needs to be awesomely relevant to your subscribers. If your list spans various demographics or interests, break it up via segment. Tailor your campaign to address their differing needs in specific ways.

List Health

Your list health is the measure of how well you’re doing pairing content and context. If your list is healthy—low bounce rate, high ratio of active users, high click-through percentage—then an uptick in frequency won’t be nearly as harmful as you might think.

Paradoxically, unsubscribes can help you increase the health of your list, but only if your content and context are in line.

Test, Test, Test

Once you’ve got the quality and relevancy of your email marketing in line, you can return to the frequency question. The best way to figure out how much email is too much is to test each campaign out before you run it.

In each of your segments, set aside a small control group—a segment within a segment, so to speak. Without leaving behind the relevancy question, you can then begin to experiment with an uptick in email frequency within those control groups.

Measure everything: click-through, conversion, and, of course, unsubscribe. If you find that people are engaging with your content and sticking with you, then you can be confident that your larger list can successfully bear an increase in frequency.

To be sure, every segment will have its breaking point. You can only push people too far before they begin to tune you out. The beauty of control-group testing is that you can find that breaking point without risking the bulk of your hard-earned list.

Conclusion

So back to our myth as originally stated: Too Many Emails Will Lead to a Spike in Unsubscribes.

As we’ve seen, this myth is false precisely because it asks the wrong question about why people unsubscribe. Instead of starting with questions about quantity, focus on the quality of your email marketing.

Do that, and you won’t have to worry nearly as much about frequency as you might think.

We’d love to hear from you. How’ve you dealt with email frequency in the past? Have you found unsubscribe rates to have more to do with frequency, relevancy, or list health?

24 Feb 17:25

Categories and Tags in Your CRM

by Anthony Iannarino

A CRM can be a powerful tool in helping you strategize and think about your clients and prospects. JP asks about how I use a CRM. He wants to specifically know how I categorize things.

  • Dream Clients: You know how important it is to have a finite list of prospects for whom you create breathtaking, earth shattering, jaw dropping value. This is the critical category. You want to make sure you nurture these, and that you persistent, patiently, professionally, pursue these clients.
  • Prospects: These are something less than a dream client, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t important, or that you are not going to put great effort here. When you take care of dream clients, you move down to prospecting in this category.
  • Existing Clients: These are just what you imagine they are: clients you are working with now. You can’t neglect these without paying the price.
  • EDV: This is how much the prospective client spends annually. It stands for “estimated dollar volume.” You need this number to know what your wallet share is–or what it might potentially be. I use categories that increase by 250K to 500K. For clients, this gives you an idea about your wallet share.
  • Leadership: I categorize leadership contacts within the CRM. These are not necessarily categorized by titles, but more about their role in solving problems.
  • Compelling Reasons to Change: A simple list of choices that remind you of what challenges and opportunities are compelling your dream client to change. This is nice list to work against when you plan calls, and when you build a solution.
  • Buying Cycle Stage: This one is important. You want to know how best to serve your clients where they are. This category helps you think about what they need from you to move forward.
  • Competitor: If you are in a competitive displacement business, this category can help you with a strategy to create and win a new opportunity. A little intel here can inform your plan, especially if you know how you beat each of your frequent competitors.

All of these categories are for naught if they don’t drive consistent behaviors. If you haven’t built searches and lists to make these categories useful, you don’t need to worry about these at all.

What is most important is that you use categories and tags serve you and your process. The best CRM is the one that you will use consistently, and the best categories are the ones that allow you to be more effective.

The post Categories and Tags in Your CRM appeared first on The Sales Blog.

24 Feb 17:25

A leading economist explains why bitcoin isn't money

by Joe Daunt

Ann Pettifor, leading economist and author of "The Production of Money" told Business Insider that bitcoin is flawed as money because it is a "finite asset."

Speaking about the origins and usage of bitcoin, she said: "Bitcoin was invented by some big bad guys on the dark web as a secret currency, for which they could exchange goods and services.

"The idea was similar to the gold standard which is that you would have a finite asset - which is your bitcoin, which would then increase in value over time because it is finite.

"The problem with a finite asset is that the economy is not finite, and if you have a limited amount of money to match this almost unlimited capacity of people in the economy to do things, money doesn't work."

Produced by Joe Daunt. Filmed by David Ibekwe.

Join the conversation about this story »

24 Feb 17:24

Making Sense of Email Bounce Rates

by James Smart

Bounced email addresses can be one of the most frustrating aspects of email marketing. A bounce means your reader didn’t get the information they wanted to get and you wanted them to see. But a bounce is something technical that only delivery pros can deal with, right? Nope. In fact, there are many things you can do to help your emails make it to your readers’ inboxes.

In this post, we’ll go over the differences between hard and soft bounces, why they occur, and how to prevent and resolve issues with high bounce rates.

What is a bounce?

An email bounces when it can’t be delivered to a receiving email address. The reasons can be permanent or transient, solvable or irreparable, so when a bounce occurs, a return to sender message is sent back from the recipient’s mail server to help diagnose the issue. Bounces are usually categorized as either hard or soft, depending on how series the problem is.

What’s the difference between a hard and soft bounce?

Hard bounces are permanent delivery failures. This could be as a result of an invalid, erroneous address, an outdated domain, or an address which has fallen out of use. At Campaign Monitor, if an email is marked as a hard bounce it’s automatically suppressed and won’t be sent to again.

Soft bounces are temporary delivery failures and can occur for a variety of reasons. There may be a temporary issue with the receiving server, the recipient’s mailbox may be full or the receiving server may have identified an email as too large, to name just a few. There are many reasons that soft bounces occur, though by carefully maintaining your list and ensuring your data is sourced with opt-in permission, you can mitigate the potential for these kinds of bounces.

In most cases, an address will soft bounce five times before being automatically converted by Campaign Monitor into a hard bounce.

If you’re seeing bounce rates above the 2% industry standard, continuing to send to those addresses without action and investigation on your part will damage your sending reputation with receiving ISPs and will degrade the deliverability of your future sends.

What is a high email bounce rate?

It’s important to understand that a small number of bounces are to be expected over the lifetime of an email subscriber list. Addresses are changed or abandoned by their owners, people change roles or jobs, and temporary delivery issues can result in a small number of bounces too. The benchmark for bounces is less than 2%. Anything above a 2% bounce rate for your email campaign is worthy of your attention. If you’re seeing bounce rates over 5%, or even as high as 10% or greater, this suggests a significant problem that you will want to resolve.

Now that we’ve covered why email addresses bounce, you’re probably asking yourself if you can do anything to prevent high bounce rates? Although there are some aspects of email delivery that are out of your control, there are still plenty of things you can do to make sure you have a low bounce rate.

Use permission-based, opt-in data

It all starts with your list. Lists that are not created with opt-in permission of each individual recipient are more likely to see issues with high bounces and invalid addresses. Ensure you are in compliance with our policies, that your lists are built with permission and that your sign up forms include an opt-in checkbox.

Non-compliant sources such as scraped, purchased or third party email addresses are strictly prohibited from use at Campaign Monitor and will always see issues with high bounces, low engagement, and deliverability.

The key to the success in email marketing is the strength and compliance of the list – use only opt-in, permission-based lists that comply with our policies and best practices and you will already be on your way to engaged, active lists with low bounce rates.

Be smart with incentivized signups and competitions

Common sources of email addresses that see high bounces are competition forms, WIFI sign-up pages (where you get free WIFI for signing up) or other incentivized sign-up forms.

Sometimes, people are tempted by a competition prize or want to sign up to use WIFI though they do not wish to be added to a mailing list. These people use fake addresses or abandoned mailboxes in order to take advantage of the offer without receiving future emails.

Step one, as always, is to be compliant with our policies and ensure that you have an opt-in checkbox on your sign up form so that only people who check the box and want your emails are added to your list. Be clear with your subscribers about what they will be receiving and let them know they can unsubscribe at any time.

Show the value of your newsletter at sign up and make sure that your content is valuable and relevant. Bad newsletters with good incentives attract bad addresses that aren’t likely to engage with your emails. Give people a reason to sign up beyond any incentives for becoming a new subscriber and give them absolute clarity about what they are signing up for.

Use confirmed opt-in

Confirmed opt-in can help assure data quality across all of your subscribe forms. By ensuring that people must activate their subscription with a confirmation email, any erroneous or inactive addresses simply won’t make it onto your active subscriber list. This can greatly reduce potential bounces, and lists using confirmed opt-in tend to be more engaged and active too.

Don’t use a free domain send-from address

Using a free domain email address such as Gmail or Hotmail can mean that your emails will fail a DMARC check by receiving domains operating a DMARC policy. Your emails will automatically bounce at Gmail and Yahoo and are likely to be bounced or be routed to junk by many receiving domains.

Be sure to use a send-from address at your business domain and authenticate it too. This will help ensure your emails are not caught in spam filters unnecessarily. Not only will you improve your bounce rates but your general email deliverability will be improved.

Send consistently and frequently

Regular, consistent contact with your subscribers is an integral part of a successful email marketing program. Lists can go stale in as little as 6 months, and lists that have remained dormant over a longer period of time can see issues with engagement and spam complaints, as well as with bounces.

Send your recipients a welcome email to engage them from the start, and send them regular, relevant communications.

People often change their email addresses or leave previous ones abandoned which are subsequently likely to bounce. By contacting them regularly, you can be sure any bounces happen in low numbers over time, rather than seeing a large number of bounces at once from a list that is only contacted sporadically.

There is no one size fits all solution to email sending frequency, though if you only email your subscribers a couple of times a year, you should probably connect more regularly with your subscribers so they expect to hear from you on a regular basis and engage when they do.

Use a preference center

Be sure to include a preference center link in your emails so that people can update their email address and encourage them to do so. Not only can this have a positive effect on preventing future bounces, but giving people control over the emails they receive is great for engagement and for cultivating trust too.

Use a list verification service

If your list has been dormant for a period of time, or if you have been sending via a system with less than stellar bounce management systems, you may want to use a third party list verification service to identify and remove undeliverable addresses ahead of sending.

You can use our App Store to integrate with services such as BriteVerify or Kickbox and verify your list.

Removing the undeliverable addresses is a no brainer, though you may also see some services classify some addresses as risky, or unknown. In those cases, removing them entirely may not be the right step, though we would highly recommend staggering sends to those kinds of addresses.

Add a small number of those risky or unknown addresses to your list to begin with, monitor the results, and then add some more if all goes well. If you see high bounce rates from these addresses, you may want to rethink using them at all.

Preventing a huge spike in bounce rates by proceeding carefully with riskier data is essential for good email deliverability. Inbox providers and spam filters pay close attention to bounce rates and attempts to deliver mail to invalid addresses. If your bounce rates are sufficiently high, they may take steps to reject or block your emails entirely, and you could see bounces at legitimate inboxes too.

