Shared posts

11 Sep 16:18

We Analyzed 1,000 Emails & Voicemails to Understand How the Top SaaS Companies Chase Enterprise Deals.

by Benjamin Brandall

A new study from Process Street in partnership with sales email tool PersistIQ reveals the inside sales outreach of the world’s 281 top SaaS companies, and how they respond when a high-ticket lead (in this case, we used Vodafone) signs up for a free trial or demo.

Using the details of a fictional Vodafone employee to sign up for SaaS products, Process Street automatically collected all incoming outreach including sales emails, marketing emails, and voicemail transcripts. The sales communication has been made public and searchable at InsideSaaSSales.com along with a study analyzing the key trends.

In this article, I’m going to condense the study down to its key elements to give a data-backed picture of how enterprise SaaS companies like Salesforce, New Relic, and HubSpot chase big deals.

Summary of the key findings

  • Companies follow up for 9 days before stopping contact
  • Companies send one email per day until the end of the cycle
  • 65% of companies hand you over to an automated marketing campaign
  • Most SaaS companies have two sales contacts per lead
  • 74% of companies don’t leave voicemails
  • Voicemails are mostly left as a way to follow up with a recent email, and vice versa
  • If a company leaves voicemails, the sales cycle length is usually 160% longer
  • 7% of emails have a false ‘re:’ in the subject line
  • 9% of companies use webinars as a sales tactic
  • The average marketing drip campaign contains 3 emails
  • MailChimp is the most common email marketing software, used by 49% of the sample

The content and duration of a SaaS sales sequence

An average SaaS sales sequence lasts for 9 days, and consists of one email or voicemail daily for the duration. If, however, the sequence contains voicemails (26% of the sequences analyzed), the sales cycle is longer.

Sales sequences with voicemails are often longer both because it indicates a high-touch sales process and because voicemails and emails are often sent in pairs. Commonly, emails are sent to follow up with voicemails, and vice versa.

For example, this pair from Act-On:

We noticed that as sequences go on, the tone of communication shifts from being minimal and directly related to the goal (securing a demo) to a more benefits-driven tone, reiterating the key features and reminding the lead why they signed up in the first place.

Also, as a backup in case the lead isn’t fully sold or is too busy for a sales call, sales emails tend to contain bite-sized product education, like in this email from Salesforce:

In many cases, sales emails and voicemails open with context, presumably to reassure the lead that the email is relevant to them. Context is commonly phrased like “I noticed”, “I saw that”, and “as per my voicemail”.

Many SaaS companies also send automated marketing emails in addition to those from the sales team.

Marketing automation usage

Just 35% of SaaS companies don’t add the lead to an automated marketing campaign. The remaining 65% that do will send an average of 3 emails, mainly to onboard the user with the software, advertise webinars or send updates from the company blog.

One commonly-used sales tactic, used by 9% of analyzed companies, is webinar invitations. Webinars have been proven in other studies to have a high sales conversion rate.

The top three most used marketing automation platforms among the studied companies are MailChimp (49%), Marketo (21%), and HubSpot (19%).

Since HubSpot (and Marketing Cloud) are both marketing automation platforms inside of CRM products, that also gives us a clue about which CRMs are popular.

You can see the full details of the study in the slide deck below:

The post We Analyzed 1,000 Emails & Voicemails to Understand How the Top SaaS Companies Chase Enterprise Deals. appeared first on OpenView Labs.

11 Sep 16:17

4 Engaging Messaging Campaigns For Fintech Apps

by Stefan Bhagwandin

Source: Freepik

Fintech (financial technology) apps bear a heavy responsibility. We trust these apps to manage our bank accounts, personal budgets, insurance payments, and more.

Sometimes users opt in to push notifications from too many apps, and they get in the habit of ignoring certain messages. But few people would instinctively ignore a push from their bank or stockbroker.

With great power comes great responsibility. The sensitive nature of finance apps means they can easily grab users’ attention with push notifications — but if the content isn’t urgent or valuable, apps risk losing user trust.

Nonetheless, it’s possible for finance apps to plan effective messaging campaigns that aren’t purely transactional. Here are four campaign ideas to get you started.

Push Notifications From Personal Finance Apps

mobile fintech

Source: Google Play

Normally, budget-related push notifications would fall under the category of transactional messages. A bank’s low balance alert probably isn’t intended to lift user engagement — it’s a user experience tool to help people avoid overdraft fees. But for personal finance apps, push notifications can actually help people utilize the product and build better budgets.

Over time, users of budgeting apps like You Need A Budget and Mint develop personalized categories and spending limits to suit their needs. However, each user must manually create purchase categories and savings goals. Thanks to all the manual effort involved, some will end up under-utilizing the app.

Push notifications can help alert users of suboptimal or incorrect settings. Let’s say a person sets their monthly spending limit on restaurants to a particular value, but they exceed the budget by $50 several months in a row. The app could alert the user with a push notification and suggest changing the spending limit. This would help the budget better reflect the person’s actual spending habits, making the app more valuable as a whole.

Apps can also help users reach savings goals. Budgeting apps can send alerts once users are approaching their spending limit for the month to make sure they don’t forget to put money aside. The notification could even reveal which categories they’re overspending on so they’ll know where to cut back.

Emails From Insurance Apps

Source: Google Play

Insurance apps like Metromile and Lemonade operate in a complex industry. Consumers might not understand the finer points of car and home insurance. Normally, this isn’t a problem — many insurance providers try to make the process intuitive to people without much background knowledge. However, there are situations where understanding the fine print can help you save money and mitigate risk.

Email newsletters are a good way to keep users informed and engaged. A general purpose newsletter can talk about different types of insurance, how much coverage you get for different plans, and what happens when you file a claim.

Of course, emails can be personalized too. Apps can send customized messages to users of a particular plan or with a particular type of vehicle/home to explain the specifics.

Emails are a great way to provide money-saving tips that help users in the long run. Today, a user might simply pay a flat fee for car insurance, but it would help if they knew the average cost of insurance for different types of cars. This could impact their vehicle purchases in the future. And if the emails constantly add value like this, users will be less inclined to unsubscribe, keeping your app and service top-of-mind.

In-App Messages From Banking Apps

banking apps

Source: Google Play

The generic use case for a banking app is to manage your primary checking account, but banks offer a plethora of other products and services. Websites, especially on desktop, offer plenty of screen real estate to display promotions and upsells. In the process of logging into your account, you’re likely to see ads for mortgages, credit cards, and more.

At first glance, it seems difficult to replicate this layout on mobile. With less space to go around, mobile sites and apps tend to focus on core features, at the cost of potential upsells.

In-app messages help banking apps navigate this problem. In-app messages aren’t a permanent part of the UI; they can be displayed and removed through a messaging platform, independent of the app’s code. Plus, some messages can be shown as persistent on-screen elements while others can temporarily pop up in the middle of the screen. This adds variety and flexibility to your promotions, making it easier to include content to accompany the core features of the screen.

When implemented correctly, in-app messages can actually be more powerful than website upsells. By leveraging mobile app analytics, marketers can personalize messages to appeal to individual users. A banking app could display promotions for credit cards that match the user’s credit score, or special rates on small business loans for users with a business checking account. These personalized offers are a near-guaranteed way to lift conversions.

App Inbox Messages From Stockbrokers

mobile stock trading

Source: Google Play

The stock market moves quickly, and some stocks are very sensitive to current events. Push notifications for every market-related event might get overwhelming, but App Inbox messages are perfect for this use case. They’re browsable at the user’s convenience, yet they don’t spam the recipient’s email inbox or occupy as much screen space as in-app messages.

Stock trading apps like Robinhood can use App Inbox messages to keep users informed in a non-disruptive way. These messages will stay in the inbox even after they’re read, so users can scroll back to yesterday’s news if necessary. Quick access to news within the app could help people make better trading decisions in the long run.

These messages could be further improved with personalization. The first step is to only send messages that relate to stocks in a person’s portfolio or watchlist, but we can go even further.

Personalized App Inbox messages can deliver alerts based on a person’s browsing history, much like product recommendations in a retail app. If someone browses Google’s or Amazon’s stock without explicitly watchlisting it, they’ll find more headlines about tech stocks in their inbox the next day. Or, if a person browses securities of a particular category (such as bonds or ETFs), headlines will feature news from any industry if it relates to those categories. This is a good way to increase content discovery and engagement without waiting on explicit user actions.

Other Mobile Messaging Use Cases For Fintech Apps

The messaging campaigns described in this post are tailored to financial apps, but some campaigns work for every app vertical. Lifecycle campaigns that proactively reach out to users at major touchpoints are a good way to support engagement and retention.

11 Sep 16:16

Removing the Negativity

by Anthony Iannarino

I used to read a blog series by a really smart person. He is also a very good writer. In fact, his writing is what hooked me, and the topics he writes about are interesting to me. If I were to generalize, this writer writes about the human condition, things like economic systems, government systems, the behavior of companies and big corporations, philosophy, and religion.

I read a good deal of his writing. Over time, I noticed something: He is extremely negative, disguising it as caring and concern. It is easy to point out the ugly parts of the human condition.

  • It’s easy to find problems with economic systems, especially when the results under the system are distributed unequally.
  • There is nothing easier than criticizing the ineptitude of government and a system that often seems at war with itself. In fact, I think criticizing the government, a right I vigorously support, is a national past time.
  • Companies and big corporations are full of human beings, and because this is true, there are infinite ways for them to make mistakes, to act poorly, and to trade purpose for profitability. Some companies sometime do harm, because sometimes humans do.

Over time, I stopped reading this writer. I don’t recognize this dystopian world this writer sees. The economic system we are part of is horribly imperfect, but still the only way that people have been lifted out of poverty in great numbers. Our democratic Republic is still strong, and despite our many and serious differences, the Great Experiment stands strong, regardless of politics and politicians. There is still more opportunity available to those who would seek it, even if it is more difficult for some than others.

The world I see is full of basically good and infinitely fallible human beings doing their best, repeating mistakes that should have long ago been learned, and muddling through. In sum total, the good in most of us outweighs the bad in the few of us who are really bad by a margin so great as to defy measurement. Given enough time, we find ways to solve the greatest of challenges, and in doing so, create even greater ones.

People get married. Babies are born. Promotions are had. And life is lived, longer than ever, safer than before, and with more abundance than could be imagined by those who came before us. Some of life feels like Summer, and some feels like Winter, but then, that’s going to be true for a long time to come.

I no longer read the smart writer. The world looks very much like what you believe it looks like.

The post Removing the Negativity appeared first on The Sales Blog.

11 Sep 16:16

Amazon looks to gain a machine learning advantage (AMZN)

by Daniel Keyes

retail ai iot

This story was delivered to BI Intelligence "E-Commerce Briefing" subscribers. To learn more and subscribe, please click here.

Amazon will open an R&D hub in Barcelona in early 2018 that will specialize in machine learning research, VentureBeat reports. Machine learning drives many of Amazon’s capabilities, so investing further in this nascent tech makes a good deal of sense for the e-commerce titan.

Here's how the new hub could benefit Amazon's machine learning efforts across its business:

  • Amazon’s product recommendations are largely driven by machine learning, as the company utilizes its huge database of consumer purchases to predict what specific items customers would be interested in. As the company extends its business into other areas, via its Whole Foods acquisition, for example, it will need machine learning algorithms that can parse increasingly diverse data sets.
  • Machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) are at the core of Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa. The new R&D lab could help improve Alexa’s functionality, which is especially important as its accuracy currently lags behind Google Assistant’s.
  • Amazon's logistics business is heavily reliant on machine learning. There are thousands of factors in each individual order fulfillment, so employing artificial intelligence (AI) that can reroute, change delivery arrival times, and make other adjustments accurately and efficiently is extremely valuable. Additionally, Amazon’s interest in drone delivery is well known, and machine learning is what enables drones to fly autonomously. As such, further research in the area could bring Amazon closer to employing a fleet of drones.

Amazon may be trying to make machine learning its new competitive advantage. Amazon’s patent on one-click payments is set to expire this year, meaning the company will lose exclusivity on one of its earliest features that drove it to prominence, but machine learning could provide Amazon with a new advantage. In fact, Amazon has filed a number of machine learning- and AI-focused patents recently. If these prove nearly as valuable as one-click has been, they could help Amazon fend off competition from retailers deploying one-click options. Additionally, the company may even be angling for a new revenue stream, as it has discussed making its machine learning and AI available to other companies through Amazon Web Services (AWS).

One of retailers' top priorities is to figure out how to gain an edge over Amazon. To do this, many retailers are attempting to differentiate themselves by creating highly curated experiences that combine the personal feel of in-store shopping with the convenience of online portals. 

These personalized online experiences are powered by artificial intelligence (AI). This is the technology that enables e-commerce websites to recommend products uniquely suited to shoppers, and enables people to search for products using conversational language, or just images, as though they were interacting with a person. 

Using AI to personalize the customer journey could be a huge value-add to retailers. Retailers that have implemented personalization strategies see sales gains of 6-10%, a rate two to three times faster than other retailers, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG). It could also boost profitability rates 59% in the wholesale and retail industries by 2035, according to Accenture. 

Stephanie Pandolph, research analyst for BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has written a detailed report on AI in e-commerce that:

  • Provides an overview of the numerous applications of AI in retail, using case studies of how retailers are currently gaining an advantage using this technology. These applications include personalizing online interfaces, tailoring product recommendations, increasing the relevance of shoppers search results, and providing immediate and useful customer service.
  • Examines the various challenges that retailers may face when looking to implementing AI, which typically stems from data storage systems being outdated and inflexible, as well as organizational barriers that prevent personalization strategies from being executed effectively.
  • Gives two different strategies that retailers can use to successfully implement AI, and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy.

To get the full report, subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn More Now

You can also purchase and download the full report from our research store.

Join the conversation about this story »

11 Sep 16:13

How Blockchain is Going to Change Accounting Forever

by Eric Rosenberg

geralt / Pixabay

Blockchain came to the world’s attention thanks to its role as the underlying technology behind Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency. However, Blockchain has much farther reaching possibilities than digital currency. Blockchain, a distributed ledger technology, has the potential for applications in the stock market, banking, and beyond. One industry that is sure to see disruption from Blockchain is accounting. From audit to bookkeeping, Blockchain has the potential to improve efficiency, reporting, and data access in a way never before seen. Let’s dive in and take a look at how Blockchain is going to change accounting.

Near instant transactions

At the start of a new month, accountants around the world close the books on the prior month. At large companies, this process takes anywhere from a couple of business days to a week or longer. With the release of new technologies and financial systems, the time required to complete the close cycle is shrinking. One of the biggest holdups in a faster close is a lag in transaction completion times. In my days as a Senior General Accountant, I spent hours every month accounting for transactions that were in limbo between various steps in the billing, invoicing, and payment cycle.

With the distributed Blockchain ledger, there is no need for transactions to sit in limbo. There is no need for a delay in processing while systems catch up and run overnight processes. In a world of instant transactions, many month end close processes will be cut down or eliminated completely. Thanks to to speed transactions will be completed, accountants will spend a lot less time worrying about ensuing transactions are reported in the correct month, as they will already be reported when the month closes. And, once transactions are completed, they are locked in and recorded forever. There is no going back to tinker or adjust past transactions in a blockchain.

All assets become trackable

Businesses that focus on assets like stocks, bonds, mutual funds, titles, deeds, and even inventory can be tracked with Blockchain. In fact, assets become more secure and trackable than ever before. As transactions take place with Blockchain technology, it is recorded in the local ledger and then shared across other copies of the same ledger stored by many computers around the world. Each time a transaction takes place, it is sent to every copy of the blockchain for that specific asset or use case.

At this point, everyone has an undisputed copy of the history of that asset. If a share of stock is bought, sold, bought, and sold again, a record is created that can be traced back to the beginning of its existence in Blockchain. Fraud and asset theft will be dramatically reduced with this tracking system, and accountants get benefits too. When trying to track or audit an asset, phone calls, emails, and other detective skills are no longer needed. Just type a few buttons and you can view an entire history of the asset perfect for building an audit log.

Automated reporting and reconciliation

Thanks to the automatic update of the distributed ledger, Blockchain makes reporting and reconciliations easier than ever. When every transaction is recorded in one place with all of the details. It is much easier to program computers to automatically sort and record journal entries. You can view live Bitcoin transactions as they happen at Bitcoin Explorer. Clicking on a transaction brings up the relevant details. All of these are stored by every computer that has an active copy of the Bitcoin Blockchain.