By verifying your list and adding any risky or unknown data steadily, you will prevent undue damage to your sending reputation and help the delivery of your emails with all inbox providers.

Be vigilant and monitor your results

As with engagement and other deliverability issues, the longer you leave bounce issues to fester, the greater the damage to your sending reputation. Monitor the results of your campaigns and journeys closely. If you see a spike in bounce rates, take a look at the bounce activity report. Are you seeing an influx of hard bounces, or have you see a huge upswing in soft bounces, perhaps at a particular domain?

Take action to improve your sign-up form, double check your data sources and the age of your lists. Ensure your authentication is in place and that your send-from address is from the same domain. If you’re still at a loss over why you are seeing high bounce rates, reach out to our support team, who will be able to help diagnose and resolve any issues.

Authenticate your emails

Email authentication is now one of the most important factors in a strong email marketing strategy. Failing to authenticate your sending domain means that receiving servers are likely to bounce or junk your emails as they cannot determine the legitimacy of your sends.

By authenticating your sending domain, you are proving the legitimacy and authenticity of your emails to receiving ISPs and this alone can have a profound effect on reducing soft bounces and improving the deliverability of your email campaigns in general.

Ramp up

In the event that you have a large email list that has not been sent to for some time, you’ll want to ramp up your sends carefully and monitor the results of your smaller campaigns ahead of sending to the full list.

Sending to the entirety of an older list and seeing a large number of bounces can be a disaster for the deliverability of your future emails. By sending to a smaller segment of your list first, you can monitor the performance and take steps to improve those results. By ramping up to send to your full list steadily, you can better control the impact of your campaigns, course correct if necessary, and preserve your sending reputation.

Wrap up

The key to understanding email bounce rates is to acknowledge that a small number of bounces are always to be expected, but preventing a large amount of bounces is often in your control. High bounce rates are usually an indicator of issues with the age, permissions or previous maintenance of your email list. By following the above steps and taking ownership of how your list is created and maintained, you can prevent high bounce rates and see further success with your email campaigns.

24 Feb 17:24

Secrets of Effective Brand Storytelling

by Drew Neisser

Storytelling, as explained by Douwe Bergsma, Georgia Pacific’s CMO, is indeed a different way of looking at marketing communications, one that requires new processes, metrics, and staff. Below, you will find some fascinating details that often separate a good story from a great one, including three secrets to crafting a successful marketing story, specifically. H4>

Drew: Are your KPIs different than you would have had in a pre-storytelling era?

Douwe: On a high level, I don’t think so. We still look at brand awareness and key brand attributes and the impact it has on penetration, loyalty and ultimately our profit. We just noticed that the way we were approaching it, we were not optimally achieving our KPI. We still want to see how Brawny does with the idea of toughness and gentleness. We still want to know if our core consumers—our key target segments—still appreciate Brawny in a way that they are receiving the right value for their money, compared to their alternatives. At the highest level, it didn’t change. At the lower level, it did, because before we were single-mindedly measuring the impact of a 30-second ad on this metric. Now we look at the combined impact recognizing that at the end of the day, it’s still about driving conversion from intent to purchase.

Drew: Do marketers need to be more patient with storytelling?

Douwe: Good question, I haven’t thought about that. In the development, yes. It takes longer for a fully integrated story to develop because design plays a key role. One of the things we’ve learned is that a story needs to be holistic including the design of the brand packaging as well as the design of the products inside. One example of this is the way the Brawny giant comes to life on our packaging. And packaging, in our industry, has a longer lead-time. So in order to do it right and holistically, it takes longer to prepare and develop. In actuality, I don’t think the level of patience is different from what we used to do.

Drew: Let’s get specific. What’s your leading example of storytelling?

Douwe: Brawny is the only brand where we have completely overhauled our packaging as well as our other touch points. We’ve developed our story framework—the conflict is really between tough and gentle. And then the fundamental human truth is about protecting yourself and those you love. This requires you to be understanding and open to what life throws at you, but also have the tenacity, toughness, and strength to tackle any challenge. We were inspired by a quote from Roosevelt: “speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far.” We translated that into a campaign, featuring the Brawny giant. How do you tackle and handle life’s challenges? By staying strong while continuing to be gentle as these challenges come at you. We showcase The Brawny® Man with the larger-than-life look he had in the 1970s — so there’s kind of a double meaning here—in our campaign, which represents kind of a gentle giant, which is gentleness and strength in there.

Drew: Tell me more about your partnership with AOL.

Douwe: With AOL, we were able to develop and sponsor content that helped tell our various brand stories. For example, in Brawny®’s Everyday Giants series, we featured Khali Sweeney, who started the Downtown Boxing Gym in Detroit, which basically became an afterschool academic support program, where he gives kids free boxing lessons after they finished their homework. The program was for inner-city kids in Detroit and every student who went through his program that’s been going on for several years now, there’s a 100 percent graduation rate and 80 percent went to college.

Drew: In a programmatic real-time world, how do you adjust to storytelling or does that play any kind of role in all of this?

Douwe: Programmatic is more into where and when and what frequency; it’s less about the content. And our storytelling predominantly focuses on the content of our communication, which closely relates to our media placement. So programmatic has not really impacted the story we’re telling, more when and where we telling it. And obviously, it allows us to find those people that are in our target audience. It allows us to find our specific audience better and faster than we normally do.

Drew: What are some of the pitfalls to be avoided?

Douwe: First and foremost, it’s very tempting to just focus on the storytelling. You first need to really focus on the story framework. Because our whole industry is so used to drafting a brief to develop an ad. Draft a brief; write a Tweet. But before you do the brief, you actually need to know your story’s framework. It’s like sending an improv artist on stage who doesn’t know what a story framework is.

Second, with storytelling, there is not a single linear pass to it. You need to be very agile and experimental and embrace the mistakes and the failures you have along the way and have a very experimental mindset. You need to do a lot of trial and error and go down specific pathways to figure out what’s going to work for the brand or what doesn’t.

And last but not least, we’ve learned that you also need to make sure that you recruit and cherish the few storytellers in the building who have the passion and the talent to develop story frameworks. I discovered that there are quite a few people that have that innate balance at companies like Coca-Cola. In fact, Shari Neumann, who leads all our storytelling here at Georgia-Pacific is a former Coca-Cola person.

The post Secrets of Effective Brand Storytelling appeared first on Social Media Explorer.

        

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24 Feb 17:24

Are You So Busy Selling Your Product That You Won’t Win The Deal?

by Dave Brock

Don Mulhern published a brilliant post in LinkedIn the other day. I thought I’d expand on his ideas.

I spend innumerable hours doing deal reviews. 95% go the same way, they focus on the product the sales person is selling, not what the customer is trying to achieve and how we can help the customer do that.

Sales people spend endless hours talking about:

  • This is what they like in our product, this is what they like in the competition.
  • We showed them these things in the demo, they really liked it!
  • We just need to overcome these perceptions of the product, then we can win.
  • If we could do these things with our product, it’s a slam dunk.
  • The customer wants it in “torchlight red,” can we paint it? (OK, I made this one up, but you’d be amazed at some of the things I hear.)

Inevitably, I get impatient, I may ask something, like, “What are they buying this for?” The sales people look at me, inevitably thinking, “Haven’t you been paying attention, they want to buy my product and I have to tell them how great our product is!!!”

The fixation sales people have on selling their products blinds them to what the customer is trying to achieve. Customers aren’t buying our products just to be buying, they are buying our products to solve a problem, to address and opportunity, to achieve something they can’t otherwise do.

Inevitably, the product is just a component of what they are trying to do, but there are many other challenges they struggle with. This is where they need help and this is where sales people create the greatest value.

Customers are concerned with implementation, they are concerned with risk, they are concerned with their ability to be successful with their customers or beating their competition. They are concerned with improving quality, reducing cost, reducing cycle time. They want to drive growth and revenues, they want to drive profitability.

They want to be successful, they want some level of sanity in their otherwise insane lives, they want their bosses off their backs, they want to get a promotion or a bonus or keep their jobs. They want to get home at a reasonable hour to spend time with their families and friends. They want to free up time to do other things, some that may be more important than this specific issue.

These are the things our customers are interested in. These are the reasons our customers are buying, but buying is just a small part of what they are trying to achieve.

When salespeople lose sight of this, focusing instead on their products, they are no longer being helpful to the customer. They are no longer focusing on the issues that are most important to the customer, and which create the greatest differentiated value.

Our products are just a small part of what our customers care about. In the end, they will have several alternatives that meet their “product needs.” But what our customers really want is a supplier that understands what the customer is trying to do and is helping them achieve that. It goes far beyond the product.

24 Feb 17:24

How to Boost the Wow Factor of Your B2B Content Marketing with Visuals

by Wendy Marx

How to Boost the Wow Factor of Your B2B Content Marketing with Visuals

B2B content marketing without visual content has become the ignored stepchild of content marketing. It lurks in the corners and doesn’t gain the limelight. Here’s the takeaway: In a content-flooded world, you won’t stand out without engaging visuals.

Do you hold back from investing in visual content for fear of complicated programs and a large investment? Fear no more! Visual content creation is easier — and more essential — than ever before.

You’ve probably heard it before — visuals are a must in the content marketing arena. It was true then, and it only increases in value over time.

Let’s review why visual content is so vital to your overall B2B content strategy, and what you can do to get in the game.

Why You Need to Leverage Visuals in Your B2B Content Marketing

Images Help People Remember Your Brand

Using well-defined styles in your visual content helps establish your brand in people’s minds.. Create images that encapsulate your company’s personalityand your brand will be more recognizable.

Add your brand’s logo to each image, and it will be an extra step that imprints your brand on the mind of your audience.

Take this example from one of my blog posts. In every piece of visual content, I include my logo — here it’s centered at the very bottom. It’s not the primary focus, but it’s there so that people will associate the piece with my brand. Small details like this can go a long way towards enhancing brand awareness.

How to Improve B2B Blogging in the Era of Big Data

 

Brands are creating content that informs and entertains customers with the intent to engage and eventually convert them. –Juntae Dulane

They Trigger an Emotional Response

Visuals are a powerful tool in generating the right emotions in your readers. Psychology has proven that certain colors are inherently linked to emotions within the human brain.

For example, orange evokes playful and energetic emotions, while blue creates a trustworthy and overall inviting feeling. Colors play a major role in how your audience interacts with your content.

Even the symmetry (or asymmetry) of your image can add to this emotional element. You can create feelings of chaos or order, intimacy or isolation, all within the layout of your visual graphics.

Take this example from Cisco Security. The color blue inspires trustworthiness — the exact feeling you want from your security software. And the icons inspire confidence in the brand’s technical abilities.

B2B content marketing should include visuals that strike and emotional chord.

People Are on Content Overload

The internet is an overflowing sea of content — with more being added every nanosecond! So why do visuals help? For starters, 65% of people are visual learners, with the human brain processing images 60,000 times faster than text. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of power I want working for me.

The easier it is for your audience to process your information, the more they will retain, and the longer they will remain on your content.

Take this infographic from General Electric, with its statistical data and graphs. If this was made into straight textual content, it would be dry and boring. Yet, in this colorful and lively infographic, the information is easier to absorb with the key points easy to grasp.

 

If you find that words alone fail to grab your audience’s attention, create infographics that would visually appeal to them–Neal Schaffer

Social Media Demands It

Visuals are the media part of B2B social media marketing — it’s a key reason we we log on and engage. If you want your content to be sharable, visual graphics are essential. When is the last time you shared an article with no image? Or clicked on a title with no image on social media? Mostly likely, rarely to never. That’s because images are the lifeblood of social media.

If you hope to incorporate social media effectively into your content marketing (it’s a necessity in this day and age), then images are an imperative.

Adobe shows how to create killer content that gets uber results. Take their Twitter page. Within seconds, they show off their visual content skills with video, a slideshow, and images associated with every post. Their variety of visual content keeps their audience happy.

A great example of using visuals in B2B social media marketing.

Social media is the quickest, most efficient, and most cost-effective way to communicate your message to the world –Neal Schaffer

It’s Great For SEO

Images play a humungous part in SEO best practices. Every image you use should be optimized for SEO — to do this, all you need is to use your target keyword in your image’s title, file name, and alt text. While this is not visible to site visitors, it will be visible to (and carry a lot of weight) with search engines.

Plus, every time that a visual element gets shared, it adds another backlink that improves your SEO.

 

8 Cool Tools to Add to Your Visual Content Creation Toolbox

1. Landscape

Every social network has its own dimensions for images — but doing them all by hand can be a chore. Make it easier with this handy tool from Sprout Social, which allows you to pick the dimension that looks the best for your social network.

2. Slidely

This tool makes it super easy to create an interactive multimedia slideshow. The combination of cool art effects, music and your own images produces an engaging story Plus, it syncs with your Facebook, Instagram, and Flickr account to make visual creation a breeze.

3. Canva

This is really several tools in one. It allows you to pick specific, social-media-related sizes, and add from a library of free visual and text elements to create visually engaging and compelling images. Canva also has a variety of templates for a very professional look.

4. Flixel

This cinemagraphic tool brings your ordinary photos to life — almost literally. It adds movement to key parts of your photo, which draws in the eye and makes the image pop.

5. Awesome Screenshot

Do you have an instructional post where you would like to visually walk people through the steps? This handy tool allows you to do this in minutes — take a screenshot, and then use this tool to mark it up with arrows, boxes, and text that will create a visual guide for your audience.

6. Infogr.am

Want to produce helpful infographics, but don’t know where to start? Infogr.am makes it an easy process — just choose your template, input your information (data, images, and branding), and watch the program bring your infographic to life. Once done, it provides easy-to-share formats so you can get the final product out to your audience.

7. Camtasia

Interested in adding video to your visual B2B content strategy repertoire? Have no fear. Camtasia is here. This tool is perfect for how-to and demonstration videos. It allows you to simultaneously take a video of your screen and add voice-over to bring your audience on a hands-on journey to your desktop.

8. VideoScribe

Many brands have found it useful to incorporate whiteboard animation into their video line-up. This online tool draws whiteboard-style using your own images. You can then add voice-over, as well as your own music. At the end, it will look like you hired a professional whiteboard animator to draw what this program does in a matter of minutes.

A Few Points to Keep in Mind…

  • In this age of social media, visual content is an absolute necessity for any B2B business
  • Visual content is an essential part of SEO best practices
  • Nowadays, people are overloaded with content, and retain information better when it’s presented visually
  • Colorful images are a great way to engage your readers emotionally in what they read

Now the ball is in your court. Visual creation is now in your hands — so easy that anybody can do it! Enhance your B2B content marketing with beautiful images that will make your audience go “wow.”

24 Feb 17:24

Mark Schaefer on Becoming Known Instead of Becoming Famous – Episode #81

by Carey Green

There are few people who know what it takes to become known, like Anthony’s guest on this episode, Mark Schaefer. Mark has spent his entire adult life consistently generating the quality content that has placed him in the spotlight in the business world. From studying under Peter Drucker to engaging with business leaders worldwide, Mark’s experience has led him to write his newest book, “Known” – an examination of how we become known and why it’s more important and powerful to be known than to be famous. Anthony and Mark have a wide-ranging conversation, all centered around the things it takes to truly become known for the value you provide, so be sure you make the time to listen.

Mark Schaefer on Becoming Known Instead of Becoming FamousClick To Tweet

How being known is different and more powerful than being famous.

A quick check just now reveals that 27,100 people are Googling the phrase, “How to become famous” every day. That tells you a lot about the culture we live in. But Mark Schaefer, Anthony’s guest on this episode of In The Arena, is convinced that being known is very, very different than being famous and that it has a great deal more power for good in the world. In this conversation, Anthony quizzes Mark about his book, “Known” and asks about the specific things that go into being known. Be advised, it’s a long game, but one well worth playing. You’re going to enjoy this conversation.

Being famous is about you. Becoming known is about your goals.

Anyone who wants to become famous is seeking glory, the spotlight, notoriety. And when you look closely you’ll see that those things all have to do with the individual. They are purely selfish. But becoming known is a step in the journey of those who are trying to make a difference, it’s a move toward accomplishing their crazy goals that can change the world. Find out how Mark Schaefer says we have to go about becoming known and why it’s the exact opposite of becoming famous by listening to this episode. In his characteristic way, Mark tells stories and gives examples so you can walk away from this conversation knowing exactly what you need to do next. Ready? Welcome to In The Arena.

Being famous is about you. Becoming known is about your goalsClick To Tweet

How important is content creation in becoming known?

In the digital world, content is everywhere – from stupid cat videos to in-depth articles outlining the newest sales strategies. With so much content available you might think that adding your voice to the noise is not going to make much difference. But here’s how it can: If you create content that is better and you do it more consistently, you’ll rise to the top – you’ll become known. Mark Schaefer highlights the importance of creating great content in this day and age and provides some tips for how you can adjust your mindset to play the long game required – and it’s all on this episode.

Consistency is the power behind becoming known through content creation.

It’s hard to keep going when you don’t see the results of what you’re doing. Mark Schaefer understands that. He’s been posting incredible, regular content for years and it wasn’t until the recent past that he began seeing the influence he was having. Why did he keep going all those years when it seemed like nothing was really working? It’s because he has the philosophy that as long as you see signs that what you’re doing MIGHT be making a difference, you should keep going. The certainty of your impact only comes through consistency, and by default, that’s a long game. You have to believe in the change you’re trying to make enough to keep going. You can hear a good deal more of Mark’s wisdom, on this episode of In The Arena.

Consistency is the power behind becoming known through content creationClick To Tweet

Outline of this great episode

  • [2:00] Anthony’s introduction of his guest today, Mark Schaefer.
  • [3:36] What is the new equity of influence?
  • [7:53] Why being known is different than being famous.
  • [12:29] How important is content creation in becoming known?
  • [20:46] Anthony’s decision to create content to become known – and the results.
  • [23:31] Is there any truth to the “follow your passion” mantra?
  • [28:32] How narrow should a niche focus be to truly become known?
  • [31:40] Human content VS non-human content.
  • [36:39] Mark’s experience studying under Peter Drucker.
  • [40:13] The truth behind Mark’s biggest blog post: Content Shock.

Our Sponsors:

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

Connect with Anthony

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24 Feb 17:24

5 Ways To Educate Your Customers Through Content

by Josh Ritchie

Content marketing is not about talking about yourself; it’s about creating content that delivers true value to your audience—the content they need and want. No matter who your audience is, I can guarantee that what they need and want is information that helps them learn, grow, and improve in some way.

When your brand provides that information, you’re providing an education—and that is a truly valuable service.

“Education” through content marketing can take many forms: practical (how-tos and tutorials), theoretical (deep dives into specific subjects), or brand-specific (product information and features). Most importantly, it delivers useful information in the right context, at the right time.

Unfortunately, over the last decade, we’ve seen too many marketers focus on what they want to say instead of what their audience wants to learn. This is a huge mistake; if you want to succeed in content marketing, focusing on education is crucial. It’s also not that hard. Here are five ways to create education-based content that delivers great value to your audience.

1) Prove that you feel their pain

People want help from those who know what they’re going through, who can help them navigate those issues. Therefore, the best way to make yourself attractive to a customer is to help solve their problems via content.

An added benefit: Creating this type of content not only shows your audience that you care about educating them but proves that you can educate them, positioning your brand as a helpful resource.

How do you get familiar with your clients’ pain points? Ask. Email them. Call them. Take them out to lunch, dinner, or drinks.

Whichever way you do it, use this information to fuel your content.

We’ve created audience personas with the information we’ve gleaned from our conversations with clients, which we reference during every brainstorm. This helps us ensure that each idea addresses as specific pain point. (Here’s how to make your own personas if you haven’t done it already.)

2) Let them learn from your mistakes

In addition to wanting help from people who understand their problems, your customers want to know that you have personally overcome their struggles (or personally know how to solve them).

Customers respect industry leaders who can speak authoritatively on the issues they face. Yes, “thought leadership” is a term that gets tossed around a lot, and so it has been cheapened, but the original idea behind it is to showcase your experience, share the lessons you’ve learned, and prove that you know your stuff.

Seth Godin has said, “The lessons we remember are the lessons we learn the hard way.” Even if you don’t think you are the expert, you probably still know more than your customers and thus are in a good position to educate them.

On that note, if you feel like an impostor because someone has 10 more years of experience than you do, here’s the good news: Everyone deals with this syndrome—myself included. (Here’s a great piece to help you overcome impostor syndrome.)

3) Help them get to know you

Showcasing your unique point of view is truly the only way to stand out from your competitors. No one has had the same set of experiences and life lessons you’ve had, and this is truly your best value prop.

Sure, there’s a company with more website visitors than you have. Sure, they may have more e-books than you do. And, sure, they may have more speaking gigs than you do. But what they don’t have is your exact experience or perspective. They don’t have your same personality, values, client service style, or goals.

Don’t try to be Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, or Tony Robbins. Learn from them, but forge your own path.

The more you can showcase who you are through content and educate your audience through interaction with your brand, the more your audience will forge a more unique, personal connection with you.