Bitcoin Transaction

As new blockchains are developed for various applications and uses, different details can be included and stored in the transaction details. Companies and industries can develop their own unique blockchain guidelines to make the technology work perfectly for their unique needs. Whatever those needs are, the accounting and audit teams are sure to benefit from more thorough, traceable, detailed, and fraud resistant transaction records.

Cost savings on audits and compliance

Speaking of traceable records, audit managers should be elated at the prospect of incorporating Blockchain. With Blockchain based data, audits will be faster, more accurate, and better automated. Projects that took weeks and months in the past may be cut down to hours and days. A small audit team will be able to reach further, review more processes, and certify results with better efficiency than ever before.

There is some risk to audit professionals in this new automation and efficiency. I find this true because fewer people will be needed to do the same job. If you work in audit today, getting well versed in Blockchain is a smart career decision. Also think of new ways you can use your audit skills to improve efficiency, transparency, accuracy, and compliance across your organization. You may have a lot more time on your hands to do more value added work on top of your existing audit duties. By proving your value to your employer, you are proving the need to keep you around.

It’s time to embrace Blockchain

Blockchain is coming whether you are ready or not. Some on Wall Street believe Blockchain will be prevalent across the entire financial sector within five years. There is so much potential for upgrades and improvements in transaction technology. We are poised for a revolution that may be the biggest change in accounting since personal computers. This includes when spreadsheet programs landed on every accountant’s desk. It is an exciting time in the accounting and audit industry. It’s time to get aboard the Blockchain bandwagon. It will be impacting your business before you know it.

11 Sep 16:12

How to get maximum value from Google Sheets

by Carlos Cadorniga
TwitterFacebook

Just to let you know, if you buy something featured here, Mashable might earn an affiliate commission.

Gone are the days when Microsoft Excel held a monopoly over the spreadsheet world. Google Sheets has proven itself an equally powerful and versatile data management program. Plus, it’s available for free while Excel is most definitely not. 

Sheets will undoubtedly become more popular and ubiquitous as time goes by, so now is the time to learn all of its secrets. The Google Sheets Mastery Course won’t just help you understand this app inside and out—it’ll help you leverage Sheets to improve your productivity, and maybe even enrich your career. Read more...

More about Online Learning, Mashable Shopping, Shopping Stackcommerce, Shopping Solo, and Shopping Onlinelearning
11 Sep 16:12

Why You Should Want to Pay Commissions

by Anthony Iannarino

Let’s correct the record here about commissions.

Let’s assume that the critics are correct, and that salespeople who are paid commissions will be motivated to win more business, whatever the cost. Even though many people are not really money motivated, let’s pretend for a moment that every salesperson is, and that they will really do whatever it takes to win business and collect their rewards.

That settled, let’s look at what might happen.

  • First, the salesperson who wants to make more money will have to create opportunities. Opportunities are generally generated by prospecting, and the primary method for setting the appointments and gaining the commitment for time is cold calling. And like that, we just found out that a lot of people have just bowed out of the “whatever it takes” proposition in the above paragraph.
  • Second, they would have to do well enough in front of the client during their interactions to actually be preferred over their competitors, all of whom (in this scenario) are equally money motivated.

So how does one create a preference? Is it by being self-oriented, pushy, smarmy, and aggressive? Is it by selling the client something that they really don’t need or from which they will receive no benefit? The answer is a resounding “No!” This is a recipe for losing deals, not winning them.

You create a preference by being consultative, and for working to be a trusted advisor, a recipe with only two ingredients: 1: trust (the foundation of all relationships, including commercial relationships), and 2: advice (the business acumen and situational knowledge that allows one to provide advice, also now popularly described as “insights”). A self-orientation will end your chances at winning an opportunity as fast as almost anything else. A lack of business acumen will make you irrelevant, and will remove almost all possibility of winning.

If one were to want money, their behaviors would have to serve that outcome, and successful salespeople have long known how to sell in a way that allows them to win, to serve their clients, and to make money.

Why We Pay Commissions

The reason we pay commissions is because the variation in results allows for a variation in compensation, with those who want more money and have the ability to generate more sales being paid for doing so, and with those who are only half as motivated or half as effective to be paid appropriately for the results they produce.

Treating two groups with widely different results the same is to mistreat both groups, with one being paid too little, and the other being paid too much.

Truth be told, we are really commission only salespeople, being paid only for the value we create, what we believe we are worth, and our ability to find the people who see that same value.

The post Why You Should Want to Pay Commissions appeared first on The Sales Blog.

11 Sep 16:12

10 Quotes That Make Sales ROI Less Mysterious

by Alex Hisaka
  • 10-sales-quotes-ROI

Having a keen eye for detail and strong analytic skills is the key to becoming a good detective. You need to work with the right strategy. The best detectives are ruthless at collecting, analyzing and deducing from information. It brings forth the importance of gathering as much information and data as possible.

Proving the value of social selling is no different. In much of the same way, you need to watch for, track down, and piece together all of the sales activities that are delivering a concrete return. And with the right tools and techniques, you can easily connect the dots and uncover information previously unknown.

To pave the way for a greater truth, we’ve rounded up 10 revealing quotes from industry leaders who have cracked the case on sales ROI:

“If you’re really looking at ROI and you’re looking at dollars for investment, then you have really got to track source of business as closely as possible and influence of social as closely as possible. And a lot of that is going to come down to are you using the right tools to track that? Because a lot of people will say, “Well, that might have closed anyway.” Well, where do they come from? Did you get a warm introduction from someone? Did you engage on Sales Navigator? And, was the first connection through a LinkedIn invitation? Was it outbound? Did they engage on something that you posted and you reached out to thank them for their nice comment, right? We’ve got to start tracking that and having the right tool in place is what’s going to show you ROI, which can be enormous.”  - Brynne Tillman, Chief Learning Officer at Vengreso

“I always find that your KPIs have to be heavily focused on tangible revenue numbers to get taken seriously. Sales-focused organizations have one objective, and that’s getting sales to have more ‘conversations’ with the right ‘industry/title’ at the right ‘time,’ creating more ‘opportunities’ equating to more ‘revenue.’ Make sure you present social selling as one of the major tools to help you achieve that objective.” - Jack Kosakowski, President and CEO at Junior Achievement USA

“People are extremely busy, myself included. We don’t have much time to take long lunches to meet new people. Sales Navigator helps us make those introductions and get our foot in the door faster. It’s a much more focused approach to social media, and has already brought me five new projects with an approximate fee value of £130,000.” - David Reynolds, UK National director for JLL

“People who focus on ‘getting better’ goals (also known as Personal Bests) as opposed to performance goals have a much better chance of success.” – Matt Bertuzzi, Sales and Marketing Operations at The Bridge Group

“One very simple social selling metric involves monitoring engagement rates for each sales rep. To measure this, you can start by looking at the number of content pieces each rep shares over a particular period of time, in order to assess their commitment. From there, engagement can be measured, providing you with an idea of each sales rep’s social media influence.” - Monika Götzmann, Director Marketing EMEA at Miller Heiman Group EMEA

“I also suggest reps pay attention to their individual social engagement metrics. Are there certain times of day that tend to generate more comments, likes, or reshares? Do certain types of content perform better than others? If you’re using LinkedIn, you can track your social selling score with the SSI Index -- it measures your performance against four main benchmarks.” - Kurt Shaver, Founder at The Sales Foundry

“There’s a distinct difference in our success rate at setting up meetings and follow-up conversations depending on whether our prospects are engaged on Sales Navigator or not. Social selling as part of our outbound lead generation approach has been invaluable in securing meetings and driving toward the close.” - Mark Fellowes, SVP of Sales Development and Operations at NewVoiceMedia

“To prove the value of social selling, Incontact ran a trial with half of its sales reps. Within three months those that had been trained on social selling had a sales pipeline 160 percent bigger than their colleagues, and by the end of the year had realised 215 percent more revenue.” - David Moth, Head of Social at eConsultancy

“Before, our reps were doing an hour’s worth of research to get the right … information, to have that first touch with the customer. [They would contact] 8 or 9 [prospects on] any given day… LinkedIn Sales Navigator’s helped us… take that hour down to just minutes.” - Brad Rinklin, CMO at Akamai

“When I mentioned social selling in Europe three years ago, it was not appreciated, to say the least. That has changed since last year, as soon as I could present data that showed a long-term performance impact no sales leader could ignore.” – Tamara Schenk, Research Director at CSO Insights

If you’re serious about sales improvement, then tracking sales ROI is a must. With a little digging, you can uncover all of the information you need to prove the value of your social selling programs.

For more clues into how to grow your sales results, download our eBook, Proof Positive: How to Easily Measure and Maximize Sales ROI.

11 Sep 16:08

7 mistakes you should avoid when making an explainer video

by Carolanne Mangles

Plus examples of what make an effective explainer video

Oscar Wilde used to say that experience is the name we give to our mistakes. However,  you don’t need to be as seasoned as good ol’ Oscar to know that. When it comes to video marketing, you can’t afford to make those mistakes in the first place. Especially when it comes to creating explainer videos.

Developing explainer videos capable of summing up who you are in under 90 secs can be truly challenging. You can’t go into it blindfolded and full-out swinging – you need to have some certainties from the get go.

But before diving into the specifics and giving you some much-needed insight on the things that you should never do, there’s a question that perhaps you might be asking yourself right now:

Where exactly do explainer videos fit into my marketing strategy?

Well, if we take into account the classic structure of the customer's journey (and we do), you know, the different stages that a person “travels” before actually purchasing a product or service. Explainer videos fit perfectly into the “Consideration” phase.

Take a look at this image to better understand what I’m saying.

The buyer's journey

http://www.pathforeword.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Buyers-Journey.jpg

So, after the awareness stage, the prospect already knows what the specific problem is or what he or she needs to solve, and is now deepening the research and assessing the different solutions. Explainer videos are a really useful type of content here since they allow you to summarize the problem, explain how the solution you are offering works, and to introduce your brand in a short amount of time. They are good tools to guide your lead to the next stage of the journey by providing the exact information they are craving at that exact step in their research.

And now, are you ready? I said are you ready? Let’s dive into the mistakes you should avoid when creating your video. Here are the 7 most frequent ones:

1. Dragging it out for too long

In the age where everything has to be entertaining or face oblivion (or worse, indifference), you can’t be boring. And that’s exactly how your video will feel if you make it too long. People have dwindling attention spans, so you can’t overstay your welcome.

Avoiding this mistake is easy to explain but tricky to master. You’ll have to keep the following in mind:

  •         Make your message as concise as possible
  •         Don’t make your video longer than 90 seconds
  •         Use the typical rule of thumb: no more than 150 words per minute

Basically, your explainer video will have a better shot at success if you remember 3 simple words: keep it short.

Let’s watch the following ad, perhaps the epitome of “to the point”:

2. Forgetting who your target audience really is

You won’t sell your product or service to everyone out there. The one-size-fits-all mentality will only have you failing left and right. You’ll end up frustrated and convinced no one.

Instead, accept the fact that you are talking to a specific group of people. Limit your attention to whoever is actually looking for what you have to offer. Craft your message around those potential customers and make it as evident as possible. How? Here are some key points:

  •         Use characters that look and behave like your target audience
  •         Put them in scenarios that will be familiar to your prospects
  •         Be very careful with how you say things – use the words they’d use!

Knowing who you are talking to is the foundation to believable characters and effective messages.

3. Ignoring the value of a good script

The script is the bedrock of all great videos. It’s like the first step in a journey – you need to take it with confidence and a clear sense of where you’re going. Yet, some people take this step lightly and don’t flesh out the script as they should.

An effective video script will have a clear message and provide a brief yet informative look into your brand. It’ll define your characters, your scenarios and what will be said. It’ll also determine the whole video structure, the backbone of it all.

The best way to build this backbone is to focus on 4 aspects or key moments:

  • Present the problem – talk about the issues your potential customers are having.
  • Introduce your solution – tell everyone watching “you have this problem? Here’s how to solve it”
  • Explain how it works – just promising a solution won’t cut it. Show your audience how you’ll solve their problem.
  • Call your audience to action – invite your audience to learn more, check some numbers or whatever call to action you wish to promote.

Let’s see one of the most memorable examples of the last couple of years: Yes, you got it, it’s Dollar Shave Club.

This video not only presents a classic structure, subverting its tone a little bit to fit a very refreshing and somewhat sarcastic humor. And on top of a very tight script, the direction is also excellent, managing to converge the words, the camera movements and the actor’s blocking perfectly. Very nice.

4. Neglecting the video’s quality

We’re way past the times where having an ok video was enough. People grew accustomed to high-quality content and won’t even pay attention to anything that looks cheap. So, although you might feel tempted to do so, don’t skimp on your video’s budget.

The right way to look at an explainer video is to see it as an investment. When done properly, these videos can bring in new leads, increase brand awareness and visibility and make you look trustworthy. You can’t get all that without the high-quality factor that makes you stand out from the crowd.

What does high quality mean when talking about explainer videos? Great animation, perfect editing, clean and crisp sound, professional voiceover and a unique tone. That’s a lot of things to tackle but that’s why there are video companies that offer their services exclusively focused on these kinds of videos.

To exemplify all of the factors above, let’s watch this explainer video template conundrum mix, that’s basically everything that is wrong with explainer videos:

Can you see it? Let’s summarize:

  • Poor drawing and animation quality
  • Lack of branding and customization
  • Mediocre direction and script

5. Focusing on features

People don’t want to hear about your complex algorithm and its overwhelming processing powers, at least not at this stage. They don’t care about how well your product tested in some boring test.

What they truly want to hear is how all of those things will make their lives better. Instead of the algorithm’s power, make them see the time they’ll save by using it. Don’t talk about the test, paint the scenario where that test means more security or satisfaction. Don’t throw out pretty technical names for your features, make it clear how those features will solve their problems.

In short, you don’t want your video to sound like a list of tech specs that will only impress the people in the know. Focus on the benefits. Bring your message down to an emotional level. People have to picture themselves using your product and be able to see how good it’ll all be. You can’t get that with a boring list.

6. Sounding too serious

I know you take your business seriously – we all do! However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with your video. I’ve said it above but it bears to be said once again: people want to be entertained. If your video can do it, you’re halfway to marketing heaven.

Of course, being funny doesn’t work for everybody, yet you should consider it before dismissing the idea. A more relaxed tone can go a long way. There are several things you can try to spice things up:

  •         Work your story up to a punchline or joke
  •         Put in a surprise at the least expected part
  •         Do something wacky or really different for your industry

Let’s take a look at the following example:

7. Not planning for launch

Many people worry all too much about getting everything about the video production right that they end up forgetting about planning the next steps. You don’t want to be ambushed by this mistake just a few steps away from the goal line – you need to know what you’ll do with your finished video!

There are several things you can plan beforehand, yet you shouldn’t forget about the top 3, namely:

  •         The video in your overall marketing strategy. Where will you use it? What do you want out of it? Which other marketing techniques can you use to make it more visible?
  •         The video hosting. Yeah, you’d probably think YouTube is the right answer, always. But why end there? Perhaps it is a good idea to consider other hosts, like Vimeo, Facebook, Wistia.
  •         The video on your website. Use it in one of the best places where it can make a difference. Using it in your homepage seems like a must, but does your homepage have the proper space for it?

Many people have already made these mistakes. So, let’s loosely follow Wilde’s thought and let’s name them “collective experience”, an experience from which you can learn without actually having to make the mistakes. Doesn’t that sound great?

victor Thanks to Victor Blasco for sharing their advice and opinion in this post. Victor is the Founder and CEO of the explainer video company Yum Yum Videos, audiovisual designer and video marketing expert. Aside from running the business, he loves studying Chinese philosophy and is a real geek for science fiction films and comics! The force is strong with this one. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.
11 Sep 16:07

Chinese investors discover sleepy Point Roberts, Washington, on B.C. border

by Larry Pynn

For decades, the sleepy U.S. backwater of Point Roberts, Wash., has been overrun by foreigners — Canadians.

They’ve come to buy recreational property, buy cheap gas and dairy products, and drink way too much beer at The Breakers and Kiniski’s Reef Tavern on the Strait of Georgia waterfront.

More recently, as the value of the Canadian dollar dictates, they’ve also come to collect online purchases from shipping and receiving outlets, some so close to the border that individuals can walk across to get their parcels.

Today, a new wave of foreigners is hitting the scenic shores of Point Roberts, south of Tsawwassen — Chinese investors, buying up a marina, golf course and waterfront property for housing developments.

Businessman Wayne Knowles, a Canadian-U. S. citizen who’s lived in Point Roberts for 25 years and has a finger in all the big projects, believes Chinese buyers could be the economic saviour for the 13-square-kilometre peninsula.