This content will also attract people who have similar perspectives or philosophies, which means that audience is more likely to convert (as opposed to other methods, such as paid search or radio advertising, which reaches broader audiences).

At Column Five, we produce informative content for our clients, but we also create content to showcase our company’s values and personal passions (e.g., our People for Periods interactive infographic to help destigmatize menstruation).

4) Teach them a practical skill

Thought leadership is important, but sometimes brands get a little too esoteric, musing in long blog posts or philosophizing on a podcast. That knowledge is valuable, but if it isn’t immediately applicable to your audience’s life, it can take a backseat.

Instead, try repackaging that knowledge into smaller, shareable content your audience can put to use. Even a small tidbit via a tweet can help. Seek to educate through tutorials, how-to guides, hacks, and tips, but remember that practicality is key for this type of content.

You can also use this type of helpful microcontent to promote your larger pieces. For example, we created this infographic on how to optimize your blog for publishing to help promo an e-book on content distribution.

5) Learn together

You are an expert in your industry. You know your stuff. But you’re also eager to expand your knowledge to give your audience the best information possible at all times. Demonstrating that you are also an active student teaches your audience that you aren’t just resting on your laurels. It helps them learn new things, too.

To help educate ourselves and our audience, we conduct Q&As with industry leaders we think are doing great work and are successful in their own lanes. For example, a few members of our team were so enamored of PopSugar’s Snapchat stories, we interviewed them to find out everything about their production process and provide a few tips to our readers.

Remember: Value comes first

Expanding your reach, exploring new ideas, and fostering a learning community through content can only help your brand, as long as you’re focused on providing value. Remember the wise words of Zig Ziglar: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

To learn more about creating better content, check out our team’s top tips to make you a better content marketer and take a look at our best fixes for your biggest content marketing problems. Of course, if you need help with your content efforts, we’re always happy to chat.

24 Feb 17:23

Why Your Webinar Attendance Is Low

by Sean G. McCormick

Why Your Webinar Attendance Is Low

The anticipation leading up to a webinar can be stressful. Logistically, there’s a lot of moving parts, from your pre-promotion to setting up the technology platform, and collaboration needed with internal and/or external thought leaders.

There’s a big spotlight on marketing to pull off a seamless event. If something goes awry, there’s very visible egg on our faces.

But in my experience, attendance can be the biggest knot. It sits in your stomach as travel into work that day. The first inquiry by leadership post-webinar will be requesting the total audience.

It’s middle school math to calculate ROI at that point. And if attendance is low, questions surface about “best use of resources,” especially if the speaker was a senior leader or had a high fee.

Yet, the value to the brand in retaining a single customer’s attention for the length of a webinar is meaningful, let alone a group, regardless of size. Compare it to your average time-on-site and the number of resources devoted to that beast.

I understand we aren’t comparing apples to apples, but my point is low webinar attendance gets a bad rap. Let’s call a spade, a spade –attendance is a shallow metric used in the determination of the effectiveness of marketing –can you pull a crowd or not?

Let me share some learnings to help lift those numbers:

Creating Habits:

A primary pitfall of webinars is in its use. It is far too common that we do one-offs, tied to a campaign or single piece of content.

We build it, and we expect people to come. But it’s hard to change individuals’ habits or invest any great length of time. The “sign-up” in itself requires it, let alone actually attending. Consider taking a cue from broadcasting –appointment listening/watching.

Using this vehicle as a reoccurring event (vs. standalone) sways constancy with an audience. Your customer can start anticipating the event, having a greater influence on their time and attention.

This also opens the possibility of it turning into a habit, gaining a user base and the probability of that increasing over time (if you are delivering good content). This is a gradual build but proven effective.

Optimal Topics and Speakers:

Using overly broad topics, especially if it’s tied to an isolated webinar, is just asking to for low attendance and potentially losing brand sentiment. The focus needs to be timely and relevant. What’s the hook for the devotion of time and does it address an immediate need?

If the topic isn’t hot, then the speaker needs to be the draw –an industry expert, whether that be internally or externally. Providing direct access to a VIP expert can be appealing, particularly if tied to a Q/A. (Note: an unbiased perspective is key in determining if the speaker has validity in the category.)

An additional risk in broad topics is having a response that the event could have been delivered in a more appropriate experience –a format accessible when needed. If this is an impression, there’s a low probability that a user(s) will attend future webinars. Plus, the overall hit to brand sentiment.

Partnering with Media:

You increase the potential of attendance by partnering with a media outlet and simplifies logistics. They can provide:

Authority: A news source has clout to leverage
Reach: Their database more is likely larger than your CRM
Credit: Industry media may have an expedited process for CE credit approval (if applicable)
Technology: Use of their webinar platform reduces marketing operation needs

If you are having low attendance and are doing an individual or small series of webinars, I’d recommend tapping into a media source. The benefits outweigh the cost.

Planning Post Communications:

When focused on live attendance, the full value of this content is undervalued. We live in an on-demand world.

The post communication strategy is equally as important as the invitation plan. It goes without saying, the replay of the webinar needs to be publicly posted.

To those who did sign-up but didn’t attend. The initial sign-up signifies interest, yet there are countless factors and priorities that could pull a user from attending live. Personalize a communication for this audience and send them the replay.

Also, consider retargeting customers who didn’t open an initiation or opened but didn’t sign-up. There are limitless considerations in either situation and the assumption that they just weren’t interested, is a fallacy. Hit them again with emails containing the replay. (Note: refrain from sending a single email to all groups.)

With the live and on-demand numbers, you have a more sound picture in determining ROI.

The low attendance of a webinar should not be the judge and jury on the effectiveness of a marketing. To retain seconds of attention can be a tall glass, let alone extended periods of time.

A webinar is a tool to accelerate brand health and provides an opportunity for lead generation or nurturing. Using these strategies can have a greater influence on your audience to lift engagements, live or on-demand.

Yet, what is infrequently mentioned and can be difficult to measure is the grade of engagements. Can an hour with 25 customers provide equal return than a minute with thousands? It’s testing and learning to find the balance in quality vs. quantity to have an optimal channel and tactical mix of marketing.

24 Feb 17:22

What is Emotionally Intelligent Postcard Marketing?

by Mike Ryan

You may already be familiar with the positive role that emotional intelligence (EI) plays in business performance and success. But many marketers have yet to explore the idea of applying EI to their promotional strategies. Loosely defined as an ability to recognize and manage both your own emotions, and the emotional responses of others, studies show that 90% of top business performers possess high levels of emotional intelligence.

While not everyone is innately intelligent in the emotional sense, it is a skill set that can be learned and developed with practice. And that’s important, because those who choose to cultivate their EI abilities tend to interact more successfully with others in terms of:

So, what has EI got to do with your direct mail postcards? Let’s consider the impact of that last point…

The Importance of Relevant Marketing

Research indicates that only about one third of consumers feel they’re truly understood by their favorite brands. More specifically, the promotional emails and other marketing messages these customers receive from the companies they love are relevant to their personal needs and emotional desires no more than 35% of the time.

Numbers like these should have marketers sitting up and taking notice. Emotionally intelligent interactions hinge on listening and responding to what’s important to others. And cultivating EI-driven relationships with customers is particularly important when it comes to marketing relevance.

The customers and prospects you interact with want to feel valued. And the best way to make that happen is with messaging that speaks directly to their needs, wants, and desires. When we take the time to understand the moods and impulses that drive our clients’ purchasing decisions, we’re better able to reply to those emotional triggers with advertising that’s directed toward the right person, at the right time.

Connecting with Customers Emotionally

Emotionally intelligent postcard marketing relies on:

  • digging out the emotional factors that influence a client’s desire to purchase from you
  • determining what your product or service offers that solves a client’s problem
  • honing in on the pleasure a client feels when they take advantage of what you’re selling

Using customer feedback, surveys, interviews, and other dialoguing tools to get to know your clients on a deeper level is crucial to navigating the buying journey they’re on. Armed with the right data, your business will be better prepared to create direct mail postcards that engage and connect with the demands of would-be buyers. And that can drive more traffic to your website, and increase conversions.

Consider your answers to questions like these the next time you sit down to design a direct mail campaign:

  1. Is the content personalized and relatable?
  2. Do the images and other visual elements inspire the desired emotional response?
  3. Does your offer provide value by making your customer’s life better in a way that’s relevant to them?
  4. Is the frequency of your mailout appropriate for your audience?

You may have to experiment with both the layout and the scheduling of your direct mail materials before you land on a combination that yields the best ROI. Remember, two of the most common reasons for results that miss the mark are mailing to prospects at the wrong time – and failing to connect with them emotionally.

24 Feb 17:22

Account-Based Marketing and SEO: 4 Reasons They’re Perfect for Each Other

by Nate Dame

how to optimize ABM with SEO

Whether you’re just getting started with account-based marketing or you’ve been doing it for a while, you may be looking for new ways to maximize your efforts. One effective way to amplify the results of your ABM approach is to make sure it’s incorporated into your SEO strategy.

A strategic approach to SEO as part of an account-based marketing strategy increases personalization, drives engagement, and enables data-based decision-making. For these reasons, SEO and ABM are a perfect pairing:

1. SEO Helps Target and Personalize ABM Content

The first steps of any ABM approach should be defining your list of target accounts and identifying their internal stakeholders. Completing these tasks is critical for success with the next step: defining a personalized, targeted content strategy.

SEO shines here because it provides insight into what types of content key players at target accounts are looking for. In one sense, modern SEO was doing this kind of personalization long before ABM became widely practiced. Keyword and user intent research—core components of modern SEO—are highly effective practices for defining the types of content you need to create.

An SEO campaign starts by building a list of target keywords and analyzing them for user intent. Keywords will include products and services that are core to your brand and your industry, those you are already ranking well for in Google Search Console, terms used in your search function on your site, etc.

Analyzing user intent means typing those keywords into Google and studying the organic search results. Look for insights that answer the following questions:

  • Are users looking for information or products? If the results for your keyword searches are mostly definitions of the term or industry “how to” articles, that means the target audience is looking for information. If the results are mostly product pages, users are probably looking to purchase a solution.
  • Who is most likely consuming this content? If the language/tone is speaking to executive-level readers and content is more philosophical, those keywords are most likely being used by the C-suite. If the content is mostly detailed instructional articles, those terms are probably being used by lower-level influencers and practitioners.
  • Where does this information fall in the buyer’s journey? If it’s early-stage information, like definitions of key terms, the keywords are probably being used by someone at the very beginning of the buyer’s journey. If the content is more late-stage, comparing vendors or offering free trials, those keywords are more likely being used by audiences who are ready to make a decision.