Businessman Wayne Knowles, an investor in Seabright Farm, a seaside housing development, says a new wave of Chinese investors could finally awaken Point Roberts, Wash., from its long economic slumber.

“I believe so, thank goodness,” he said. “Their money is coming into Point Roberts, which we desperately need.

“We’ve seen a whole bunch of activity. Point Roberts will be much different five years from now.”

While the vast majority of property buyers in Point Roberts remain non-Chinese (mostly people looking for relatively inexpensive recreational homes), they don’t represent the big-ticket property buyers.

“They (Chinese) are looking for good opportunities and Point Roberts has just been sitting here,” Knowles said. “It’s been a diamond in the rough forever. People are finally coming down here and seeing how beautiful it is.”

Others are taking a more cautious approach. 

Point Roberts has always had economic ups and downs, but little ultimately changes.

Realtor Paul Rusk, another dual citizen, said that when he started in the industry 26 years ago he sold lots for $20,000 apiece and that’s still the case. It can take two years to buy or sell a property, simply because prices fluctuate little and no one has a sense of urgency.

A sampling of recent property sales include: US$164,900 for an 800-square-foot home, built in 1955, with beach rights; $649,500 for a 3,420-square-foot home, built in 1993, on Marine Channel; and US$1.18 million for an architecturally designed 1,833-square-foot home, built in 1995, on a waterfront bluff overlooking the Strait of Georgia.

“Waterfront or view properties have gone up a little,” said Rusk. “But I tell my clients it’s a lifestyle purchase not a financial purchase.”

His clients are not Chinese investors interested in money-making ventures, but those making recreational or lifestyle choices. He laughs at suggestions that people on witness-protection programs are relocated to Point Roberts. “This is the last place. There’s no jobs, and you know everybody who’s here.”

Some of the more high-profile residents of Point Roberts in recent years have included ex-Canucks coach John Tortorella and actor Katee Sackhoff, who rented a home during filming of the TV series Battlestar Galactica in Vancouver. 

As in any community, the interests of business do not necessarily match those of ordinary residents.

Mark Robbins, president of the Point Roberts Taxpayers Association, notes that about 1,300 permanent residents enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the point and can be wary of change.

“A lot of people are intuitively uneasy with change,” he said. “You cross that border and it’s a giant relief, especially at night time — a dark rural community, no sidewalks, no street lights. That’s what a lot of people like.”

But they also recognize the need for more services in the community, where residents are often forced to drive to Tsawwassen to eat out. And few people would complain if development spurred an increase in property values, which have stagnated compared with the soaring values in recent years in Metro Vancouver. Robbins hasn’t heard locals express any negative sentiments toward the Chinese investors, who are spotty visitors to the community.

As Knowles tells it, the new wave of investment started five years ago when a Chinese lawyer friend of his in Vancouver put him in touch with Beijing businessman Gao Zhu, who went on to acquire 51 per cent of Seabright Farm, a relatively pricey strata project being developed by Knowles and another business partner, Anders Kruus of Seattle.

Seabright consists of 62 building lots on 25 hectares on a bluff with ocean views, swimming pool and fresh vegetables for your dinner.  

Knowles said that Zhu is a friend of Beijing billionaire Chen Yihong, chair of China Dongxiang, a sportswear company boasting the popular Kappa-brand products in China and Japan.

Yihong visited Zhu and “fell in love with Point Roberts” and the two teamed up in May 2015 to buy Point Roberts Marina for $27 million, with Yihong owning a 90-per-cent share, Knowles said.

The marina’s old docks are being upgraded and the number of slips reduced to 600 from 900 to accommodate larger pleasure craft. Long-term plans call for housing, a spa, clubhouse, restaurant/nightclub, swimming pool and tennis courts, said Knowles, who is also vice-president of development for the marina. 

Yihong has also purchased two houses and a 2.5-hectare piece of high-bluff waterfront property on Marine Drive worth a total of US$4.6 million, Knowles said.

A Chinese billionaire has purchased two houses and a 2.5-hectare piece of high-bluff waterfront property on Marine Drive worth a total of US$4.6 million.

His purchases may have stirred interest in Point Roberts among other Chinese. “He’s very ambitious … and very well known,” Knowles said. “Once he purchased here, others found out about it. ‘If he’s investing, it must be a good deal.'”

In July this year, Coco Luo, a Canadian permanent resident living in Richmond for the last three years, but originally from Hunan Province, bought the 18-hole Point Roberts Golf and Country Club for US$4.5 million with two partners, all of them real-estate developers from China.

Luo is managing partner, an avid golfer with a 12-handicap, and owns two golf courses in China.

Coco Luo owns two golf courses in China, and has recently bought the Point Roberts golf course.

In an interview with the help of an interpreter, she said work is underway to bring the golf course up to snuff, with a projected reopening date no later than spring 2018 as Bald Eagle Golf Club at Point Roberts.

There are also plans to develop a clubhouse and 60 homes around the golf course, with land clearing beginning this month. 

Luo said Yihong is a friend and that investments by him and other Chinese people in Point Roberts “more or less” proved a factor in her decision to buy the golf course. 

She was also impressed by the fact the soils under the course allow for golfing over winter when other courses are sopping wet, and the site’s close location to Vancouver and Richmond, with its high proportion of Chinese immigrants and potential golf clientele.

“It’s not just a commercial project, to just sell all the lots and get the money,” she said, emphasizing the investment coincides with her passion for the sport.

Knowles added that another Chinese-owned company, 1350 Lundrigan LLC, with Richmond investors, in October 2016 paid US$3 million for 10 hectares of waterfront bluff property across from the golf course on Marine Drive in hopes of developing 19 estate lots. Knowles is a consultant on that development.

It’s also worth noting that Kiniski’s Reef Tavern, the last bar standing on the point, is for sale for US$1.6 million. The owner, Nick Kiniski, is son of the late wrestling champion Gene Kiniski, who described himself as “Canada’s greatest athlete,” despite living in Blaine, Wash. “If I had big bucks … I’d redo it all and put a nice condo on top and keep the bar open and live here, but that’s not in the cards for me,” Kiniski told Postmedia News. 

And nearby at an old cannery site on Marine Drive, the faded yellow paint on a prominent wood-frame waterfront building may finally get some sprucing up.

The 17,000-square-foot facility, built in the late 1990s, is proposed for expansion to 37,000 square feet as part of the $15-million development of the 30-room Blackfish Resort — offering much-needed accommodation on the peninsula, complete with a spa and restaurant dining, styled after Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn.

The dream of Steve O’Neill, a carpenter, is not new. In 2009, the Bellingham Herald trumpeted O’Neill’s plan to create Blackfish Resort. He said at the time he hoped to start construction in 2010 and have the resort open by spring 2012.

What’s taken so long? “I ran out of money,” concedes O’Neill, who holds a contract to develop the property and is in talks with investors. “I’ve put more than $1 million into the project. My whole life savings have gone into this.” He hopes to have the necessary building permits secured soon and a sod turning perhaps by year end. “It’s taken a long time, but it certainly is moving forward.” 

Whether all these good intentions change the face of Point Roberts forever or are simply more bumps on a sleepy country road remains to be seen. 

Dean Jones, owner and CEO of Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty in Seattle, said he is not surprised Point Roberts is starting to catch the attention of Chinese investors. Jones said that over the past several years Chinese investors have become dominant buyers in Seattle’s real estate market and driven price increases, in an echo of the Chinese-investor boom that he said has occurred for the past 20 years in Metro Vancouver. 

He said that increasingly in Seattle and “tertiary” markets across Washington state, institutional and individual Chinese investors are seeking out residential, commercial, and “lifestyle” property assets such as golf courses, vineyards and vacation property.

The trend is partly driven by large investors who realize tourism and immigration from China is on the rise in Washington. Some of these Chinese investors are seeking large assets such as marinas and hotels in immigration-investment programs, he said. Also, as prices skyrocket in major urban centres favoured by international investors in B.C. and Washington, investors are turning their attention to undiscovered markets, according to Jones.

“Point Roberts is a unique little slice of real estate, because it is America, but it’s accessible through B.C.,” Jones said. “It doesn’t surprise me that someone wants the Vancouver lifestyle at a fraction of the price.”

But do a few big investments from China predict a Point Roberts boom?

Jones said believes that the volume of real estate investment from China is so large that buyers are recognizing they can follow fellow Chinese investors into newer pockets of interest and “create self-fulfilling prophecies of rising markets.”

“Once these relatively obscure markets are on the map, it becomes like a self-priming pump,” Jones said.

Rusk, the local realtor, is accepting of the status quo, which includes running through the woods or cycling the back routes with a good chance of not seeing another human being.

“This is how we want it,” he concludes. “This is why we’re here.”

lpynn@postmedia.com

with file from Sam Cooper

 

 
 
 
 
 
11 Sep 16:03

Top 7 Mistakes That Kill Your Ads Conversion in 2017

by Guest Post

Top 7 Mistakes That Kill Your Ads Conversion in 2017 written by Guest Post read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Business spends huge money on sending their message to customers, but the results leave much to be desired:

For every $92 spent acquiring customers, only $1 is spent converting them; besides, only 8% of users pay attention to marketing ads and click on them.

Yet, one assured method exists to generate lots of buzz about your business and advertising.

People notice marketing mistakes right along, discussing and criticizing brands for them. This is the case when advertising defeats its own object, despite allowing you to learn from mistakes, draw out a lesson, and get feet under your table.

Failures become those signposts indicating the way to effective marketing. However, some mistakes come at a price.

Here go top seven, able to create a negative attitude toward your business as well as nip your ad conversion in the bud.

1. You don’t consider human factors

The biggest mistake of small business owners would be to follow the lead of big dogs adverting to barren business language in their marketing campaigns. They forget about users on the other side of the screen, willing to communicate to people rather than brands and products names.

So build relations with humans and don’t throw information blocks into a faceless audience. Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report confirms the effectiveness of such an approach.

Asking users about factors influencing their trust in ads, Nielsen’s experts marked those resonating most: humorous, value- and family-oriented, real-file situations are what works best.

Top 7 Mistakes That Kill Your Ads Conversion in 2017

Marketing tip: When writing texts for your ads, remember about the human factor behind your audience. Talk their language, don’t plagiarize writing style, voice, and tone of your competitors, and speak about what appeals to your consumers.

2. You take social issues in vain

Appealing to social issues or newsjacking is a constant brinkmanship. When done right, it brings your business the benefits such as:

  • Traffic growth
  • Your brand’s integration into daily news background
  • Link product to a high-involvement issue
  • Engagement rate growth
  • Information market leadership

But a huge mistake would be to use social issues for small business ads. It hurts reputation and may destroy your customer funnel (engagement and nurturing, in particular).

As a simple refresher, let’s take a look at this tweet from AT&T who published it on the 9/11 day:

Top 7 Mistakes That Kill Your Ads Conversion in 2017

Followers perceived it as the attempt to play on the tragedy for marketing goals. Such negative reaction made AT&T marketers delete the tweet within an hour of publication.

Marketing tip: When publishing your sales copies and ads, try to pre-estimate reactions. Appeal to psychology and enhance emotional intelligence for a better understanding of your target audience.

3. You target fans

Spending money on pay per click as well as any other ad type targeting your existing audience… well… sucks: they know you and your offer already, so don’t reach them with advertising.

When having clients-friendly perks, just create a status update for fans to see, like, and get it shared so you could sell to them. What you need for ads is a broader targeting, but don’t overdo it.

What is it with that?

For example, you decide to target new customers with Facebook ads, and your audience is newbie photographers. You launch the campaign based on interests like photography, and that’s where a mistake hides.

Why?

We all love photography: your mum, friends, and ex like it but none of them has the interest in learning about it.

Marketing tip: Be more specific about targeting the new audience. In the case with photography, you might want to attract and engage those interested in entry-level camera models as it’s something amateur photographers most likely use.

4. You forget about copywriting tricks

Rare small business owners bother about writing texts for ads. However, copywriting gizmos such as clear value propositions, words, and images influence your conversion rate per se.

The most common mistakes marketers still make:

  • Weak headlines. A first-rate headline doesn’t simply state what you offer but explains the benefit behind your product. It’s short, clear and easy to understand, and avoids cliches as well as business jargon.
  • Wrong ad image. Visual elements you choose for ads should hook users and make them want to click. For that, consider size/color/contrast combo.
  • Sluggish words. One word or phrase can change your conversion rate by 100%, so use power verbs that appeal to human emotions. Avoid vagueness and gobbledegook in your ads.
  • No CTA. Just because people see your ad doesn’t mean they want to click and learn more about your business. Most need a little push in the right direction, so make sure to add CTA to every ad you create. Give users a reason to choose you.

Marketing tip: Learn how to write ad texts and sales copy. Words are a powerful weapon allowing to influence decision-making, so make sure you don’t kill conversion by choosing wrong lexical items for your ads.

5. You wrongly use SMM tools

Time after time, social media come up with new tools to help marketers, but the latter often use them wrong.

Thus, McDonald’s once used a #McDStories hashtag to encourage sharing nostalgic stories related to the brand; but they didn’t explain it to people. As the result, followers used the hashtag to complain about poor service and low-quality food.

Top 7 Mistakes That Kill Your Ads Conversion in 2017

AmericanAir failed when used the automatic reply feature in Twitter; it showed the brand’s unwillingness to get feedback from their audience.

Top 7 Mistakes That Kill Your Ads Conversion in 2017

Marketing tip: Use new tools for advertising only after learning them inside out. Pay attention to instructing your audience about what you want from them.

6. You focus on a product

Your advertising is not about you but customers, so a huge mistake would be talking about how cool you are and what luxury features your product/service has.

No one will care.

Instead, link those features to a value. Focus on your customers’ needs, and use ads to talk about how your product solves their problems. Such an approach will help to build a steady stream of leads.

7. You don’t track

Picture this:

76% of marketers track effectiveness wrongly, considering awareness/engagement enough for success and mistaking it for conversion.

The question appears:

How do they know what advertising is most effective for their business and what they could change to make it better as well as influence their conversion rates?

The answer is… no how.

Two things work in digital marketing: testing and tracking. Once you know what works for your business, you invest into it and win more customers instead of blindly placing ads everywhere.

Marketing tip: Track your ads like crazy. Focus on metrics such as ad frequency, CTR, number of leads, relevance score, clicks by interest, and performance by placement.

Do any of the above mistakes sound familiar?

Fix your marketing strategy, if so. Put your ad campaigns into order. If you don’t know how to do that, ask experts to help you with copywriting, design, and choosing right channels for media placement. Use advertising wisely, not blindly – and you’ll be converting more than spending on it.


About the Author

Lesley J. Vos is a contributing writer to publications on content, social media, and digital marketing in general. She writes an e-book on guest blogging, creates texts on writing craft and education, and teaches the French language to high school students.

11 Sep 16:03

9 Easy Ways to Turn Old E-books into Fresh Content

by Katy French

We love e-books. They’re an awesome way to build relationships with people, provide valuable content, and, of course, get leads. But a well-crafted e-book takes work: great content, great e-book design, and great promotion. Since you’re putting in the time and energy, you should be getting as much out of it as you can. But a lot of times we see marketers set one live and leave it behind the gate. Sure, it will get some eyes. But there are some simple and clever ways to turn all that great information into even more valuable content.

We want to see you get the most out of your work, so we’re sharing some of our favorite ways to reuse, repurpose, remix, and reinvent your e-books. We hope it inspires you to dig into your archive and give new life to old content.

1) Infographics

Good e-book design is inherently visual, whether you use rich illustrations, eye-catching imagery, or detailed data visualization. These visuals are already on hand, so why not turn them into an infographic or mini graphic? Not only are infographics highly shareable but publishers are eager to enhance their stories with these types of visuals. Turning e-book information into an interesting infographic puts you on the fast track to more views. (Find out more about how to make publishers fall in love with your content.)

Example: We helped Highfive turn data from a company report into a shareable infographic.

how to repurpose e-book design

2) Webinars

If you want to really build a relationship through content, some good old-fashioned interaction will do it. Your e-book has a wealth of valuable knowledge, which you can easily share via a webinar. These are particularly great because they give you a chance to really demonstrate your expertise, and they give participants a chance to engage, ask questions, and have a personal interaction with you. Also, if you record your first webinar, you can post it as gated content, giving people yet another avenue to the info.

3) Interactive infographics

Interactivity is a great technique to create interesting, engaging content experiences. E-books have plenty of valuable info that might benefit from the interactive treatment. (Heck, you can even make your e-book interactive.) Say your e-book is about small business tax forms; you could make a quick interactive tool that guides readers through filling out the forms. (See the interactive we created for Intuit that does just that.)