Here is a piece of a user intent research that shows some of the insights that can be gained:

Insights from user intent research

To perform user intent research for your organization, group keywords that produce similar organic search results into composite groups and analyze them for user intent collectively. These insights can direct strategic recommendations for the types and topics of content that should be created or optimized to meet the needs of your target account segments.

As you expand your keyword strategy to include long-tail keywords (keywords that are four or more words), add your industry, physical location, and/or target audience as appropriate. Building out a list of long-tail keywords can start by adding, “for the finance industry,” “in Los Angeles,” or “for CFOs,” for example.

As your account-based marketing team prepares to create targeted, personalized content, user intent insights can help identify the language that your target account leads are using in organic search. It can also help plot content along each persona’s buying journey so each piece of content answers the right questions and presents an appropriate CTA.

2. SEO is Always an Optimal Channel

Once you’ve determined your target accounts and have personalized content to engage them, it’s time to determine the optimal channels for your campaigns. Every organization will prefer different channels, but organic search should always be a priority:

  • 71% of B2B decision-makers begin their journey with a general web search.
  • Users perform an average of 12 searches before visiting a specific brand’s site.
  • Google recently experienced 91% growth, over two years, in B2B researchers using mobile search throughout the entire path (not just the initial stages).

If your campaign content and landing pages aren’t optimized for search, you risk losing your target accounts to competitors who excel in the search engine results page (SERP). Start by making sure your technical SEO is clean and set up properly. Then, focus on engagement: make sure your content is educational, engaging, and popular.

3. SEO Helps Execute Targeted ABM Campaigns

Once you begin executing campaigns, the keyword and user intent research you conducted earlier will be crucial as you start mapping your targeted content to specific buyer journeys.

If you were going to map SEO-related keywords to a buyer journey, for example, it might look something like this:

keywords along the buyers journey

These user intent insights allow you to coordinate targeted ABM campaigns—starting with organic search, but crossing channels to wherever your audience can be found. Good, targeted content can easily be shared on your website, in emails, repurposed for various social channels, etc.

Use SEO best practices to execute campaigns that drive target account stakeholders further into the purchasing path with every engagement—both on your website and through your inbound and outbound campaigns.

4. SEO Provides Valuable Metrics for Optimizing ABM Campaigns

The final step of an ABM implementation is measuring, learning, and optimizing. Measuring the effectiveness of ABM campaigns requires a different approach than measuring broad-reaching marketing campaigns. Valuable ABM metrics focus on engagement and penetration, and these can be more difficult to measure—and report—than reach and lead volume metrics.

By adopting standard SEO metrics strategies, you can easily track the effectiveness of your ABM campaigns and the engagement they are driving:

  • Tag URLs for off-site campaigns using a tool like Google Tag Manager. Tags can be used to segment traffic in your analytics program, so you can see exactly how much traffic targeted ABM email and social campaigns are driving to your site. As traffic from these campaigns grows, you can measure and report an increase in awareness of your brand, products, and services among key players at target accounts.
  • Review bounce rates and % exit values for ABM campaign landing pages and other targeted/personalized content. High bounce rates signify that the page content is not driving visitors further into the funnel, and % exit values allow you to measure the percentage of visitors who left your site without performing another action. Low bounce rates and % exit values indicate that targeted stakeholders are interested in your content.
  • Set goals to measure changes in awareness and engagement over time. Determine the path you want key stakeholders to follow when arriving from a campaign, and set that path as a series of goals to measure and report on your ABM campaign effectiveness. Over time, you should see an increase in goal completions; if not, it’s time to investigate the issue and optimize your content/funnel to sustain engagement.

Measuring ABM campaigns can be simplified with a comprehensive marketing platform, but standard SEO metrics strategies provide an effective means of tracking important metrics in lieu of more advanced tools.

Adopting SEO for Successful Account-Based Marketing

The best practices of modern SEO seek to provide audiences with informative, targeted, quality interactions. In that way, SEO and ABM share many of the same goals and are powerful when paired.

If you’re just getting started with ABM, consider SEO in each step of your implementation. If you’ve been executing ABM for a while without satisfactory results, take a step back and consider how you can adopt SEO into your approach. Conducting basic keyword and user intent research is a great starting point. It allows you to identify where your content is missing the mark and provides detailed information on how to resolve the problem.

Are you practicing ABM? What other strategies are essential to your success?

24 Feb 17:22

The Golden Rule of Social Selling: Solve Your Customer’s Problem

by Tukan Das

The world of B2B selling is changing, fast. And if your team doesn’t keep up, you won’t just lose opportunities – you stand to lose your entire business.

Outbound selling relies too heavily on outdated tactics, like telling customers what they need instead of listening to what they tell you. In fact, Forrester predicts that one million US B2B salespeople will lose their job to self-service eCommerce by 2020 if these tactics don’t change.

A big part of the reason why outbound selling is losing its effectiveness is because B2B buyers are turning to websites, social media, their own networks and other research channels before reaching out to a salesperson. They come fully armed with knowledge – especially the knowledge of what their problems are.

This means that your salespeople won’t find any footing by telling prospects how great your product is. Instead, they need to focus their efforts on explaining how your product can solve a prospect’s problems.

Social selling makes this possible, as it enables salespeople to build relationships with buyers via the channels they prefer. It also acts as a fantastic research tool, as salespeople can explore public posts on networks like LinkedIn and Twitter to see what issues their prospect has recently been facing.

For example, let’s say you are targeting CMOs at medium-sized businesses. Outbound tactics would have your sales team cold calling them from a list, and reading a sales-pitch script that praises the many amazing features your product has to offer. They might be able to generalize a problem that CMO might be facing – like low conversion rates, for instance – but they can’t know for sure that that’s even an issue for them. Within a few seconds, the prospect knows that the salesperson they’re talking to doesn’t have a clue about their particular situation, and politely hangs up the phone.

Social selling changes all aspects of the above scenario, from the channel of outreach to the script used to sell. Rather than cold calling, your salesperson develops a relationship with the prospect using social media. She has shared their content on Twitter a few times, and connected via a mutual acquaintance on LinkedIn. When she gets the CMO on the phone, she brings up his social profiles and sees that he has recently been talking about struggling to build solid communication channels between sales and marketing internally. So rather than talk about the product, she talks about his problem: sales-marketing alignment. She asks pointed questions about the struggles he faces, and only when the time is right mentions that her product has helped past customers address this very problem. He is impressed, and asks to see a demo.

By following the golden rule of social selling, solving your customer’s problem, you and your sales team will not only make more sales, you will develop better relationships with customers who will be more loyal, and more likely to recommend you to others in their network.

24 Feb 17:21

How Marketing Automation Technology Makes Businesses Smarter

by Andy MacMillan

How Marketing Automation Technology Makes Businesses Smarter

Stereotype: a standardized mental picture that is held in common by members of a group and that represents an oversimplified opinion, affective attitude or uncritical judgment. – Webster’s Dictionary

Society frowns on stereotypes, and for good reason: They may not reflect reality and they tend to violate our common understanding that all individuals are unique.

For years, however, marketing organizations have exhibited a similar kind of oversimplification with the time-honored practice of dividing markets into customer segments and using one-size-fits-all approaches in targeting them for marketing activities.

Traditional segmentation naively assumes that, say, all technology buyers in B2B companies with more than 5,000 employees act alike and can be related to in the same manner. Or that if a customer takes a certain action, the marketing response should always be the same – automatic emails to website visitors, for example.

That no longer works in today’s world. Customers engage with brands across multiple digital touch points — from the first interaction to the buying process to ongoing customer care — and they expect a more personalized experience throughout. It’s an adaptive journey and how companies conduct it has become as important as the product they sell.

Marketing automation platforms are evolving to handle these new realities, thanks to the help of embedded predictive and artificial intelligence technologies that can anticipate buyer behaviors, automate outreach and prescribe for the business whom to engage, when to engage and what to engage with.

The latest infrastructure is giving marketers a command center that helps them streamline, automate and measure marketing activities across channels, and send highly relevant customized content to the right customer or the right potential customer at just the right time.

It also can help Marketing better partner with Sales – showing the return on investment for the different marketing activities and how they all impact pipeline.

To picture the difference between today’s more advanced marketing automation platforms and the previous generations still in use at many companies, think of what it was like to use MapQuest circa 2003 compared with Waze or Google Maps now.

MapQuest was a major improvement over paper maps, giving users a more convenient, computerized way to get directions. But the technology was static: It couldn’t change on the fly if conditions changed – say, the driver made a wrong turn or an accident occurred ahead. Today’s apps, on the other hand, constantly pull in data about traffic, road conditions, etc. to automatically offer real-time, dynamic insights.

Similarly, the latest marketing automation infrastructure is able to leverage data in real time to assess, modify and optimize marketing activities so that companies can be more effective and agile in responding to and caring for customers.

When integrated with a company’s website, social media accounts, CRM and a host of other application infrastructures, marketing automation platforms can become enterprises’ de facto engagement database of record.

Ed Koch, the late mayor of New York City, once said, “Stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest.” This is very true of marketing today and why more intelligent marketing automation technology that delivers a more personalized experience is a must-have.

24 Feb 17:21

10 Common Mistakes to Avoid While Sending Push Notifications

by Namrutha Ramanathan

Picture this. It’s 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning and you’re fast asleep. *Beep* your mobile phone vibrates. You drag yourself to pick the phone thinking that it could be an important text or call. Instead, there’s yet another promotional message from one of the apps on your phone. However much you may like the brand, you cannot forgo those precious extra hours of sleep on a Sunday morning for that.

Now, picture this. It’s 12 p.m. Tuesday afternoon and you’re just done with an hour long meeting with the team. Sipping your coffee, you glance at your phone to see if you’ve missed any calls. A notification appears – “Winter’s almost here. Buy from our new collection of sweaters and get 20% off. Promocode: WIN20.” The Push message also includes pictures of some really nice sweaters as well. You’re elated! You’d been contemplating buying winter wear since long. Click, search, buy, and pay- are the steps that you take in the next 15 minutes before rushing to another hour-long meeting.

That’s how engaging and powerful a push notification can be. Like any other marketing channel, the relevance and timing of a push notification sent from your browser or your app decides if it can attract buyers to your app/website or just divert them away from it. According to a Forrester Research, only 2 out of 10 smartphone users in the U.S. opt to receive push notifications from all the apps on their phone, while 6 out of 10 opt for a select few. Another study by Forrester also tells us that the number one reason why smartphone owners in the U.S. opt in to push notifications is because they want to receive timely and relevant information.

However, most marketers will agree that push notifications have yet to prove their worth in terms of boosting app engagement and impacting conversions. But if done right, push notifications can be your most powerful and ROI-friendly mobile marketing channel yet.

We’ve put together these 10 common mistakes that you must avoid while sending mobile app push notifications.