Example: We worked with Microsoft to create their Anatomy of a Breach interactive website, which includes animated data visualizations that show how prevalent the crime is.

content marketing tips

4) Blog posts

Sometimes people will take a collection of blog posts and turn it into an e-book, but reverse-engineering is a great way to tease the e-book and bring in different audiences. You might turn a whole chapter into a meaty blog post. You might spin a sidebar into an interesting article. You might expand on topics not comprehensively covered in the e-book, then kick readers to the e-book to find out more. It’s a great way to maximize your reach. (Learn more about a divisible content strategy to get ideas to do this.)

5) Presentations & Misc Collateral

When you think about repurposing any sort of content, whether it’s e-books, infographics, or data visualizations, consider every communication touchpoint an opportunity to reuse existing information. You might use an e-book data visualization to enhance a presentation. You might reuse a diagram in a sales brochure. You might even create a visual press release with e-book info. There are more ways to reuse it than you’d think.

Example: We partnered with the Gates Foundation to design a highly visual presentation, using data visualizations to make the information easier to synthesize.

how to repurpose e-book design

6) Motion Graphics & Videos

People LOVE video and motion graphics. (Haven’t you noticed your FB feed full of them?) They’re easy to consume. Just press play and watch. They can also save time in explaining concepts or delivering a story. Your e-book probably has lots of opportunities to tell a narrative story in a motion graphic.

7) Animated Infographics and GIFS

Animated infographics and GIFS aren’t quite the same as interactives. (Interactives require the viewer to do something that triggers an action; animated content does it on its own.) But they can also be a great way to bring content to life. An interesting data visualization GIF series can enhance a blog post or be shared on social. An animated infographic will catch someone’s eye in a blog.

Example: We partnered with Takepart to create a set of GIFS that highlights important statistics about veterans’ mental health. Though simple, the animated data visualizations make a powerful statement.

how to repurpose e-book design

8) Podcast

This doesn’t mean you turn your e-book into an audiobook, but it can provide plenty of fodder to fill a podcast episode. You might use a chapter as a prompt for a roundtable discussion. You might break down a single subject and offer your best tips on it. You might have a debate between two experts. It isn’t always just about repurposing a visual. Information is information, and it can be translated into any format.

9) Microcontent

Microcontent is one of the easiest ways to repurpose all of your content. What is it? It’s the little stuff you extract to use on social, enhance blog posts, seed through your newsletter, etc. A single stat, data visualization, expert quote, or standalone image can help you promote content quickly and easily. Even better, they can be tailored to different types of people, helping you expand your reach.

Example: We collaborated with the Golden State Warriors Warriors to create a piece of data visualization microcontent to celebrate Stephen Curry’s MVP award.

how to repurpose e-book design

 

11 Sep 16:02

Channel Marketing Done Right: How Partnering Up Can Save Time and Resources

by Kristen Buzzaird

Every brand wants to find new outlets to sell their products or services. Channel marketing allows businesses big and small to increase their sales potential by finding new partners (or channels) willing to join forces with them to achieve better sales and profits.

Today, B2B buyers are increasingly gathering the information they need online. This means less reliance on sellers early in the sales cycle. No matter what your industry, you can drive business growth, engagement, and visibility by partnering with a third-party channel marketing service that is focused on delivering the results you need.

What is Channel Marketing?

Channel marketing is a seller’s plan for moving a product or service through the chain of commerce to the end customer. Channel partners can include distributors, resellers, agents, or any other type of company outside your organization.

One of the best ways to engage with channel partners is for the purpose of addressing a specific need or opportunity you cannot satisfy alone. For example, if you lack the internal resources for effective appointment setting, digital marketing strategizing, or partner recruitment, you can leverage the expertise of a third party to handle it for you.

Uncovering the need, length of time to requirement, and budgetary availability of your leads, as well as other administrative tasks like arranging meetings for your sales team to meet with decision makers, can take up a significant amount of time. By taking on organizational functions that would otherwise waste precious internal resources, a quality third-party provider also helps you improve staff productivity.

5 Ways it Pays to Partner with a Channel Marketing Provider

Here are just five reasons it pays for you to use a third-party channel marketing solutions provider:

  1. You have access to experts with the right skill sets. This lets you break out various tasks to people who, because they know the most effective techniques for securing qualified channel marketing partners, can help you achieve the best results.
  2. You’ll speed up the sales process. Instead of your internal sales people spending half their time generating meetings and hunting down qualified leads, they can devote more time to actually closing sales.
  3. Because they are skilled at gathering, analyzing, and prioritizing relevant data, you get through to the right people who are interested in your product or service.
  4. A channel expert helps you accelerate growth by accessing a wide range of prospects.
  5. You avoid taking team members away from their core competencies by letting someone else undertake the time-consuming task of lead and opportunity nurturing.

Achieving business growth in a highly competitive market is no easy task. Working with an experienced channel marketing solutions provider lets you turn over the heavy lifting of campaign strategies, offer development, and opportunity management to a bona fide expert.

It’s a cost-effective way to find and attract the right partners for your products and services using a specialized, customized marketing program. You’ll improve your success, connect with more qualified candidates, and boost opportunities by supplying your sales team with high-quality, opt-in leads, all of which have a measured impact on revenue.

11 Sep 16:02

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

by Carlo Pacis

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

Since the first email was sent in 1971, the medium has become the prime form of communication for most marketers.

Say what you want about social media or good old-fashioned sales calls – email as a marketing method has proven time and time again that it is simple, fast, affordable, and effective.

Though email marketing has been around for years, it has continued to evolve, with marketers looking for small tips & tricks they can use to boost their open and click-through rates.

Often, however, it’s best to go back to basics.

In this article, I’ll share with you the pillars of email marketing best practices, ranging from simple foundational advice to more technical tricks you can implement.

1. Segment Your List

If the main purpose of your email list is to get more customers for your business, you want to maximize the effectiveness of your email campaigns.

That means sending the right emails to the right group of people at the right time – and the best way to do this is to segment your list.

The first thing you need to do is identify your segments. This will vary drastically depending on your business.

For example, the Wishpond blog has lists for social media, growth hacking, and lead generation readers, which determine the different types of content our various subscribers receive. If you were a fitness center, you might create different segments for contacts who are interested in weightlifting, fitness classes, and personal training.

The best way to think about these segments is as different subsets of your target market: how does your product differ in the eyes of different types of consumers?

Once you’ve determined these segments, we’re ready to set up the workflows that will help make creating these segments simple.

Using marketing automation, we’ll create multiple lists of subscribers based on the topics they’re interested in. Let’s look at two ways to do this:

Using a form

This method is rather straightforward – it relies on blog or website visitors to segment themselves using an extra field that you’ll add to your subscription flow.

On your subscription popup or landing page, add either a drop down or multiple choice form field with your list of segments. This gives people a greater degree of choice when it comes to the types of emails they’ll receive.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

This is generally a good approach if you’re not as confident in segmentation by pageview (more on that below), or if you believe your subscribers will be likely to want content that spans multiple topics.

Once you’ve created your form field, you’ll set up a workflow that assigns people to certain lists based on the “interest” lead property:

Proactive segmentation by pageview/action

While it’s ostensibly less reliable, segmenting your subscribers based on the pages they’ve visited removes the need to directly ask them for their interests, and is also just a neat way to use marketing automation.

All you need to do is create workflows that segment users based on the pages they’ve converted on, instead of segmenting based on a property they’ve assigned themselves.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

Let’s continue with our hypothetical fitness center. I’m running ads to three landing pages for my different segments (weightlifting, yoga and personal training), collecting leads to pass on to my sales team and to market to with email drip campaigns.

I’ve created workflows that send each of these leads to a specific list based on interest, so I can tailor and personalize my drip campaigns to contain content specific to each of these types of people. This maximizes the effect of your email marketing efforts, drastically increasing conversion rate.

Marketing to Segments

Creating detailed segments isn’t worth it if you’re not going to personalize the way you’re marketing to them. Set up a new drip campaign for each of your segments containing content that they would find interesting.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

For example, my weightlifting segment might receive emails like “5 Tips to Boost Your Bench Press” or “3 Six-Pack Shortcuts”, while my personal training segment might receive content like “How 95% of Our Clients Achieved Their Goals in 3 Months”. It’s up to you to identify the type of content that will resonate with each segment to maximize the chances you’ll convert them.

2. Spend Time on Subject Lines

When writing our emails, about half of the time we spend on each email is devoted to creating an intriguing subject line.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

When writing a subject line, it’s important to keep your eye on the prize – namely, an email open. While a click-through to your final destination (whether that’s content, a landing page, or something else) and a subsequent conversion are the main goals of your email, your subject line is built almost solely to capture your subscribers’ attention and get them to open your email.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

Why? It’s safe to assume your subscribers’ email inboxes are a digital Hunger Games arena, with emails from countless businesses (including yours!) vying for those precious, precious opens.

As a result, it’s important to follow subject line best practices to help you survive the mailbox battle royale.

Here are the most important ones:

  • Cater to your audience: Write a subject line that connects directly with your audience’s interests. For example, if you’re an apparel company mailing your “Female” segment, you could say something like “Save 40% On Women’s Fall Fashion!”.
  • Use merge tags: Though this a tip all on its own, using a merge tag in the subject line itself can have a huge impact on email performance. I know I’m more likely to open an email that has my name in it: “Carlo, you’re one step away from 30 free email templates!”.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

  • Keep it short: Subject lines that are too long will be cut off in your readers’ inboxes. Keep it as short as possible so you don’t lose the meaning in your messaging.
  • Test emojis!: Who says email can’t be fun? Try adding some spice to your subject lines with an emoji or two… But, as usual, test them out and see how your audience responds to them.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

  • Put a time on it: Generally, people like to minimize the number of things they have to do – which means they won’t take an action unless they feel pressured to do so. Showing how much time is left in your offer (“Only 3 days left to get 50% off!”) will increase urgency and boost opens.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

  • Communicate value: Your subscribers shouldn’t need to open your emails to see what they’ll get out of clicking through on them. Showing them the benefit right away will make them more likely to click, and will reduce any lurking ambiguity.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

Following these should-do’s will give you a solid foundation on which to build your email subject lines, but they’re not the be-all and end-all of this facet of email marketing. Test headlines often so you can see what works best for you and your audience.

3. Keep a Close Eye on Metrics

When it comes to email marketing, the numbers don’t lie. As is the case with all of your other marketing tactics, you should be watching your analytics like a hawk.

Particularly, it’s essential to keep an eye on:

  • Open rates: Your open rates are representative of the effectiveness of your subject lines, as well as the “gravity” that your brand name governs.
  • Click-through rates: Click-through rates are generally representative of the content within your emails – if it sounds interesting, you’re more likely to get people clicking through. It’s also inherently affected by your offer. A 30% discount on a brand new product, for example, is probably more exciting than a new blog post.
  • Bounce rates: As opposed to being indicative of email marketing performance, your bounce rate is a good measure of list health. A high bounce rate might mean an incorrectly imported list, or an old list with stale or inactive emails.
  • Landing page conversion rates: Though this isn’t technically a part of your email, it’s an impactful section within your funnel that shouldn’t be ignored. Your page conversion rates are generally representative of on-page conversion rate optimization, but can also be indicative of the expectations you’re setting up for visitors.

Though all of these are important, the first two statistics are the ones that are directly impacted by changes in your email marketing strategies.

Continue testing and optimizing your email campaigns to maximize both of these numbers, and you’ll find your email marketing efforts bring you better results.

4. Use Merge Tags

One of the many benefits of using a single platform to manage your list-building campaigns, your contacts, and your emails is the ability to better personalize your email marketing campaigns based on the information you have on your contacts.

And as far as personalization goes, merge tags are a game-changer, making it incredibly simple to populate your emails with information you’ve gathered from the people on your mailing list.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

Their uses vary greatly – whether it’s something as simple as saying “Hey <>” instead of “Hey there!”, or dynamically changing the bulk of the content in your email based on a user’s interests or geographical location, merge tags can take your email marketing efforts to the next level.

Remember, you can only populate merge tags with information you already have about your contacts, whether that’s information they gave you themselves or information you added to their contact profiles based on specific actions they took. As a result, your options may be limited based on how extensive your lead generation forms are.

A few use cases for merge tags:

  • Sending your prospective customers information (time, date, etc.) on their upcoming sales call
  • Reminding a customer they’re due for an appointment (e.g. “It’s been {{timesincelast_appointment}} since your last checkup!)
  • Asking people if they’re satisfied with a purchase (e.g. “Are you happy with your {{lastitempurchased}}?)

5. Hone Your CTAs

Your CTA is the final email touchpoint readers encounter before they’re whisked away to your landing page, blog, or whatever destination you’ve chosen for them.

As a result, you need to craft a CTA that helps push your viewers that extra little bit so they click through and end up at their intended destination.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

Experiment with different types of CTAs, playing with their wording and placement to maximize click-throughs. Generally, you want to write a CTA that’s action-oriented and specific to the email they’re reading.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

For example, an CTA linking to a blog post about healthy recipes might say “Get 5 Free Healthy Recipes!”, but a discount email might have a CTA saying “Get 40% Off Now!”

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

6. Create a Simple Branded Design

When choosing your email marketing platform, try to pick one that features a variety of templates. The last thing you want to worry about when you’re fussing over your email copy and subject line is how to make your email look nice.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

Take a default template and edit it slightly by adding your logo and changing the colors of buttons, text and other elements to fit your company’s branding guidelines as well as possible. Save this template (or duplicate this email) so you can reuse it in the future and create a consistent experience for your readers.

The 9 Essential Email Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know

7. A/B Test Your Emails

As is the case with every other step of your marketing funnel, extensively testing your emails is a key step to finding success and driving sales.

Make A/B testing the emails in your various drip campaigns a habit, so you’re constantly optimizing for the best results to maximize your email marketing ROI.

Though you can test two drastically different emails, I’d test conservatively so you can come away with specific takeaways for each of your experiments. Testing a single element at a time allows you to see exactly what effect each element is having on your email.

A list of things to A/B test in your email:

  • Subject line
  • CTA text
  • Design/layout
  • Length
  • Copy
  • Sender
  • Types of content

8. Send a Variety of Content

When you’re first getting into email marketing, it’s a good idea to play with a variety of content types to find out what your audience likes best – don’t rely on existing data to make assumptions about the people who sign up for your list.

For example, our SEO-focused social media content drastically outperforms other content when it comes to traffic, but it pales in comparison to deep-dive case studies and growth hacking articles when it comes to email engagement.

Had we taken our existing statistics for granted, we would’ve started sending exclusively social media content, missing out on precious email opens and click-throughs.

So, get a feel for your audience’s engagement. Do they respond best to list posts? Maybe they like receiving video tips, or simple discounts. Whatever it may be, try sending a variety of content early on so you can come to a conclusion that’s statistically significant.

9. Build Your Own List

As tempting as it may be to give into sites that promise to give you large lists of emails for a couple bucks, don’t.

Besides being morally ambiguous, it’s just not worth it. If you think about email marketing as a whole, your goal is to create an engaged group of customers (and prospective customers) who read your emails and, hopefully, buy your products.

Building your own list – from scratch – means every single person on that list is someone who has converted on a list-building form or signed up for your newsletter, which points to them being people who have at least some interest in your business or products.

Put the work into creating your very own list of subscribers, and you’ll be rewarded with higher engagement, more opens, and increased conversions.

Wrapping it up

There you have it: 9 best practices that will help you create a solid email marketing strategy. Whether you’re new to email marketing or are a veteran of the medium, I hope these tips have taught you a new thing or two.

Any cool new email marketing techniques you’ve seen lately? Let me know in the comments below!

11 Sep 16:01

Lead Conversion — 5 Contact Page Tweaks to Help You Convert More Leads

by Niraj Rout

Lead conversion is something every business owner and marketer struggles with, but lead conversion is the endpoint of a long process of building trust through content.

All the content on your website has a single purpose — establishing trust with potential customers.

But the trust dies the minute they see an issue on your contact page.

The whole point of having a contact page is to make sure prospects have both correct contact information and easy access to customer support reps.

In fact, 51% of users believe that thorough contact information is the most important element on any website. Thus, a poor contact page can kill your conversions in a jiffy.

(Learn more powerful lead conversion strategies with the Blue Steele Solutions ebook 13 Steps to a Clear Marketing Strategy — click the button to check it out now).

Lead Conversion Depends on a Good Contact Page

Let’s get one thing straight: If you’re expecting to get any conversions, from simple contacts all the way to high-value sales, you have to first build trust with your potential customers — no one is going to buy from a website they don’t trust.

A faulty contact page with unnecessary, incorrect, or misleading info is not going to go over well with prospects. In fact, 44% of website visitors will bounce off your website (and likely never return) if they don’t get relevant contact information.

If you just felt a surge of anxiety and realized that your contact page is not up to the mark, you don’t have to go through the painful process of an entire makeover for the page. With some smart and cost effective tweaks, you can use the contact page to drive business growth.

So let’s dive into this topic: lead conversion optimization. Here are five contact page tweaks to help your convert more.

1. Get Your Grammar (and Punctuation) Right

Let’s eat dad!

Let’s eat, dad!

Such silly punctuation mistakes can make your brand a laughing stock of the internet world, or at the very least, make you lose trust in the eyes of your customers.

Users might engage with you for cheap laughs, but they are never going to buy from you. The minute you get your commas or P’s and Q’s wrong, 59% of prospects are already running out the door.

To establish contact page credibility, come up with a solid proofreading system that leaves no opening for grammar nazis to attack. If your contact page copy uses jargon and slang to grab attention that’s acceptable, only if you know the rules well and know when (and how) to break them.

Here are few tips on how you can come up with a proofreading system that allows prospects to build trust:

  • Beware homonyms — carefully check words that share the same spelling or When you put your content before your design, your customers are the ones who benefit — learn more.pronunciation but have different meanings. Be extra cautious of words like complement and compliment as they can create confusion and lead prospects to abandon your page.
  • Read it sdrawkcab — Reading what you’ve written backwards can help you see missing words or slight misspellings that you miss when reading normally as your brain fills in the information that it knows is supposed to be there — reading backwards forces you to evaluate what you’ve written as it really is.
  • Check and recheck contact details — It’s the single most important piece of information on your contact page, so you can’t afford to get your contact details wrong. Adding 6 instead of a 9 in your phone number will put a major dent in your lead conversion for the month.
  • Get some fresh eyes — To make sure you didn’t miss anything, ask a colleague or a friend to have a look at the copy. A second set of eyes often sees mistakes right away as your friend has no preconceived notions about what you’ve written.

2. Add Images of People, Not Buildings

Your prospects want to be assured that there is actual human involvement in the sales process. When your contact page has a high degree of ‘Human appeal’, users find a certain sense of comfort and lead conversion increases.

Take out that stock image of the shiny buildings or glittery skylines — it serves no purpose. Instead, add images of people, your team members, and provide short bios. This information helps prospects to find the right person to resolve their query.

By highlighting human presence, prospects will perceive you to be people-centric. When leads see you as a customer support engine that cares, there is a gradual shift in their behavior as well.

The Psychology of Reciprocity encourages prospects to show you the same level of care and generosity, and lead conversion increases.

Zapier, a tool used to integrate web applications, has made a conscious effort to humanize their contact page. A series of questions are asked which help reps in understanding the context of each user’s issue. At the same time, users are able to find the right person to resolve their unique issues.

Lead conversion — example of a tweak to a contact page

3. Create a Roadmap to Improve Lead Conversion

To increase lead conversion on your contact page, provide links to useful information and label each link clearly. Whether it’s self-service tools or active support, make sure your customers can easily find the precise service they need. The design of the page should support this goal, organizing information as clearly and simply as possible.

The idea is to create a roadmap that helps users easily and quickly find all the support solutions at their disposal and to select the option that’s right for their needs.

First, make navigation easy: Consolidate all support options on one page. When all the information is in one place in a concise, clear, obvious organization, the utility of your contact page shoots up (along with your lead conversion!).

Second, keep your active support vigilant and highly responsive. When prospects send emails, your support team needs to be quick in responding to them.

To be on top of things, every support rep should be extensively trained and shown what to do. Use a shared inbox to assign tasks to each rep and respond to queries effortlessly.

Thus, the efficacy of your contact page depends on your website’s usability and your customer support team’s response time. If either of them fails, chances are prospects will not proceed ahead.

Freshbooks, a cloud-based business accounting application, is a great example of how a business can increase the utility of their contact page by keeping everything in one place.

Whether it’s active support or self-serve resources, everything is available on the same page.

Lead conversion — example of a tweak to a contact page

4. Use the Same Brand Elements You Used for Your Homepage

Inconsistency in your branding between your homepage and contact page will slow down prospects and reduce lead conversion rates.

These discrepancies make prospects feel the same way you feel when you walk into a store that looks vastly different inside than it does outside — you feel almost like you’ve been tricked, and you may even turn around and leave. That trust is broken when a lead on your website reaches a page that doesn’t look the way they expected it to.

A homepage is a welcome wagon for users. Establishing branding consistency on every page of your website from the get-go allows prospects to easily move through your website, increasing the probability of lead conversion.

To get you started, here are a few brand elements you need to make sure remain consistent:

  • Color — One of the first elements prospects notice is color. Make sure that you apply the same brand colors to your contact page as you have on your home page. If you can’t use your primary color, at least use a secondary color.
  • Placement of logo — The placement of the logo should remain the same. Even the alignment should not be compromised.
  • Core value offer — Reminding prospects about your core offer is never a bad idea. Use your contact page to re-emphasize your offering, removing any doubts that prospects might have.

Blue Steele Solutions has kept the consistency between its home page and contact page intact. The background is white and the text colors, blue, black and orange, are used on both pages. The re-emphasis of the core offer confirms to leads that they’re in the right place.

Homepage

Contact Page

Lead conversion — example of a tweak to a contact page

5. Make Your Website Responsive

Mobile devices account for nearly 2 of every 3 minutes spent online, and Google has been penalizing non-responsive websites for the last two years (at least).

A responsive website is an absolute necessity in today’s world — you need to make sure every page on your website is mobile responsive.

However, there’s one place where even mobile-responsive websites fail — the contact form. Creating a mobile friendly contact form is critical for lead conversion.

A small screen with a complicated keypad doesn’t make it any easier when filling those long and tedious contact forms, so make sure yours displays well and is as simple as you can possibly make it.

To make it user-friendly, cut the long forms into shorter versions, and include only those fields that are necessary.

Ideally, full name, email address, and one phone number, would suffice. This keeps prospects from losing interest, increasing your chances to convert.

Apart from this, make use of collapsable menus and dropdown lists — they can cut down the time needed to browse through a website.

Check out this example:

Lead conversion — example of a tweak to a contact page

Final Thoughts on Lead Conversion

To get conversions that surpass your expenses, be proactive when designing your website — Do an extensive brainstorming session on what kind of website you need and how will your contact page fit into that picture.

When you’re clear about the objective of your website, you can more clearly define the purpose of your contact page.

For websites that have been around for a while, employing some of the techniques above can be a simple way of increasing lead conversion and ensuring that you’re not missing out on any potential sales.

Increase Lead Conversions, Traffic, and Retention

If you’re serious about increasing lead conversions, website traffic, and customer retention, check out Blue Steele Solution’s ebook Analyze Your Marketing — 13 Steps to a Clear Marketing Strategy.

Far beyond your website, this ebook will help you look at your current marketing holistically, identify problems and opportunities, and create a marketing plan for the future.

09 Sep 18:08

The Top 10 essentials of a contemporary web design

by Expert commentator

Which of these design elements are you using to enhance your web experience and conversion?

If you're launching a new site or refreshing an existing site it's important to ensure your site looks contemporary and appealing. Since website design styles and technologies change so rapidly, can quickly appear dated.

A site that meets your business goals, communicates your key messages and provides a great experience is most important as explained in the Smart Insights guide to improving results from your website. But to design a successful web site, it is also essential to know what trends are emerging and what elements are important to consider. Surely, different web pages are created for different purposes, so they will not, probably, have much in common. However, there will be certain generally used elements that can be added to a webpage to make it more successful.

Here is a checklist of features to consider.

1.Sizeable and Striking Responsive Images

striking responsive images

The visual impact that a web page produces on its visitors is one of the key issues to think about when you are designing a web page, particularly the home page. So, you should choose images carefully in order to catch your visitors' attention at once, because images create strong visual experience and encourage the reader to scroll further. Whether you insert illustrations of your products and services, or whether you want to present your team and your projects, images should be large and qualitative. In addition, web pages with responsive design will allow your images to adjust to various types of screens, so you can be sure that your website will look equally good and you will ensure the best experience for your visitors, no matter what device they are using.

2. Animation and Visual Effects

To add to the visual impression, various visual effects and animation are used. One of the most popular effects is Parallax that creates the feeling of a true immersion, provides an unforgettable experience and makes your visitors want to come back to your site. Moreover, animation effects can be used to present the content of the web page. For instance, Post Carousel not only gives your visitors an opportunity to enjoy browsing your products in a sliding carousel but also saves your precious space on the page

3. Sophisticated and Stunning Typography

Another element to reinforce the visual impact on your visitors is typography. First of all, fonts are used to direct your visitors' attention to a certain text. Secondly, they are applied to emphasize the general design of your web page. Carefully chosen fonts will tie in with the style of your web page, thus making it look more appealing. A lot of contemporary web templates contain a large variety of Google-integrated fonts, so you can select the ones that will best fulfill your needs.

4. Presented Products or Featured Video

Videos as a part of a web page are becoming more and more popular. First of all, they are aimed at those people who prefer getting information while watching videos rather than reading. Secondly, it is possible to save the space on the web page in such a way, because sometimes it is easier to present products or services in a video than to describe them with the help of the text on the web page. Moreover, it is an effective way to tell people about your company in the way you wish them to remember. As an example, take a look at presents Template Monster

 

4. Smart and Speedy Search

When people visit a web page, they are usually looking for some information or goods. Even if your webpage is crafted thoroughly and includes a powerful menu for an easier navigation, an effective search box will facilitate the process of finding appropriate results. This element is particularly useful for those websites that include a huge variety of products or goods. When you add new content, the web page grows, so a search box will promote navigation and increase your visitors' chances of finding both old and new information that they need.

6. Shopping Cart and Pricing Tables

As more and more people do their shopping online, efficient web stores should think about their customers' comfort. A shopping cart is an indispensable element in such cases because they allow visitors to add the goods that they want to purchase to their online cart whenever they want. In addition, pricing tables, which give you a chance to present differences in features of your goods in a simple, but effective way, let your visitors compare prices for different goods, thus making the process of choosing a needed item faster.

7. Controlled Calendar and Appointment Manager

When your company deals with meetings, timetables and appointments, you cannot overestimate online calendars and appointment managers. An effective calendar on a website helps both your visitors and you to plan the time. An appointment manager will let your customers book a meeting with you without leaving your website. This manager will be enormously useful for numerous companies, such as fitness clubs, clinics, beauty salons, art schools, and many more.

8. 'Meet the team' page

If you want to promote your specialists and to present information about your company's team, you will find an option 'Meet the Team' exceptionally useful. It gives you a chance to clearly and logically structure the information about professionals working in your company and to impress your visitors with their achievements. In this case, your readers will develop trust to your team, as they will definitely know who they are working with. You can emphasize your workers' achievements, and your team will not appear to be faceless to the visitors.

9. 'Call to Action' Buttons

It is impossible to imagine a modern web page without such buttons that incite a person to do something. These buttons can be used to encourage visitors to follow a link to find out further information, to subscribe to your website's channel and so on.

10. Stay in Touch: Contact Information and Social Media

To communicate with your visitors regularly and effectively, it is vital to present your contact information in an appropriate way. You can include your phone number, emails, address, and so on. Carefully designed contact information will promote communication. In addition, social media buttons will let your visitors follow you on various social network and share your information quickly, thus attracting new visitors to your website.

To sum up, different elements of contemporary web design are providing effective ways to save the space on the web page, to present the content to the best advantage, and to promote your communication with people.

Helen Miller is a freelance author who is always inspired to write on web-design and web-development up-to-date subjects. She also cooperates with TemplateMonster.com. If you want to be aware of the latest trends in web-design follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.
09 Sep 18:08

DEUTSCHE BANK WARNS: 'The dollar is in trouble'

by Elena Holodny

red warning lights signal siren

The dollar has been sliding since President Donald Trump's inauguration. Since January, it's lost about 11% versus a basket of its peers.

But it doesn't look like the greenback will see a reversal of fortunes anytime soon, according to Deutsche Bank strategist George Saravelos.

"The dollar is in trouble," he argues in a recent note to clients, in part because of a couple of key changes that are negatives for the greenback.

The first change is that market still isn't pricing additional rate hikes from the Fed, which Saravelos calls "zombification."

Crucially, he's not talking about the possibility of a rate hike in 2017. What Saravelos is talking about here is the bigger picture, long-term uncertainty about the Fed's future decisions, which he says is likely to continue.

Currently, expectations are for just one rate hike through September 2018, Bloomberg's World Interest Rate Probability data shows. However, most of the FOMC will be different come 2018, so it's difficult to predict what that new group of people will do in terms of policy.

The second key change is that the drivers of the foreign exchange market are seeing a fundamental shift. Whereas the FX market used to be driven by monetary policy expectations, Saravelos argues it now appears to be driven by an adjustment to flow balances that have accumulated after the last few years of "unconventional" global monetary policy.

americans buying foreign assets

"Part of this imbalance is a structural underweight in European assets, which we have written about in the past," he said. "More broadly however, Americans are hugely underweight in their investment allocations to the rest of the world.

"The easiest way to demonstrate this is by looking at American buying of foreign assets," he added. "Over the last few years Americans have liquidated close to the entirety of their foreign fixed-income portfolio and are likely in the process of reallocating back to the rest of the world. The shrinking in US world relative growth differentials and ongoing political turmoil in the US may have helped catalyse this trend."

Putting those two shifts together, dollar weakness doesn't look like it's going away in the near future.

US Dollar Index

SEE ALSO: America's teacher shortage is leading some states to lower their requirements to become one

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: GARY SHILLING: No one is making impulse buys online

09 Sep 18:06

The 10 Best Networking Apps Every Sales Professional Needs

by Meg Prater

Networking is an important part of the prospecting process. It’s a great way to introduce yourself and your product or service to new audiences in a casual environment.

Networking often takes place at formal events and happy hours, but it also happens when you least expect it -- like standing in line at the airport. What’s important is that you’re always ready to make the most of any encounter with a prospect.

To do that, we’ve rounded up 10 apps guaranteed to pump up your networking skills. From swapping business cards to scheduling that first meeting, these apps have you covered.

The 10 Best Networking Apps for Sales

  1. MightyMeeting
  2. HubSpot CRM
  3. Evernote Scannable
  4. LinkedIn Sales Navigator
  5. Feedly
  6. Quora
  7. Dial-A-Note
  8. Shapr
  9. Mobile CRM
  10. Calendly

1) MightyMeeting

MightyMeeting turns your presentations into an interactive experience. It also enables you to share videos, documents, and presentations anytime, anywhere. Everything is stored safely in the cloud and can be accessed on or offline.

Source: MightyMeeting

So if you’re having a great conversation with a prospect you just met at a conference happy hour and they’re interested in learning more, whip out your smartphone and pull up your latest company video or a quick, three-slide elevator pitch. You’ll look prepared and polished and your prospect will look impressed.

2) HubSpot CRM

Create a task from a contact, company, or deal record within your free HubSpot CRM. Then, set a due date or email reminder. You can also include notes, set your task’s type, or even assign a task to someone else.

Once a task is created, add it to a timeline and track completion on your Tasks Dashboard. Task completion can also be tracked in the Productivity widget of your Sales Dashboard. And, you can create task queues for better organization.

Source: HubSpot

3) Evernote Scannable

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS

Have trouble wrangling business cards after networking events? The free Evernote Scannable app for iPhone and iPad takes the human error out of storing that valuable information.

Use their business card camera to capture a crystal clear image of the business card, and the app will automatically save your prospect’s name, title, company, contact info, card image, and LinkedIn profile in a single contact note.

Source: Evernote

4) LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Sales Navigator uses LinkedIn’s powerful algorithm to provide lead recommendations that are tailored to you and your business. This makes your networking more purposeful and, hopefully, more successful.

Source: LinkedIn

Navigator also integrates with your CRM, syncing daily and keeping your data fresh. And it provides real-time sales updates, alerting you when your champion changes companies, your prospect is mentioned in the news, and more.

You have to upgrade to a LinkedIn Premium account to take advantage of Sales Navigator -- but you can try the first month for free.

5) Feedly

The cardinal sin of networking? Being boring. Feedly is a free news agrigator. It makes it easy to stay up to date on the industry news your prospects care about.