1. Using Push As Email Replacement: Often, push messages are used to replicate email messages. This includes broadcast offers, transactional messages, shipping updates. Explore channels like sms, in-app messaging and emails for such communication.

Getting it right: Identify niche mobile use cases and channel them through push. Some examples include location-based offers, price drop alerts, time-sensitive offers. Think of push notifications only when you want to tell your users about something that’s useful in their NOW.

2. Bad Targeting: The fact that a user has downloaded your app is a strong sign that they are interested in engaging with your brand. Now is the time to figure out what the user really wants. Gather in-app behavior data and use this information to design user engagements that eventually result in conversions.

Getting it right: Instead of blasting generic blanket push messages at a time that’s convenient for you, look at messages that are triggered based on some action or inaction by your app users. With this, you can ensure that your marketing communication blends in well with the user’s journey to purchase. Key lifecycle trigger points that have proven to drive higher engagements with E-Commerce app users include:

  • First time the app was opened. Guide users to relevant products and categories. Recommend from a mix of frequently bought and look-alike recommendations like these.

new user

  • Dropped-off from your cart. Send a quick reminder about the products waiting in their cart.
  • Price drop alert to users with recent visits to/carted/wishlisted that product
  • Look-alike recommendations if the user has been inactive for 5 days
  • Time-sensitive discounts on a category/product that the user is interested in

3. Being Too Pushy: It is important that a user doesn’t turn off your push notifications. Study your consumer behavior using engagement data and create a positive consumer experience.

Getting it right: Linzi Breckenridge, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Vertical Response, suggests that every marketer must ask 7 simple questions before sending out Push Notifications.

pasted image 0 8

4. Bad Timing: Drawing from the example earlier, getting in front of a user at a time when she is most responsive increases your chances of getting a click.

Getting it right: Consider local time zones and the time of the day. Going a step further, gather user engagement data and figure out the most active time of day for that user and send messages that blend contextually with the user’s day. Here’s how rich media push notifications can engage app users at different times during the day.

image01 2

5. Static Notifications: Push notifications don’t have to be dull and unattractive anymore. Rich media push notifications can look as good as display ads. Here’s the evolution of push notifications from static text-based format sent a couple of years back to dynamic rich media push that could be sent out from your app today.

image02

Getting it right: With multi-product carousels, you can choose to recommend multiple products within a single notification. To make your push notifications more engaging include the following elements:

  • Product image
  • Product name
  • Price information – could be discount % or final price
  • CTAs that are deep-linked with product views within your app

Here’s a classic example of a customized push notification sent from one of our client’s app.

image00 1

Rich Media format for push notifications is supported both by Android and iOS. Mobile app retargeting just got a lot smarter and cost effective with rich media push notifications.

6. Bad Messages and CTAs: Use proven words and CTAs that work. Keep your text clear and concise. Remember, your user has only those few seconds, so be direct and stick to the point.

Getting it right: Many push notification platforms allow you to preview how your notifications will look. Use this feature to make sure your notifications look exciting when your users receive them.

  • Pick CTAs that have worked for you in the past. BUY or SHOP – which of these has evoked more responses?
  • Should you include the discount percentage or the final price in your push message? What connects better with your users? Typically these could vary for different categories. We’ve seen that shoppers from the electronics category typically engage with messages that have the final price. However, users buying luxury fashion brands are more likely to click when they see the discount percentage on the notification.

7. No Personalization: Right from the messaging, to the recommendations, and to offer and timing – everything needs to be just perfect. Hyper-personalize notifications at a user level. A study by hosting facts says that personalization can increase conversion rates up to 5.5%

Here’s how users respond to push notifications in different formats.

push comparison

Getting it right: Evaluate a push notifications platform that allows you go deeper than segments and personalize messages at a user level.

  • Make sure the platform has a back-end integration with your app product feed with real-time access to behavior and product data. This is important if you want to include personalized elements within your notifications such as relevant product image, updated price, stock availability etc.
  • The secret sauce to getting personalization right is to make sure that data from transactions with a user is fed back into the platform in real-time and is used effectively to determine the content and timing of your next notification.

8. Too Many Messages Too Often: Receiving too many push messages can be annoying to users. Push messages are relatively lighter on your marketing budget and that might tempt you to use this channel frequently. Be sensitive to your audience while choosing the frequency at which you send out push notifications to your audience.

Getting it right: To set this right, focus on creating niche segments. Make sure that users are not included in multiple segments.

  • Set frequency caps, define cool down periods and prioritization algos to make sure that your are sending highly relevant notifications and not sending them out too often.
  • As a rule of thumb, do not send more than 3-5 notifications every week. Even then, make sure that the notifications have something relevant for the user.
  • Understand how users would use your app in their daily lives and identify opportunities to enhance that experience using push messages.
  • Another way to get your push frequency right is to segment users based on how engaged they are with your app. Set lower frequency limits for engaged users to avoid uninstall risks.

9. Missing Out on Data: It is important to know what your user likes or dislikes. Let your customers register, and allow push notifications such that you could use that information to tie up with CRM database.

Getting it right: One of the biggest mistakes of mobile app marketing is to rely on legacy solutions that were designed for emails. When you do, you risk missing out on mobile engagement opportunities. Using information about push notifications that users clicked on or ignored can provide insights into the likes and dislikes of the user. It tells you about the right time to reach out to that user and can help you understand the journey to purchase better.

10. Not Testing or Optimizing: Explore different use cases before you determine ones that work well for your business. A/B test your push messages to engage and retain more app users.

Getting it right:

  • You can start by creating 2 specific groups of users. One based on demographics and the second one based on in-app behavior and targeting them with different messages. This will help you understand personalization preferences for each of your app users.
  • Next find out the best time to engage with your mobile audience. Again, run two sets of targeting campaigns. Time one set of notifications at an optimum local time for the user. The second set of notifications must be triggered upon an action by the user. This will tell you when your users are most responsive and are interested to engage with your brand.

I hope this article has helped you with some quick tips and ready-to-implement ideas to make mobile app push notifications more engaging. Use push notifications effectively and give your brand a head-start in 2017.

24 Feb 17:17

What B2B Marketers Need to Understand About the Power of Relevance in a World of More

by Katie Martell

power of relevance

You know that feeling you get when you receive a great gift? One that’s been specially picked out for you by someone who really understands you? You can tell the giver understands what you like, they know what you want, and most importantly, they know what you don’t want.

There’s something that feels really good about opening a gift that’s been tailored to you. Especially when we’re surrounded by so much stuff in our lives, a gift that feels personal to us stands out so much more.

It’s relevant. And it’s this sense of relevance that makes it special.

Relevance matters, to gifts, and to marketing

Gift-giving and marketing have a lot in common. How? Well, just like a great gift, great marketing requires us to know a lot about our customer ahead of time.

Not-so-great gifts (the ones you have to fake a smile for) demonstrate that someone knows, unfortunately, nothing about us. The same goes for poor marketing – it’s obvious when a company doesn’t understand its customers.

Marketing in a world of “more”

In a recent webinar with Evergage, I discussed the rise of complexity in today’s B2B marketing environment:

  • We’ve got more buyers to deal with (5-7 on average) [CEB]
  • We own more of the purchase journey (50-90%) [Various analysts, Forrester, Gartner, IDC, etc.]
  • We have more tech to choose from (4,000 vendors) [CabinetM]
  • Buyers spend more time in the sales cycle (24% increase) [SiriusDecisions]
  • We are using more channels to reach buyers
  • Buyers come to us more informed
  • More companies are increasing marketing budgets in 2017 [Gartner]
  • There is more accountability for marketers than ever before
  • This leads to more job insecurity

Phew.

And yet, in this world of more, we’re still falling short on a fundamental part of breaking through the noise: understanding our buyers.

60% of B2B organizations admit to not understanding buyers – SiriusDecisions

How can we expect our demand gen emails to break through the clutter of 88+ other emails received by our prospects in one day, if we don’t know what they really care about, or how best to address their specific problems?

A lack of solid customer insights contributes to the poor results we’re seeing, including:

  • Half of business buyers think the content they get from marketing is useless [Forrester]
  • Only 17% of enterprise organizations think their demand generation is very effective [ANNUITAS]
  • On average, only 3-5% of marketing qualified leads convert (a 95-98% failure rate) [Forrester]

We must do better. A solid foundation of customer insights is the place to start – if your demand generation efforts are failing, this is likely one culprit.

Watch the on-demand webinar for in-depth details on what customer insights you need to find.

ABM brings relevance to high-value accounts

Once customer insights are developed, one tactic being used to incorporate relevance into B2B marketing is Account Based Marketing (ABM).

We’ve hit a kind of plateau with demand generation efforts, historically focused on the individual buyer or lead (think of terms MQL, SAL, SQL, and more).

Thanks to recent energy infused into the market by marketing technology tools, ABM is a hot topic that is causing many B2B marketers to re-evaluate how they approach high-value accounts.

While organizations like the ITSMA have been touting the benefits of ABM for years (saying it delivers the highest ROI of any B2B marketing tactic), more marketers are putting ABM into practice today than ever before.

This bodes well for the future of our profession, as ABM is essentially relevance in action. The reason it works is because it encourages marketing and sales teams to create highly relevant experiences for individual accounts, focusing your limited resources towards the biggest accounts that are most likely to buy.

Watch the full on-demand webinar for more detail about ABM.

Personalization continues the conversation

Companies are executing ABM using the tenets of personalization, making their websites more relevant to specific accounts is by creating more personalized, account-based site experiences.

After investing the time and budget to drive a visitor from one of your target accounts to your site, you don’t want them to bounce before you can explain your solution’s value to him and his company. Once you get their attention, what do you want them to do?

Reverse IP lookup technology or campaign source tracking can deliver personalized experiences to accounts, changing the content and calls-to-action based on the source data. This helps capture the visitor’s attention and drive them to delve into the content on your site.

Let’s say a visitor from a key account in the brokerage firm industry lands on your homepage. Imagine if the hero image, headline and featured content was customized to them?

This is one way of carrying the conversation through by creating a relevant experience for every visitor. What’s more, by tracking in-depth behavioral data aggregated by account, marketing can help sales teams tailor their conversations when approaching target accounts.

What makes us human makes us great marketers

All the buzz around personalization technology isn’t surprising when you think about the fundamentals of great marketing. When we’re able to understand buyers fully, whether an individual or a target account, we now have the technology in our toolkit to bring the promise of relevance to life.

Be sure to catch the full, 60-minute webinar on-demand, and learn how demand generation professionals are harnessing the power of relevance to turn prospects into engaged buyers.

24 Feb 17:17

4 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Lead to Record Sales Revenue in 2017

by Eliot Burdett

What will happen to sales professionals once robots can “Sell me this pen” a la Leonardo DiCaprio in the Wolf of Wall Street?