Selling consulting services to new restaurateurs? Set up a feed that populates with the latest food industry news every day. That way, when you’re working the buffet line at a food service event in South Carolina, you can ask your prospect about how that new liquor legislation will affect their business.

Source: Feedly

6) Quora

People come to Quora to ask questions -- a lot of people. In fact, Quora had 100 million active monthly users worldwide in 2016.

Find the questions your prospects are asking when you create a free account. Then, answer those questions to build value, authority, and name recognition with your prospect. And second, follow specific companies or verticals you feel might be warm or hot prospects and follow up with them accordingly.

Source: Quora

7) Dial-A-Note

Say you meet a great prospect at a networking event, but the event isn’t over and you’ve still got more hands to shake. Don’t worry about forgetting or mixing up pertinent information about your contacts. Use Dial-A-Note, a voice-to-CRM solution. Simply speak your notes into your phone and they’ll automatically populate your CRM.

Drop-down menus, check boxes, and other unique fields are instantly filled out and you can get back to meeting more people.

Source: Dial-A-Note

8) Shapr

Shapr transforms the functionality and usability of the dating app, Tinder, into a powerful tool for business professionals. But be warned: Shapr will flag you if you try to sell to people using their app. That being said, it’s still a great way to expand your network, both for your current sales job and your future career. Plus, you never know what future deals might come of it down the line.

How does it work? Shapr will present you with a pool of professionals with similar interests and, just like Tinder, you can swipe left or right to indicate whether you’d like to connect. When it’s a match, you’ll both be notified and you can connect in person over coffee.

Source: Shapr

9) Mobile CRM App

If you haven’t downloaded your CRM’s app onto your phone yet, you’re doubling your workload. Having on-the-go access to your CRM will make entering a new contact into your database quick, easy, and procrastination-proof.

After you grab a prospect’s information at a cocktail hour, take a few minutes while your drink’s being refreshed and enter their contact info, meeting notes, and a follow-up reminder. What’s that? Your drink is ready and so are you.

Don’t have a CRM? HubSpot CRM is free, easy to use, and so much better than spreadsheets. Download it here.

Source: HubSpot

10) Calendly

If you’ve met a prospect who’s really interested in setting up a demo of your product, don’t wait until you’re back at the office to schedule that meeting. Pull up the Calendly app right there and send them a link. They can instantly choose a date and time that works for them and add a meeting reminder on their calendar -- all before you’ve even parted ways.

Source: Calendly

PS: You can also check out HubSpot Meetings. It automatically creates records for new prospects when they book a meeting with you through the tool.

Networking can be a fruitful way for salespeople to expand their network and meet prospective clients in person. These 10 apps will ensure you make a great first impression, all while freeing up more time for the important part -- actually talking to people.

HubSpot Free Sales Training

09 Sep 18:06

Robo advisors are gaining popularity with high-net-worth investors

by MyPrivateBanking

US Investment TypesThe majority of affluent and high-net-worth individuals recognize the potential of robo advisors and automated investment services to add value to their wealth management services.

This is a main finding of MyPrivateBanking’s recent quantitative panel survey report “Investors’ Attitudes towards robo advisors – Evidence from the US and the UK", with insights from 600 affluent and wealthy investors in the US and the UK.

The report analyzes in depth the views and opinions of individual investors with regard to the robo advisor topic. Besides exploring investors’ attitudes towards specific features of online investment platforms, the survey tests brand awareness and the target market’s level of openness towards innovation in this field. In addition to the comprehensive analysis all results are detailed in extensive data appendices.

High-net-worth individuals use online investment tools more than other investors

More than 70% of overall respondents think that such tools can positively influence their wealth manager’s advice and decision-making process and that automated advice potentially speeds up onboarding processes such as registration and account opening, making these processes more efficient and convenient. This underlines how the young and the wealthy are especially showing a great openness, awareness and knowledge about robo advice.

Interestingly, the adoption of automated wealth advice is happening faster in the high-net-worth segment than mass affluent with current usage of online wealth management tools at 43% and 17%, respectively. The report also identifies the major concerns investors have in respect to robo advisors and how the respondents rate the quality of human advice compared to that of robo’s.

UK and US investors are both open to robo advice, but differ in their sensitivity to price

Overall, investors on both sides of the Atlantic show strong similarities in their awareness and openness towards automated / robo advice, which are detailed in the report. Despite the trends both countries have in common, some striking differences were also observed. Among them, this includes the finding that UK investors would pay more for robo (and human-only) advice and in the US, a much higher share of respondents state that they don’t think they will use robo advice tools in the future. The report identifies the price point investors would pay and also the various levels of brand awareness current leading robo advisors have with investors in the US and UK.

Wealth management industry's future will be in automated advisory services

The report provides clear, empirical evidence on why automated advice and robo services are a significant part of every wealth manager’s future. It shows how automation can enhance client satisfaction throughout the different stages of the advisory process and which channels investors like to use to contact their wealth managers. The report also identifies the most important value-added services investors would like to see in a robo advisor tool and to which target segments automated services appeal most.

This 258-page report (48 pages of analysis and commentary plus 210 data chart pages) provides banks, wealth managers, fund managers and robo advisors with the data and analysis they need to make the right decisions on how to best serve affluent and high-net-worth individuals via online investment platforms.

The report tells you all you need to know about the behaviors, attitudes and needs of the wealthy with respect to robo advice in the US and the UK. In addition to exploring investors’ attitudes towards specific features of online investment platforms, the survey tests brand awareness and the level of openness towards innovation in this field. The key findings for each country are presented in the report and assessed for their impact on wealth managers targeting affluent and wealthy US and UK investors.

The report is based on a quantitative panel survey with a total of 600 randomly selected mass affluent, affluent and high-net-worth participants in the UK and the US (300 from each country). All survey data are detailed in the comprehensive appendix to the report, with individual splits by country and further segmentation by criteria such as wealth (amount of investable assets) and age.

The report provides detailed analysis and data-driven insights into the client’s view of robo advice:

  • Levels of awareness regarding robo advisors in different wealth segments
  • Usage of robo advisors and online investment platforms by affluent/HNWIs and characteristics of those users
  • Share of assets that affluent/HNWIs are willing to manage with an online investment tool
  • Expectations of affluent/HNWIs on the length and depth of the registration process during on-boarding for an online investment platform
  • Brand awareness of the leading robo advisors in the US and the UK
  • The level of fees affluent/HNWIs would pay as a % of managed assets for automated online advisory tools
  • Main advantages and disadvantages affluent/HNWIs see in robo advice
  • Technical features that online investment platforms should offer
  • Investment tasks which affluent/HNWIs expect an online advisory platform should offer
  • How affluent/HNWIs interact with their advisor and how they feel about future client-advisor communication channels
  • Satisfaction of affluent/HNWIs in seven key services offered by their wealth manager
  • Four comprehensive data appendices (individual splits by country and further segmented by criteria such as Amount of investable assets and age)

 >>Click here for Report Summary, Table of Contents, Questionnaire (PDF)<<

Here's how you get this exclusive robo advisor research:MyPrivateBanking Report Spread

To provide you with this exclusive report, MyPrivateBanking has partnered with BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, to create The Complete Robo Advisor Research Collection.

If you’re involved in the financial services industry at any level, you simply must understand the paradigm shift caused by robo advisors.

Investors frustrated by mediocre investment performance, high wealth manager fees and deceptive sales techniques are signing up for automated investment accounts at a record pace.

And the robo advisor field is evolving right before our eyes. Firms are figuring out on the fly how to best attract, service and upsell their customers. What lessons are they learning? Who’s doing it best? What threats are traditional wealth managers facing? Where are the opportunities for exponential growth for firms with robo advisor products or models?

The Complete Robo Advisor Research Collection is the ONLY resource that answers all of these questions and more. Click here to learn more about everything that's included in this exclusive research bundle

Join the conversation about this story »

09 Sep 18:05

An Update On How to Share an Update on LinkedIn

by James Potter

Given the recent changes to the LinkedIn interface we thought it was time to update one of our popular blogs on how to share an update on LinkedIn.

Status updates are a great way of keeping in touch with your network, reminding them of what you do without being pushy, and keeping you in the forefront of their minds.

To share an update, article or photo from your desktop you need to go to your homepage and you will see this:

Click in the box above Write and article and Image and this screen will appear:

You can then write your status update in the box. Anything you type into the box will appear to all of the people you are connected with at level one, i.e. the people you have invited to connect or vice versa for them to choose to read. As an example of what you could write here’s one I wrote earlier:

It is worth bearing in mind it automatically starts with your name so in my case “James Potter” so remember to start with “is” or something similar or it will look odd.

The good news is also if someone comments or “likes” your status update it gets shown to all their connections too! And all your connections can also see their comments so it starts a conversation and spreads the news.

Once you have finished writing you then just need to click Post and this is what it will look like:

If you’re connected to 500 people and you do a status message every working day for a month, you will have impressed your value and your message 10,000 times or more, assuming no one interacts, so if people comment or like it it goes to even more exponentially.

You can even to it from your mobile, just open up the app and hit the little box with the pen inside, often bottom or top right (or the speech bubble on older versions), and you are off.

To make it an even richer source of insight about you and what you’re up to you can also include photograph (if what you do is visual this is ideal), a URL / web link, a blog post or an interesting website.

So, if you want to keep in touch with your network, make them aware of what you are up to, the value and range of products, services and expertise you offer start talking to people using your status updates.

09 Sep 18:04

Collaborative Design Is Critical For AI

by Mariya Yao

Collaborative Design In AI Is Criticial Bias Systems Design Thinking

The trope “there’s an app for that” is quickly becoming “there’s an AI for that.” Want to assess the narrative quality of a story? Disney’s got an AI for that. Got a shortage of doctors but still need to treat patients? IBM Watson prescribes the same treatment plan as human physicians 99% of the time. Tired of waiting for George R.R. Martin to finish writing Game of Thrones? Rest easy, because a neural network has done the hard work for him.

But is all this rapid-fire progress good for humanity? Elon Musk, our favorite AI alarmist, recently took down Mark Zuckerberg’s positive outlook on AI, dismissing the latter’s views as “limited”. Whether you’re in Camp Zuck (“AI is awesome”) or Camp Musk (“AI will doom us all”), one fact is clear: with AI touching all aspects of our lives, intelligent technology needs deliberate design in order to reflect and serve human needs and values.

Biased AI Has Unexpected & Severe Consequences

Software applications used by U.S. government agencies for crime litigation and prevention algorithmically generate information that influence human decisions about sentencing, bail, and parole. Some of these programs have been found to erroneously attribute a much higher likelihood of committing further criminal activity to black defendants. The same algorithms also err in attributing much lower risk assessment scores to white defendants.

According to a study from Carnegie Mellon University, Google served targeted ads for getting high-paying jobs (those that pay more than $200,000) much more often to men (1,800 times) than women (just a paltry 300). Whether the discrepancy is the result of advertisers’ preferences or an inadvertent outcome of machine learning (ML) algorithms behind the ad recommendation engine is unclear. The outcome is that a professional landscape that already demonstrates preferential treatment for one gender over another is being reinforced at scale with technology.

In the field of healthcare, AI systems are at risk of producing unreliable insights even i algorithms were perfectly implemented. Underlying healthcare data is driven by social inequalities. Poorer communities lack access to digital healthcare, and thus the systems capturing critical data to inform algorithms. Randomized control trials often exclude groups such as pregnant women, the elderly, or those suffering from other medical complications.

A Princeton University study demonstrated that ML systems inherit human biases found in English language texts. Since language is a reflection of culture and society, our everyday biases inadvertently get picked up in the mathematical models behind natural language processing (NLP) tasks. Failing to carefully review and de-bias such models has real-world consequences. Google’s Perspective API is intended to analyze online conversations and flag “toxic” content, but unintentionally flags non-white entities like names and food as being far more toxic than their white counterparts.

Gender, economic and racial biases in AI have been widely documented over the last few years. With AI also becoming integral in the fields of security, defense and warfare, how do we design systems that don’t backfire?

Mechanisms and manifestos are a start…

AI systems can’t just succeed in completing their core tasks. They must do so without unintentionally harming human society. Designing safe and ethical AI is a monumental challenge, but a critical one to tackle now.

In a joint study, Google DeepMind and The Future of Humanity Institute explored the possibility of AI going rogue. They recommended that AI be designed to have a ”big red button” that can be activated by a human operator to “prevent an AI agent from continuing a harmful sequence of actions.” In practical terms, this red button will be a trigger or a signal that will “trick” the machine to internally make a decision to stop, without recognizing it as a shutdown signal by an external agent.

Meanwhile, the world’s largest association of technical professionals IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) published its General Principles for Ethically Aligned Design covering all types of artificial intelligence and autonomous systems. The document sets a general standard for designers to ensure that AI and autonomous systems 1) do not infringe human rights; 2) that they are transparent to a wide range of stakeholders; 3) that their benefits and associated risks can be extended or minimized; and 4) that accountability for their design and operation is clearly laid out.

…but Collaborative Design Is Critical For Success

Hypothetical fail-safe mechanisms and hopeful manifestos are important, but insufficient to address the myriad of ways that AI systems can go wrong. Creations adopt the biases of their creators. Homogenous development teams, insular thinking, and lack of perspective lie at the root of many of the challenges already manifesting in AI today.

Diversity and user-centered design in technology have never been so important. Luckily, as AI education and tooling becomes more accessible, designers and other domain experts are increasingly empowered to contribute to a field that was previously reserved for academics and a niche community of experts.

Three Ways To Enhance Collaboration In AI

1. Build User-Friendly Products To Collect Better Data For AI

Elaine Lee, and AI Designer at eBay, emphasizes that human input and user generated data are critical for smarter AI. If the products collecting requisite data to power AI systems do not encourage positive engagement, then the data generated from user interactions tend to be incomplete, incorrect, or compromised. In Lee’s words, “We need to design experiences that incentivize engagement and improve AI.”

Meanwhile, Google Design’s Jess Holbrook recommends a 7-step approach to designing human-centered ML systems. He cautions against relying on algorithms to tell you what problems to solve and encourage designers to build systems that enable “co-learning and adaptation” between man and machine as technologies evolve. Holbrook also points out that many legitimate problems do not need ML to be solved successfully.

Collaborating with users seems like a common sense procedure, but few companies go beyond cursory user research and passive behavioral data collection. The next step is to enable a productive, long-term feedback loop so that users of AI systems actively define the functionality and vision of your technology, but also perform important tasks like flagging and minimizing biases.

2. Prioritize Domain Expertise & Business Value Over Algorithms

Michael Schrage, research fellow at MIT Sloan, argues that “strategically speaking, a brilliant data-driven algorithm typically matters less than thoughtful UX design. Thoughtful UX designs can better train machine learning systems to become even smarter.”

In order to develop “thoughtful UX”, you need domain expertise and business value. A common pattern in both academia and industry engineering teams is the propensity to optimize for tactical wins over strategic initiatives. While brilliants minds worry about achieving marginal improvements in competition benchmarks, the nitty gritty issues of productizing and operationalizing AI for real-world use cases is often ignored. Who cares if you can solve a problem with 99% accuracy, if no one needs that problem solved? Or your tool is so arcane, no one is sure what problem it’s trying to solve in the first place?

In working with Fortune 500 enterprises looking to re-invent their workflows with automation and AI, a complaint I commonly hear about promising AI startups is this: “These guys seem really smart and their product has a lot of bells and whistles. But they don’t understand my business.”

3. Empower Human Designers With Machine Intelligence

Designing AI is yet another challenge where human and machine can combine forces for superior results. Software developer, author and inventor Patrick Hebron demonstrates that machine learning can be used to simplify design tools without limiting creativity or removing control from human designers.

Hebron describes several ways ML can transform how people interact with design tools. These include emergent feature sets, design through exploration, design by description, process organization, and conversational interfaces. He believes these approaches can streamline the design process and enable human designers to focus on the creative and imaginative side of the process instead of the technical aspects (i.e., how to use a particular design software). This way, “designers will lead the tool, not the other way around.”

The field of “AI Design” is nascent. We are still figuring out which best practices should be preserved and what new ones need to be invented. Greater access to tools and education mean that experts from all fields and functions can help evolve a field that is traditionally driven by an elite few. With AI’s potentially impact on all aspects of our lives, this collaboration will be essential to developing technology that works for everyone, everyday.

09 Sep 18:04

Owned Content: How to Harness the Power of the Content You Create

by Wendy Marx

Owned content, also known as owned media, is just one part of the puzzle in your PR strategy. An effective strategy also includes earned, shared, and paid media. This post will address how you can most effectively use the content you publish and own to move your brand ahead.