The rise of artificial intelligence and human-like chatbots are once again threatening poor-old sales professionals who have had to worry about their job security for over a century. That’s right, exactly 100 years ago, in 1916, the New York Times predicted the death of door-to-door salesmen in an article titled, “Are salesmen needless?”

Fears over technology stealing sales jobs then took place following the advent of both the phone and Internet. Then, Forrester Research predicted that one million B2B salespeople will become obsolete by 2020, lost to eCommerce.

While the predictions were dire and the fears were rational, the indisputable fact is that the sales industry has always persevered and will always play an enormous role in a free market economy. However, the sales industry is changing and it is critical for business leaders to marry humans with robots.

As the CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting, we are seeing world-class companies use artificial intelligence and it is a game-changer. Not in 5 or 10 years, but mean right now.

There are limits to human judgement but an over-reliance on intelligent machines can also produce blind spots. In 2017, a half-man, half-machine approach will lead you to the promise land.

Here are 4 ways AI can help you achieve record sales revenue today:

1. ‘Hire’ AI Powered Sales Assistants

There is no medal for wasting hours on cold calls or bad leads and it certainly does not bolster your commission or company profits. AI sales assistants, such as ‘LISA’ (Learning Intelligent Sales Agent) and Conversica can alleviate this unproductive and wasted time. Robots can automatically contact, engage and follow up with leads using natural conversation. The machine extracts key information such as best times to call and then hands it off to a human to close the deal. It is critical to mesh machines with humans since there are still messages that confuse the AI. A half-man and half-machine approach is needed in 2017.

2. Make Robots do the “TPS Reports

As with all comedy, the movie Office Space was so funny because it was so true. Writing reports at work is brutal and every minute spent on administrative work is a minute not closing sales. The Associated Press expanded its quarterly earnings reporting from approximately 300 stories to 4,400 with the help of AI-powered software robots. The use of this technology allowed reporters to focus on more investigative and thorough reporting. By giving the intelligent machines the grunt work of scheduling and paperwork, you will free your reps up to do what they do best, make money for the company.

3. Use AI to Recruit a ‘Next Gen’ Sales Team

An Accenture study found that 94 percent of talent executives report that they’ve successfully used big data to “moderately or extensively” identify new candidate sources. However, while predictive analytics, algorithms and keyword searches can help recruiters avoid going through hundreds of unqualified resumes by hand, they can create blind spots that hinder a recruiter’s ability to identify great candidates. For example, a robot can’t determine how two people will get along personality wise. It is undeniable how much technology is streamlining the recruiting process but at the same time there is a chasm that current technology is unable to fill. Using AI to complement humans will lead to maximum sales.

4. Do Not Simply Hoard Your Big Data

According to IBM, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day but 90 percent of all data is never analyzed or utilized in business decisions. As much as 60 percent of this data begins to lose value within milliseconds of being generated. The point is that this is not simply an arms race for what company can gather the most data, rather what company can best use that data to make more intelligent hiring decisions. It is therefore critical to invest in data analysts and you can start by watching big players in the market such as Amazon, Salesforce, Google, Microsoft, IBM and Facebook.

The bottom line is that technology will enhance and improve the sales process, but it will not replace the need for salespeople. Salespeople that work in tandem with robots will win more business and service clients better.

The post 4 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Lead to Record Sales Revenue in 2017 appeared first on OpenView Labs.

24 Feb 17:17

Calculate Predictive ROI: Levers That Lead To More Revenue

by John Hurley

If you’re in the boardroom these days, you know that marketing is often measured on one key metric – what is the contribution of marketing to the top- and bottom-line of the business?

The growing revenue focus and increased accountability on metrics has marketing organizations everywhere looking for the best insights to feed into their campaigns.

In the past few years, predictive analytics has emerged as a top contender that addresses these needs by enabling better market entry and budget allocation decisions for marketers. But, how do you evaluate vendors using key performance metrics, project future success based on tangible ROI, and build an ironclad business case with realistic budget allocation?

We’re here to help you select key performance metrics to evaluate your success with predictive and effectively calculate predictive ROI for your business.

Selecting monetary metrics that matter

Marketers that are putting together a business case for their internal stakeholders need to start by looking at the right performance metrics that are impacted by predictive. An integral part of this process is to select metrics and an evaluation process prior to actually evaluating predictive vendors.

Start by selecting a quantifiable and monetary success metric that will be the most compelling for internal stakeholders. For example, prioritizing based on top- and bottom-line metrics or even customer metrics such as customer lifetime value and customer satisfaction are great measures of success.

The reality is that some predictive vendors can offer a wide range of applications, therefore the number of metrics you can impact increases. Based on your predictive use case and performance metrics, the chart below will help you determine the following about each metric…

  • Will predictive impact Campaign Performance, Top-line Revenue or Bottom-line Revenue?
  • How directly and quickly does predictive impact this metric (Leading or Lagging)?
  • Upon adoption, how long before I can expect to see this metric impacted (Timeframe)?
  • How does the application of predictive specifically impact each metric?

Calculate Predictive ROI - Measure Key Performance Metrics

Don’t try to boil the ocean. It’s important to only select 1-3 target metrics that you’d like to focus on going into a vendor evaluation and long-term relationship. Over time you will expand to more performance metrics.

Now that you’ve selected your metrics, it’s time to show how predictive will result in real return…aka more revenue!

Running a predictive ROI calculator

The mission of predictive is to deliver maximum value to every customer by leveraging the power of the advanced analytics, quality datasets, and expert services & success account teams. With more than 16,000 downloads of this Forrester report, you may already know that 83% of marketing VPs with predictive said they have experienced considerable business impact. But how does that impact translate to dollars?

There are five levers in a predictive ROI formula:

  1. Improving Conversion Rates: Improved conversion rates in either lead or opportunity stages increases ROI
  2. Higher Win Rates: Increase in conversion rates of closed won deals – primarily influenced by company-fit and intent
  3. Improving Sales Efficiency: Higher sales lead capacity and connect rates result in additional opportunities and more increased number of at bats – influenced by less time prospecting and improved data quality
  4. Decreasing Cost of Acquisition: Higher conversions and rep productivity spread costs over a higher number of customers, lowering CAC ratios
  5. Increasing TAM: Expand existing TAM by sourcing net-new prospects and reaching them via new channels

What are the most common levers? Conversions, efficiency, and net-new lead volume (TAM). These are the most common ones I’ve encountered over three years and hundreds of evaluations at Radius when working with customers new to predictive.

Using several buyer-provided metrics and industry benchmarks, a vendor can help you calculate the ROI on an annual contract amount by projecting the expected return rate over time. Even with modest lift and gains, a customer can realize positive ROI in the first year. And when running a ROI model, modesty is key. We always recommend buyers work with their vendors to run models using a “base case” – an easily obtainable lift from the current benchmark. There are no silver bullets in technology or tactics; using a base case to demonstrate improvement – especially when in reference to revenue forecasts – will ensure you, the vendor, and the other stakeholder(s) set realistic expectations from the get go. The upside for you – the champion of the new solution – is that everyone is happy when you and your new vendor outperform the base case.

Putting it in practice – Predictive ROI example

Let’s look at one simple example where a company is expecting to see their lead-to-opportunity conversion rate increase by 1% each year. Assuming their 20% opportunity-to-close rate stays the same and their funnel size (number of new leads) stays the same, what is the top-line revenue impact?

It’s a difference of $166,440 in the first year alone.

Calculate Predictive ROI - Lever: Conversion Rate

Again, these numbers are conservative. It is not uncommon where we see enterprise companies revenue results well into seven or eight figures.

Help us to help you

The days of spray-and-pray marketing are long gone and with it the frivolous approach of adopting new marketing technologies. Forward-thinking marketers are measured on tangible costs and revenue – measuring their efforts based on ROI and overall business impact.

By partnering closely with your AE and customer success team, developing out a realistic yet exciting ROI analysis will not only set you up for successful adoption but also enable you to easily sell predictive internally.

If you’re taking a comprehensive look at predictive and think it would help your business grow market share and unlock revenue potential, it’s imperative to adopt an analytical approach in your evaluation process. Use this framework to identify key performance metrics, measure predictive ROI, and build a solid business case that ensures long-term success from this marketing intelligence upgrade.

If you’re interested in receiving a custom ROI analysis, feel free to reach out to me directly at john.hurley@radius.com

This article was adapted from the Predictive Evaluation Series. Download all three playbooks in the series to effectively select the right vendor, sell predictive internally, and build the business case.

23 Feb 19:38

Tips for Enhancing Your Cross-Channel Marketing Strategy

by Kimber Johnson

many businesses are now seeing a balance between the sales coming from their brick-and-mortar stores and orders coming from their website and mobile app.

Retails stores have seen a big shift in how consumers shop. In addition to consumers now using their mobile devices as research tools while shopping, many businesses are now seeing a balance between the sales coming from their brick-and-mortar stores and orders coming from their website and mobile app.

While consumers love to shop and do research online, they will often conclude the process in-store, which makes sense, as many people want to see and touch a product before making their purchase. Because of these dynamics, it is important that your business understands how the various channels work together and how consumers will now move from channel to channel on their purchase journey. It is also essential that you have a plan for having the various channels all work together.

Members of your team should work in partnership regardless of where they work within your organization. Members of your digital team should be just as excited to send consumers to retail locations as they are to generate sales from your digital properties. Similarly, retail sales associates should be happy to recommend products available from your website or mobile app. A customer-first approach like this can help your business drive sales in the modern digital age.

Keep in mind that your customers do not think about your various channels and don’t stop to think about how the different parts work together, they just want a unified experience, regardless of which touchpoint they chose to use to engage with you. Whether they are in your store or shopping via your mobile app or website, they want a seamless experience where the various components all work together efficiently and effectively.

This is important because it is now normal for customers to start researching at one touchpoint (on their mobile phone) and then to start a transaction at a different touchpoint (order via your website while sitting at their desktop computer) and then finish it elsewhere (pick the item up at one of your retail stores). They expect every touchpoint working together to deliver a satisfying experience.

Here are some tips on how your business can enhance its cross-channel marketing experience:

Create a seamless experience

Beyond needing to provide a great customer experience in each channel, you need to make sure you are creating a seamless experience for your customers as they move between the channels. If you mobile app developer goes in one direction, while your web development team heads in another, and meanwhile, your sales associates have never been trained on your digital properties, your customers will be confused and frustrated as they try to move from touchpoint to touchpoint.

You want to offer a consistent and uniform message and service across all platforms. Users moving from your mobile app to your website and then stopping in your brick-and-mortar store expect to move freely between these touchpoints. For instance, customers expect to be able to use offers received in your mobile app while in your retail locations or order via your website and pick the item up in one of your retail stores. The channels all need to work together to facilitate the customer moving to the final purchase and should be adaptable to each customer’s shopping style.

Utilize cross-channel campaigns

Once you have created a seamless experience, you want to leverage what you have created. You do this by implementing cross-channel campaigns. You don’t want to merely replicate content across the various channels. Perform a thoughtful analysis and get to know your customers, learn the various stages of the customer journey, understand how they utilize the various touchpoints on that journey and develop a plan to deliver the right message at the right time.

For example, utilize mobile campaigns that understand that customers may not end up completing their purchase via your mobile app. Use your mobile campaign to give customers an incentive and move them further along the buying journey, but be prepared for that journey to be concluded in one of your brick-and-mortar stores or via a desktop computer and your website.

Share credit

Make sure you have incentives in place for your employees that reward the behavior you want. Something as simple as giving credit to employees working in the brick-and-mortar stores for website sales that are shipped to their local ZIP codes can go a long way towards encouraging them to refer consumers to your website.

This works in the other direction, as well. You want your digital team incentivized to send customers into your retail stores rather than being solely focused on creating sales via your website or mobile app. Buying products online but picking them up at brick-and-mortar locations is becoming more popular and is a great way to get customers who normally shop online into your retail locations.

When you are able to get online shoppers into your retail location to pick up their items, they will often browse and make additional purchases. Make sure your retails stores are fully prepared for this process as well as your digital systems. Properly trained and incentivized employees can add a great deal to the customer experience.

Promote your mobile app and website at retail locations

Mobile apps are the perfect way to run loyalty programs and augment your customers’ in-store experiences. In fact, mobile influenced more than $1 trillion of physical sales in 2015. (Forrester) Researching products on mobile devices is how customers now shop.

Customers will read reviews, research products, check prices and check availability on your mobile app if you make these features available to them. Your mobile app can drive in-store sales if it compliments your customers’ purchase journey.

Suggest customers make returns in-store

One of the reasons that people like to make purchases in brick-and-mortar stores is because it is easy to return purchases there. If something ends up not fitting right or is the wrong color, etc. it is easy to take it right back to where you bought it.

On the other hand, if you make a purchase online and it doesn’t fit, the return process can be more complicated. Printing shipping labels, boxing items back up, and dropping them off at shipping company offices makes for a more complicated process. Many people consider it a hassle to go through the process of shipping back an item.

Take the burden of shipping items back off your customers and suggest they return items at your brick-and-mortar locations. Prepare your retail locations to receive returns from online sales and train them to use this opportunity to create new sales. A returned item can easily turn into new sales if you plan and prepare.

Image: Mario Mancuso (Flikr) http://bit.ly/2lyq1Xq

23 Feb 19:37

Scientists find new link between sugar and Alzheimer's

by Maria Gallucci
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Scientists are finding more evidence that you should probably cut down on your sugar intake. 

A group of U.K. researchers say they've spotted the molecular "tipping point" that could explain sugar's ties to Alzheimer's disease.

Their findings provide further evidence that there might be a link between high blood sugar levels and the memory-robbing disease, though they don't prove that sugar causes Alzheimer's outright. 

"Excess sugar is well known to be bad for us when it comes to diabetes and obesity," said Omar Kassaar, a biologist at the University of Bath, in a press releaseRead more...

More about Diet, Cells, Biology, Glucose, and Obesity
23 Feb 19:36

Canada has failed at innovation for 100 years. Can the Trudeau government change that?

by David Akin

“Why is Canada filled with ‘low-innovation’ companies?”

In a recent academic paper, Peter Nicholson, a former business leader, bureaucrat and a one-time advisor to former prime minister Paul Martin, poses the question. He then reminds us that for more than a hundred years this has been an exceedingly difficult question to answer.

“Since 1916 … the main objective of Canadian science policy has been to promote technological innovation by industry. Almost every decade since the 1920s has witnessed renewed attempts by successive governments to achieve it, but on the whole they have all failed.”

CNW Group/ Canadian Academies of Science
CNW Group/ Canadian Academies of Science Peter Nicholson, in a recent academic paper, noted: "Innovative is not a prominent feature of this country's global brand."

Nicholson, there, is quoting from a 1970 Senate report on federal science and technology policy but says there is no reason to think that the conclusion reached in 1970 would be any different in 2017.

And yet, in 2017 and beyond, the government of Justin Trudeau will try to prove to Canadians that it finally has the answer on innovation. Indeed, Ottawa watchers are expecting “innovation” to be the big theme in Trudeau’s second federal budget, likely to be tabled in March.

Nicholson has been meeting over the last year with key players in Trudeau’s government as they try to figure out how this government can break the 100-year run of federal failure at getting Canadian firms to be more innovative.

But what do we mean by innovation? What do Trudeau and his cabinet ministers mean when they speak of innovation? It is, after all, one of the most frequently used buzzwords by Trudeau and his cabinet.  They talk about innovation all the time.

Indeed, upon taking office, Trudeau renamed Industry Canada, one of the largest and most important federal government departments, as the Department of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development or ISED for short (that acronym is pronounced, by the way, as “eye-said”).

It’s just one way this government has tied its brand — and potential political success — to the notion of innovation. And that makes defining innovation — and, perhaps more importantly, measuring innovation — vital political considerations.

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The task of measuring innovation has spawned a thriving cottage industry among economists, academics, think thanks and policy wonks like Nicholson. There is no broad consensus that any one “innovation index” exists though there are, as Nicholson notes, “a broad array of quantitative and qualitative indicators” of innovation.

Those indicators might include how much businesses in Canada spend on research and development in a given year compared to peers.  By that measure, we’ve always done poorly and it’s been getting worse since the first big tech bubble of the late 1990s burst.

Canadian private sector R&D spending is half what it is in the U.S. and below the average amount spent, as a percentage of GDP, compared to the average of the 35 OECD countries.

We could measure the number of patents issued in a given year or the number of researchers employed in the country or the number of wireless mobile broadband subscriptions. We have data on labour productivity over the years. On that score, we do a little better than our American peers. But we know that Canadian firms spend less than half on computer software per worker than American firms. These are the objective measurements that some will argue speak to aspects of being innovative.

Then there are the more subjective, qualitative measurements of innovation. The Global Innovation Index created and published each year by the World Intellectual Property Office had Canada in 15th spot in 2016.

However we measure innovation, the results have always been dismal when we compare Canada to its industrialized peers.

“Innovative is not a prominent feature of this country’s global brand,” Nicholson concludes in his paper, published in the November edition of the academic journal Canadian Public Policy.

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So, the first thing we should expect in an “innovation budget,” if that is, as is rumoured, what we will see from Finance Minister Bill Morneau, is some clear explanation about how we measure innovation.

Knowing what we are talking about and what we are measuring will help Canadians evaluate the proposed policy responses put forward by the government.

Even still, the odds are long that the Trudeau government will be able to move the ball forward on innovation, no matter how it is measured.

Nicholson believes that the biggest hurdle for this or any government to overcome is inertia. It has been too easy and very profitable for corporate Canada to let American firms take all the risk when it comes to innovation. Canadian managers have been quick to adapt and co-opt successful American innovations.

Invent our own inventions? Build our own better mousetraps? Why bother?

After all, this low-innovation approach  has worked out pretty well for Canada.  By objective measures such as per capita income, infant mortality, home ownership levels, number of cars owned by its citizens, number of Canadian Facebook users and so on — Canada has always been relatively affluent.    

We are routinely at or near the top of the United Nations human development index, among the broadest measures of what we might call quality-of-life for a society.

And yet, despite that, a federal government is hanging its economic and fiscal policy — and potentially its political future — on the difficult-to-measure concept of innovation even though our “low-innovation” approach, for a century or more, has been a crowd favourite and resulted in one of the world’s highest standards of living for its citizens.

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The answer, from Nicholson and, presumably, the government he has been advising, is that this kind of prosperity is no longer sustainable because of fundamental shifts in the global economy. Nicholson argues those shifts are part of three broad trends: the rise of Asian economies; the diffusion of new technologies, particularly nano-, bio and info- tech; and what Nicholson calls the “sustainability movement” that flows from concerns over climate change.

“A severe disruption of Canada’s comfortable low-innovation equilibrium appears to be in prospect,” Nicholson warns. “The locus of global growth is destined to continue to move toward Asia.”

Here, of course, Nicholson is on the slightly shakier ground that the pundit usually occupies. While Nicholson’s trends appear to be identifiable and real, are they new? One could argue that the history of global capitalism and growth since the end of the Second World War has been about the growth, in relative terms, of Asian economies. Remember how policymakers in the 1970s fretted that Japanese car manufacturers were going to devastate the North America carmaker? And rapidly changing technology, across all fields, has been a constant for more than 50 years.

The threats can be mitigated and transformed into new market opportunities, but only through innovation

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And through it all, the Canadian economy, by and large, prospered.

Nicholson, nonetheless, presses on: “The threat to (Canada’s) resource-based prosperity is twofold: first, from growing public opposition to practices perceived to be ‘dirty’ or unsustainable; and second, from substitutes that are developed in response to high prices or concern over security of supply, or to reduce environmental impacts. In both cases the threats can be mitigated and transformed into new market opportunities, but only through innovation.”

To the extent that the federal cabinet agrees with Nicholson on this point — and it appears that they do — this would set it apart from its predecessors. The Harper government never really accepted or embraced that second threat — that substitutes for our resources are coming — and, as for the first, responded with what amounted to a relatively unsuccessful international marketing campaign led by Harper himself who tried to brand Canada as a “clean energy superpower.”

The Liberal government, quite clearly, has determined that while our oilsands wealth is significant and should be exploited, we should plan now for the day when, as Trudeau now famously said at a town hall meeting in January in Peterborough, Ont., the oilsands will be “phased out.”

The policy response to “shock” energy and natural resource firms into more innovation is, quite clearly, a carbon tax. Because a carbon tax is a consumption tax, the first firm to figure out how to, say, produce a barrel of oil with sharply lower greenhouse gas emissions will have a huge cost advantage over rivals. That will make that firm vastly more profitable versus its peers. That incentive, the theory goes, should be all the market needs to justify enhanced R&D spending and make that lower-carbon barrel of oil.

But what about other industries? What will be their “shock” to get them to abandon their “low-innovation” equilibrium in favour of “high-innovation” that relies less on American invention and more on Asia markets?

Federal science and technology policy, as Nicholson’s paper notes, has never had a satisfactory answer to these questions.

Perhaps it will be different with this Trudeau government — because it’s 2017.

• Email: dakin@postmedia.com | Twitter: davidakin