The beautiful thing about owned media is that it puts you in the driver’s seat of your strategy. Is there a particular question that your sales team receives? No problem. Create a blog post that addresses that question. Is there some industry expertise that you want to share? Create an eBook and use that to inspire confidence in your brand.

What is Owned Content?

Content that you own is the content that you create and continue to own throughout its lifetime. This includes your website and every piece of content that you post on your it. For example, this type of content could include:

  • Blog posts
  • SlideShares
  • Infographics
  • Visual content
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Website pages
  • Ebooks
  • White papers
  • Case studies

And the list goes on. There are many other creative possibilities for content creation. This is because owned media is a vital part of anybody’s overall strategy!

Blog posts are some of the best pieces of owned content that you can create. In fact, one study shows that B2B companies who only blog 11 or more times per month receive almost 3.5 times more traffic than companies who blog 0-4 times per month.

One of the best things about owned media is that it never expires. Use it as much as you want, transform it from one media to another (go ahead, turn that blog post into an infographic, or multiple blog posts into an Ebook), and even update it. Your content is yours for as long as it exists.

Done correctly, this content is more than personally published and owned media. It can strategically direct your audience down your funnel and toward an end-goal, such as a purchase decision.

One of the best things about owned media is that it never expires

Let’s look at the most effective ways you can use your owned media to reach your business goals.

10 Sure-Fire Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Owned Content

1. Create a Documented Content Strategy

Heard this one before? While it may sound like a broken record, we still felt the need to include this one — after all, studies show that only 37% of B2B companies have a documented strategy.

A documented content strategy keeps your content creation on track. A strategy helps you to visualize what content assets you have, what you need to create, and how to strategically use your content to its fullest potential. Schedule such details as content creation, publication, and shares on social media.

A strategy without goals is like an empty bag — it will just fall flat. So, create goals for your content, such as increased website traffic or thought leadership. Write down these goals, make sure that your entire team knows what your goals are, and create ways to measure your progress toward these goals.

2. Create Visual Content

Don’t underestimate the value that visuals can bring to your content. Images have an incredible influence on engagement levelst. In fact, researchers in one study found that colored visuals increased people’s willingness to read a piece of content by 80%.

Create content that is visual by nature, such as infographics and SlideShares. Even in non-visual content, such as blog posts and ebooks, include visual graphics that enhance your content.

Use a free visual content creation tool such as Canva to create flawless graphics for your audience. Choose from pre-formatted sizes that make it easy to share on any social network, and use their endless supply of stock photos, elements, and text to enhance your graphic.

Video content is rapidly growing in popularity across all audiences. In fact, when it comes to products, customers reported that they were 4 times more likely to watch a video than read an article — so play on that! Create videos on industry tips and tricks, popular issues that your audience faces, as well as your products and how to use them.

3. Share on Social Media

Social media networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are a great way to reach your audience and direct them back to your website.

The problem that many companies run into is the short life that content has on social media. For example, most content reaches the majority of its audience on Twitter within 3 hours, and on Facebook within 5 hours.

How do you compensate for such a short social media shelf-life? Share your content on your social media networks multiple times. Find out when your audience often takes to social media — what days and times — and post your content during those times.

4. Include in Your Email Marketing Campaigns

According to one study, three quarters of companies view email as either “good” or “excellent” in terms of ROI. Promoting your content in your email campaigns can increase your content’s visibility.

You could send out emails with the specific goal of highlighting your created content. You could also include a few pieces of content to include at the bottom of your other email campaigns. Whatever way you choose to do this, emails are a great way to introduce your audience to new content.

5. Aim for Thought Leadership

Thought leaders are authorities in their industry — ones who audiences look to for insights and opinions on industry matters. Owned media and thought leadership go hand in hand. Content, such as a website, gives you a platform to showcase your industry expertise and build a reputation for thought leadership.

There are various ways to establish thought leadership. First of all, be helpful — answer the questions that trouble your audience. Be the first to provide insightful solutions to the problems that your audience faces.

Be genuine and human — create content that has a voice and draws people into a written conversation. People follow and admire leaders who are authentic — so make sure your writing conveys the real you.

Owned media and thought leadership go hand in hand

6. Showcase User-Generated Content

Encourage your customers to engage with your brand. Create contests with incentives that get your customers to share their stories and even photos of how they use your product or service. Once you have this, it becomes valuable owned media with the power to draw in your audience.

Show your audience how past customers are using and loving your product to make their work easier. This kind of word-of-mouth content gives a nod of approval to your brand from third parties, which is just the kind of recommendation that audiences want.

7. Amplify Peer Content

Create content that draws attention to your peers — other experts in your industry that create amazing content. This builds valuable relationships within your industry — relationships that you can rely on in the future.

Exactly how can you do this? Write a roundup post that links to key content from your peers on a certain subject — consider this one we did on calls to action. Interview fellow experts within your industry, and use those quotes to enhance your content.

This kind of owned media will attract their audience in addition to your own.

8. Address Your Entire Funnel

Many brands make the mistake of focusing too heavily in one area of their funnel — either in the beginning of the buyer’s journey, or more in-depth content that addresses the end of the buyer’s journey.

Instead, try to balance your content creation on all three parts of your funnel — from the initial curiousity of an audience, down to when they’re ready to buy.

Write blog posts that address preliminary questions or problems that your audience has. Consult with your sales team to see what problems potential customers face, and then create content that addresses each one. This could be blog posts, infographics, or videos.

But don’t forget to create content for the bottom part of your funnel. This could include Ebooks, white papers, and case studies that go in-depth into problems and provide proof of industry expertise. This kind of content convinces those readers who are on the verge of a purchase decision that you are the brand to trust.

9. Be Consistent

Consistency is a key component of effective content creation — if your audience gets bored waiting by their inbox, you might run the risk of their moving on to another brand’s content.

Create a regular schedule of content publication within your content strategy. As we mentioned before, companies find the most success in posting 11 or more times per month — so start scheduling content publication around twice a week to hit that goal.

10. Go Out with a Strategic Call to Action

Content without a call to action is a dead-end for your strategy. Make sure your audience knows how to take the next step from passive reader to engaged follower.

Use language within your calls to action that motivates your audience and creates a feeling of anticipation. For example, Last Chance! Download Your Free Copy creates a sense of urgency, and Sign Up for Our Free Email Newsletter conveys the value behind the offer.

Everything from language to size to color matters when you create a call to action. So research the best ways to create calls to action, and see the powerful results you can get.

Key Points to Remember…

  • Attract your audience with visual content such as graphics, videos, and infographics
  • Address every stage of your funnel within your content
  • Share your content at various intervals on social media to get traffic back to your website
  • Use motivational calls to action to wrap up your content and show your audience their next step

Start planning today on how you can incorporate owned content into your overall PR strategy.

09 Sep 18:03

How to Use Sales Intelligence to Win More Deals

by jingcong@socedo.com (Jincong Zhao)

When engaging with a prospect, every bit of information helps. Unfortunately, sales reps rarely have the time or resources to scour the web and find all the informational nuggets valuable to the deal. In addition, modern purchase decisions are generally made by a buying committee -- so reps need to do the additional work of mapping out the key stakeholders within an organization and understanding the needs of each person to drive a deal forward.

But thanks to the rapid innovations in information processing, sales reps can now get actionable, real-time insights on the people they sell to.

To make this data truly useful and actionable for salespeople, sales intelligence should meet three criteria.

Sales Intelligence Criteria

1) Uses a Variety of Sources

Most sales organizations are familiar with the concept of intent data. A rep may look at a lead’s activity log to see what web pages a lead has visited on the seller’s website to see what stage of the buying cycle a lead is in. Engagement data from actions taken on your website or with your marketing emails is known as first party data.

Unfortunately, most sales reps aren’t using enough sales intelligence. More importantly, their sales intelligence isn’t coming from enough sources.

Buying signals can come from many places online and offline:

Hubspot_2.png

New software automatically gathers data from many sources and delivers buying signals to sales reps -- without interrupting their day-to-day routine.

There are several data enrichment companies that help sales organizations identify which accounts might be good targets and what topics they are showing interest in. There are two main ways of gathering data:

  • Crawling websites and social networks to identify key events that may indicate buying interest from certain companies
  • Analyzing the content consumption patterns of people on certain websites

For example, some data providers can crawl news sources -- news sites, financial filings, and public pages on social media networks -- to look for buying signals like key executive hires, new offices, product launches, or rounds of funding.

Companies that may be good targets will be flagged automatically, and their relevant updates will be shown in a feed.

This helps reps surface accounts who may be receptive to their outreach and gives them a reason to reach out. Some of these solutions can also identify new contacts within each account who fit the seller’s buyer personas.

Other data providers can deliver a list of accounts who are showing surging interest in a salesperson’s product category. These data providers use cookie data on websites or tags on devices (i.e. tablets, smartphones) to figure out which IP addresses or devices are hitting certain web pages. They scan the content of the web pages to determine the primary topic of each piece of content (i.e. “networking equipment”), and use reverse-IP lookup to determine the company a given IP address belongs to.

These data providers have developed algorithms to determine when a company is showing a greater than normal interest in a certain topic or product category.

However, while account level insights can grease the wheels of the sales process, reps still need to engage with individuals within these companies. This is where individual, contact-level intent data comes into play.

Contact-level intent data can come from three sources:

  • Prospects who engage with your company directly by visiting your website, downloading your content, or opening your emails. However, most buyers are not identifying themselves or leaving their contact information in the early stages of a buying cycle.
  • Sites that require users to register in order to view in-depth content on specific business or technology topics. BrightTalk and TechTarget are sites that fit this category. These places can provide strong buying signals, but volume tends to be low since people must come to these sites and register.
  • Social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Quora, where buyers engage with brands, talk about professional conferences and events, and share content from industry influencers.

The advantage of getting intent data from social networks is twofold: The information is public, and you can gather buying signals on a much wider set of people. There are 2.1 billion search queries every day on Twitter alone.

There’s technology available today that can analyze activities on social networks in real-time, connect people’s social profiles to their professional identities, and provide real-time insights into the topics and products they are interested in.

Actions taken on social media that shine a light on a prospect’s interests and pain points include:

  • Mentions of specific topics or pain points
  • Engagement or mentions of influencers or complementary companies
  • Hashtags for upcoming conferences in your industry
  • Follows, mentions, and replies to the Twitter handles of your company, executives, or salespeople
  • Follow, mentions, and replies to your competition

2) Organized for context and accessibility

At this point, only 34% of sales leaders can seamlessly prioritize sellers’ engagement activities in a data-driven way.

To drive meaningful actions, sales intelligence should be integrated into a sales engagement platform or CRM. While only 25% of sales leaders use a sales engagement platform today, 77% see a significant value in having a single sales platform for automating communication, prioritizing activities, capturing data, and surfacing insights.

The other important aspect of making sales intelligence useful for sales reps is to give it context. Intent data should be categorized by the stage of the buyer’s journey it maps to. Salespeople should also be provided with resources or scripts to engage with leads no matter what action they take.

3) Available in real-time

In many cases, the first rep who contacts a prospect is the one who wins the deal. Most reps also know that company needs can change at a moment -- a prospect can go for months without needing anything and then suddenly start to shop for a solution to fix an immediate problem.

This means that in order for sales intelligence to be useful, the information needs to be in real-time.

Buying signals collected from social networks tend to be extremely timely. By integrating intent-based insights from social networks into a CRM system or a sales engagement platform, your sales reps can take actions right away and reach their prospects sooner.

Sales take time. While your salespeople will be working with different prospects day-to-day, following up with them over several weeks or months, your sales intelligence tool should never stop gathering insights and surfacing relevant signals that can help reps identify new opportunities and drive deals forward.

By collecting data from the broader web and social networks and surfacing insights to your sales people at the right time, you will greatly improve their productivity and help them engage the right people and close more deals.

HubSpot Free Sales Training

09 Sep 18:03

Truth or Myth: Engage Buyers at the End of the Sales Process

by Alex Hisaka
  • proof-month-sales-cycle-engage

We’ve heard it time and again: today’s buyers would rather go through most of the buying cycle on their own than deal with a salesperson. Plenty of statistics back up this assumption. Using the Internet to access just about any information imaginable is one of the main reasons cited. But there’s more to this theory than meets the eye.

Given these modern buyer preferences, sales pros should just wait to engage buyers at the end of the sales process, right?

Wrong. That’s a big, fat myth.

Dig a bit deeper and you’ll conclude that buyers are not erasing salespeople from the equation just because the Internet makes it easier to conduct research. It appears that buyers are also dissatisfied with the quality of their interactions with sales professionals. In other words, why bother engaging with sales reps who don’t provide value above and beyond the content that’s already available?  

Sure, buyers may be two-thirds of the way through the sales cycle by the time they engage with a salesperson, but they expect a personalized experience throughout the sales cycle. By engaging throughout the sales cycle, you can position yourself as a trusted expert early, allowing you to stay top of mind.

The good news is that it’s in your hands to upend the perception that sales pros should wait to engage. In fact, buyers will appreciate you doing so because access to all that information via the Internet can actually complicate their research and decision-making process.

Here’s how to take control of the narrative to put this myth to bed and give buyers the simplified process they crave.

Create Buyer Dossiers

Many buyers feel that sales reps do not understand their business well enough to be truly helpful. Prove them wrong by gathering all the background information in detailed dossiers. Because this will be a time-intensive (but worthwhile) exercise, start by creating dossiers for just your high-value prospects.

To develop the dossiers, conduct research to uncover your prospects’ specifics pains, challenges, and goals. Keep in mind that sticking with the status quo is often your biggest hurdle to overcome, so look for clues as to potential barriers to purchase.

Take a multi-dimensional approach by mapping your sales prospect’s concerns and priorities to their companies’ strategic priorities. Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal, including social networks, company websites, and people in your extended network who are connected in some way to your target account.

Configure real-time alerts on LinkedIn and other social networks about these potential buyers to stay in tune with their buying journey, milestones, and obstacles to purchase.

Once complete, these information-rich, “top secret” files will be your go-to resource for all the nitty-gritty on what matters most. Or in other words, precisely what your prospects want you to understand and focus on.

Customize Your Solution for the Buyer

The next step is determining all the ways your solution can help these prospects overcome their challenges and achieve their objectives. After all, that’s a critical part of what they are trying to understand during the buying process. Instead of making them work hard to figure this out, do all the legwork for them and you’ll be providing supreme value.

Calling upon the information you’ve gathered in their dossier, document specifically how your solution addresses each strategic priority and how you can overcome each obstacle to purchase. Take into account the prospect’s unique circumstances as you explore all the ways to make your solution a perfect fit for them and their organization. If possible, go a step further to calculate how the use of your solution will either save the prospect’s company money or help it generate more revenue.

Prove Your Value as a Trusted Advisor

Now it’s time to put all your knowledge and insights to good use. If you are already connected in some way with the prospect, reach out. Make it clear you’ve done your homework, and entice them to respond by hinting at the fact that you know a way to help them achieve their goals.

Remember that your prospect might not yet be convinced that their pain is significant enough to warrant a change. Even if they think a change is needed, they may feel something is standing in the way of them pursuing the change. Keep this in mind as you plan your outreach strategy and craft your messages to fully prove your value.

If you are not yet connected to the buyer, capitalize on relevant opportunities to demonstrate your understanding of their situation and priorities. These chances might come in the form of joining online or in-person discussions where the buyer is present. Or it may be that you comment on and share their posts with your network. Whenever it makes sense, ask thought-provoking questions that give the buyer pause. Your main focus is to demonstrate your value and credibility by sharing relevant content and insights. Do this well and your top prospects will welcome the opportunity to further engage with you and tap your expertise as a trusted advisor.

Throughout this process, take a nurturing approach. In other words, don’t try to force a conversation or a timeline on your prospects. Put in the time to establish and build a trusting relationship and you’ll be well rewarded in the end.

Sales ROI shouldn’t be a mystery. Download “Proof Positive: How to Easily Measure and Maximize Sales ROI.”

      
09 Sep 18:03

7 Creative LinkedIn Summary Examples to Help You Craft Your Own

by afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost)

Writing a LinkedIn summary is incredibly difficult -- for everyone, but especially for salespeople. You’re not targeting recruiters and hiring managers; you’re appealing to buyers. That means on top of finding an interesting and genuine way to describe your professional background, you must also come across as a subject matter expert.

If you need some inspiration, good news. These seven LinkedIn summary examples will help you find the right words.

LinkedIn Summary Examples for Salespeople

1) Demonstrate Your Passion

adam.png

Adam Buchbinder, a salesperson at Listenwise, draws potential customers in by describing his enthusiasm for “improving listening skills and narrowing educational disparities” -- two goals they probably care highly about, too.

His next line tells prospects he’s interested in learning their needs, not just selling them. Then Buchbinder establishes his expertise.

Try it yourself: Describe the most rewarding aspect of your job, whether that’s helping small businesses go mobile or making corporations more efficient. Next, highlight why you’re qualified. How many people or companies have you worked with? What are their average results? Which high-level problems are you well-equipped to solve?

2) Show Some Personality

Dan-Sally-LinkedIn.png

HubSpot inbound marketing specialist Dan Sally shows his personality in his summary. The detail about his previous life as a stand up comedian is intriguing, and the line about “realizing his children didn’t like starving” is funny and relatable.

Sally gets more serious in the second section, highlighting his impressive track record at HubSpot.

Try it yourself: Begin your summary with an unexpected, interesting fact about yourself. In your next paragraph, tie it into your sales career.

For example, you might write, “I was the third runner-up of the National Spelling Bee in 1997. (You better believe the spelling of ‘euonym’ is now etched into my memory.) These days, I use my innate desire to learn to help customers."

3) Make Yourself Seem Approachable

Fernando Silva.png

Although it might be a bit untraditional to mention your personal hobbies on your LinkedIn profile, it’s a good way to make yourself more human off the bat. A prospect reading Wistia solutions associate Fernando Silva’s summary might think, “Oh, I also love to be outdoors.” They’ll immediately feel more connected to him.

Try it yourself: List a few of the things you like to do in your free time (steering clear of anything controversial, of course). Then explain why you chose your current role and how your customers derive value.

4) Engage Prospects

jonah-silberg.png

Wistia account executive Jonah Silberg opens with his mission: Enabling businesses to use video in their marketing strategy. His next two sentences helps you get to know him on a personal level.

The summary is short enough readers are guaranteed to finish it -- but Silberg makes every line count. He makes you interested in learning more about him.

Try it yourself: In the simplest words possible, state how your company makes its customers’ lives easier, better, more enjoyable, etc. Then reveal something about your background (“I was born in Spain and raised in Texas,” “I’ve lived in Chicago my entire life,” “My hometown boasts the largest Beanie Babies museum in the world”) and end with “Always,” “Constantly,” or “Frequently” followed by your favorite thing to do (“Always reading,” “Constantly cracking dad jokes,” “Frequently juggling.”)

5) Intrigue Your Readers

linkedin-summary-examples.png

Raphael Parker, head of outreach at Segment.com, uses the same formula as Silberg -- but in reverse. He begins with three of his former jobs, which immediately tells you he’s (already) had an interesting career. Parker next tells you what he’s currently up to.

Try it yourself: List your former jobs. If you’ve always been in sales, get creative. Did you ever have a lemonade stand as a child? Were you a camp counselor as a teenager? What was your college gig?

For example, you might write “Ex-lemonade stand CEO, CMO, and COO; ex-juggler; ex-college tour guide. Currently helping prospective home owners in Arizona find their next dream place to live. (And still juggling when asked nicely.)"

6) Give a 360-View of You, Your Role, and Your Company

Micah-Day.png
Head of The Muse’s South and Midwest sales Michah Day’s LinkedIn summary showcases her passion and enthusiasm for the role. She highlights her main responsibilities and values, tells the reader why she’s proud to work at The Muse and what sets the business apart, and lists some fun facts about herself.

Try it yourself: Explain why you’re so fired up about coming into work each day. What excites you? Why do you love your company? What makes your product, culture, and/or team different from your competitors? Conclude with four or five personal tidbits about yourself.

7) Win Immediate Credibility

Allison_Zia___LinkedIn.png

Allison Zia, a sales and operations specialist at McMaster-Carr and grad student at University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, earns instant credibility with her LinkedIn summary.

She starts with a bold statement: “I like to solve problems.” Zia proves it with multiple examples from her career, then spotlights her specialities. Finally, she describes a few of her interests.

Try it yourself: Use a short, impactful one-liner to highlight why you’re successful or what you’re best at. Give two to four examples of how this skill or desire has manifested itself throughout your life. Discuss your areas of expertise, then wrap it up with your favorite topics of discussion.

With these LinkedIn summaries to draw on, you should have plenty of ideas and inspiration for your own description. Make it personal, unique, and engaging -- and prospects will feel like they know you already.

HubSpot CRM

09 Sep 18:03

Tips for Email Success in the Engagement Economy

by kniemisto

There’s no doubt that email is critical for B2B marketing—in fact, it’s often rated the top channel in industry surveys.

But when it comes to the Engagement Economy, the B2B email playbook is woefully behind. Email is primarily a 1-way channel for outbound marketing, rather than a 2-way channel for engagement marketing. Most companies don’t encourage engagement in an email, and many companies downright prevent engagement (e.g., sending the email from a “no reply”)!

For comparison, consider the way you ask for 2-way interactions on other channels:

  • When you blog, you ask for comments.
  • When you post on social media, you ask for replies.
  • When you run a webinar, you encourage real-time questions.
  • When visitors come to your website, you ask them to talk via live chat.

In all these channels, you open the door to engagement by asking buyers to engage. So why do very few B2B email programs encourage customers to respond, give feedback, and start a conversation? The answer: “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”

So how do you start to transition from a 1-way email sending program to a 2-way email engagement program?

Luckily that change doesn’t require a complete overhaul. You already have an excellent database, tons of intelligence on your leads and customers, and you already know how to tailor and target messages for your audience. Now you just need to go from being a great sender of email to also being a great receiver of email.

In this blog, I’ll give you three email marketing tactics to help you make your email marketing successful into the Engagement Economy.

1.) Ask for Replies

When you write a personal email to engage a colleague or friend, you ask them to respond. Sales people do this as well in their 1-to-1 outreach. So why should a marketing email be any different? Can you formulate your CTA in a question and directly elicit a reply? If a customer or prospect wants to engage with you, isn’t clicking the reply button in their email client the easiest possible buyer experience?

This tactic presents some challenges in routing those responses to the right person and tracking responses for campaign analytics and reporting. But, if enabling engagement makes your buyer experience better, these are problems worth solving. There are a variety of tools, like Siftrock, that can help you manage and measure email replies at scale across diverse programs.

It doesn’t mean that 100% of your emails should have “reply” as the CTA, but this can be a great tactic to drive engagement at certain times in the buyer’s journey. As a bonus when people do reply, you’ll also be boosting your deliverability—receiving mail servers love engagement, just like buyers.

2.) Humanize Your Formatting

If I’m asking a question, I want you to engage. I don’t need a lot of heavy formatting, graphics, or large CTA buttons. In this area, marketing can borrow a page from the outbound sales playbook and make emails more straightforward and conversational. Emails that feel like a human speaking to another human, instead of marketer-to-target, will drive more engagement.

Here’s a great example from Uberflip:

Uberflip Email Marketing Example

It feels like the business wants to engage with me. There’s not much formatting and no crazy CTA buttons. It just reads like a message from one human to another.

3.)  Humanize The “From” Address

We already know that sending from a “no-reply” alias is bad for deliverability and sends a bad message to customers. Fortunately, that practice is mostly dead in B2B.

Sending from a general marketing@ or newsletters@ alias is better, but even if it’s monitored, it’s not likely the most inviting setup for a response. When the from address is human, people are much more inclined to respond naturally. Take for instance this email for the Marketo Summit VIP event. It’s sent from Kevin Lau, a real person. It includes his email signature, and as the reader, I feel like I have the option to reply with questions or to engage.

Marketo Example of Email Marketing

Sending from a single person’s real alias is not always feasible at scale. But, there are other options to humanize your from address:

  • Send on behalf of reps/account owners.
  • Send from a “spokesperson” alias that is managed by a team.
  • Send from an alternate alias for a CXO that is operated by a team.
  • Send from program owner (e.g., webinar emails come from the webinar manager).

Choosing the right format depends on both what will be ideal for the buyer experience and what your organization can reasonably manage.

Wrap Up

Transitioning email into a channel for engagement marketing will create a better customer experience and drive better results for marketers. B2B marketers who don’t make this change will likely find customers tuning out of opting out at higher rates. As Marketo CEO, Steve Lucas points out, marketers “need to ‘engage with’ and not ‘market to’ their buyers” in the Engagement Economy. Email is no exception.

The transition requires slight mindset shift to go from thinking about email as a 1-way channel to a 2-way channel. But luckily this doesn’t take a massive overhaul of your tech or systems, just a handful of simple tactics can start to move the needle.
How are you adjusting your email programs for the engagement economy? What strategies and tactics are working best for your business?

The post Tips for Email Success in the Engagement Economy appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

09 Sep 18:02

Does Your Marketing Technology Stack Match Your Buyer’s Journey?

by Matt Ellis

tomrugg / Pixabay

You’ve spent countless hours and dollars (well, the dollars aren’t countless to the finance team) to build the marketing technology stack that perfectly fits your organization’s needs. You researched all the available technologies, how they integrate with one another, and the effort needed to implement new systems. You talked with both Marketing and Sales to see how these platforms would improve their day-to-day lives and bring the two teams closer together.

But have you thought about how your marketing technology stack aligns to your buyer’s journey? In the end, all of these platforms should be serving the ultimate purpose of helping you understand your buyers and meet their needs. However, many organizations can lose sight of this end goal when going through the process of building their marketing technology stack. With all of the attention focused on upgrading processes, integrating systems, and training users, the most important piece of the puzzled—the buyer—can get lost in the shuffle.

Today’s buyer is more well-informed and knowledgeable about their needs and the solutions that exist to meet those needs than ever before. And they don’t trust that sellers know how to speak their language. According to SiriusDecisions, 82% of decision-makers don’t think sellers are prepared when they meet. Being unprepared can be the result of a handful of things: improper training, difficult-to-find content, no quick access to important industry and organization news, and an inability to truly understand the buyer’s needs before meeting with them. The best solution to this problem is to leverage technological solutions that prepare sellers to interact with buyers at every stage of their journey.

From the first interaction to the last (hopefully the signing of the dotted line) a piece of your marketing technology stack will be instrumental in ensuring your buyer feels like you understand their needs. Syncing those solutions up with the buyer’s journey will position your team for success and prevent them from falling through the cracks.

A marketing technology stack that is aligned to the buyer’s journey will follow a logical progression of capturing the right information about the buyer and funneling that information to the right teams at the right time. Important information such as what content resonated with the buyer will reveal insights that help sellers begin conversations on a deeper level and immediately get to the heart of the matter.

On the flip side, a properly aligned marketing technology stack will provide Sales with all the tools they need to prepare for their interactions with buyers. The technology stack should be properly integrated to provide sellers with all of the relevant information they need in the systems they work in the most. Product updates, industry changes, competitor info, and anything else that would help a seller do their job should be available at all stages of the buyer’s journey.

When you are thinking about how your marketing technology stack is structured, don’t just consider internal implications. Take the time to think about how each solution within your marketing technology stack is positioned to help you meet your buyers’ needs.

09 Sep 18:01

How to Use Sales Intelligence to Win More Deals

by jingcong@socedo.com (Jincong Zhao)

When engaging with a prospect, every bit of information helps. Unfortunately, sales reps rarely have the time or resources to scour the web and find all the informational nuggets valuable to the deal. In addition, modern purchase decisions are generally made by a buying committee -- so reps need to do the additional work of mapping out the key stakeholders within an organization and understanding the needs of each person to drive a deal forward.

But thanks to the rapid innovations in information processing, sales reps can now get actionable, real-time insights on the people they sell to.

To make this data truly useful and actionable for salespeople, sales intelligence should meet three criteria.

Sales Intelligence Criteria

1) Uses a Variety of Sources

Most sales organizations are familiar with the concept of intent data. A rep may look at a lead’s activity log to see what web pages a lead has visited on the seller’s website to see what stage of the buying cycle a lead is in. Engagement data from actions taken on your website or with your marketing emails is known as first party data.

Unfortunately, most sales reps aren’t using enough sales intelligence. More importantly, their sales intelligence isn’t coming from enough sources.

Buying signals can come from many places online and offline:

Hubspot_2.png

New software automatically gathers data from many sources and delivers buying signals to sales reps -- without interrupting their day-to-day routine.

There are several data enrichment companies that help sales organizations identify which accounts might be good targets and what topics they are showing interest in. There are two main ways of gathering data:

  • Crawling websites and social networks to identify key events that may indicate buying interest from certain companies
  • Analyzing the content consumption patterns of people on certain websites

For example, some data providers can crawl news sources -- news sites, financial filings, and public pages on social media networks -- to look for buying signals like key executive hires, new offices, product launches, or rounds of funding.

Companies that may be good targets will be flagged automatically, and their relevant updates will be shown in a feed.

This helps reps surface accounts who may be receptive to their outreach and gives them a reason to reach out. Some of these solutions can also identify new contacts within each account who fit the seller’s buyer personas.

Other data providers can deliver a list of accounts who are showing surging interest in a salesperson’s product category. These data providers use cookie data on websites or tags on devices (i.e. tablets, smartphones) to figure out which IP addresses or devices are hitting certain web pages. They scan the content of the web pages to determine the primary topic of each piece of content (i.e. “networking equipment”), and use reverse-IP lookup to determine the company a given IP address belongs to.

These data providers have developed algorithms to determine when a company is showing a greater than normal interest in a certain topic or product category.

However, while account level insights can grease the wheels of the sales process, reps still need to engage with individuals within these companies. This is where individual, contact-level intent data comes into play.

Contact-level intent data can come from three sources:

  • Prospects who engage with your company directly by visiting your website, downloading your content, or opening your emails. However, most buyers are not identifying themselves or leaving their contact information in the early stages of a buying cycle.
  • Sites that require users to register in order to view in-depth content on specific business or technology topics. BrightTalk and TechTarget are sites that fit this category. These places can provide strong buying signals, but volume tends to be low since people must come to these sites and register.
  • Social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Quora, where buyers engage with brands, talk about professional conferences and events, and share content from industry influencers.

The advantage of getting intent data from social networks is twofold: The information is public, and you can gather buying signals on a much wider set of people. There are 2.1 billion search queries every day on Twitter alone.

There’s technology available today that can analyze activities on social networks in real-time, connect people’s social profiles to their professional identities, and provide real-time insights into the topics and products they are interested in.

Actions taken on social media that shine a light on a prospect’s interests and pain points include:

  • Mentions of specific topics or pain points
  • Engagement or mentions of influencers or complementary companies
  • Hashtags for upcoming conferences in your industry
  • Follows, mentions, and replies to the Twitter handles of your company, executives, or salespeople
  • Follow, mentions, and replies to your competition

2) Organized for context and accessibility

At this point, only 34% of sales leaders can seamlessly prioritize sellers’ engagement activities in a data-driven way.

To drive meaningful actions, sales intelligence should be integrated into a sales engagement platform or CRM. While only 25% of sales leaders use a sales engagement platform today, 77% see a significant value in having a single sales platform for automating communication, prioritizing activities, capturing data, and surfacing insights.

The other important aspect of making sales intelligence useful for sales reps is to give it context. Intent data should be categorized by the stage of the buyer’s journey it maps to. Salespeople should also be provided with resources or scripts to engage with leads no matter what action they take.

3) Available in real-time

In many cases, the first rep who contacts a prospect is the one who wins the deal. Most reps also know that company needs can change at a moment -- a prospect can go for months without needing anything and then suddenly start to shop for a solution to fix an immediate problem.

This means that in order for sales intelligence to be useful, the information needs to be in real-time.

Buying signals collected from social networks tend to be extremely timely. By integrating intent-based insights from social networks into a CRM system or a sales engagement platform, your sales reps can take actions right away and reach their prospects sooner.

Sales take time. While your salespeople will be working with different prospects day-to-day, following up with them over several weeks or months, your sales intelligence tool should never stop gathering insights and surfacing relevant signals that can help reps identify new opportunities and drive deals forward.

By collecting data from the broader web and social networks and surfacing insights to your sales people at the right time, you will greatly improve their productivity and help them engage the right people and close more deals.

HubSpot CRM

09 Sep 18:01

Partner Enablement Guide: How to Enable Your Partners in the Most Effective Ways

by Patrick Bresnahan

Growing your firm using a network of partners is a tried and true method to grow with minimal cost. Partner relationships are fragile compared to hiring a traditional salesforce. After all, partners do not have long term investments and agreements used in the franchise world. If a partner is discontent or sees a more valuable opportunity elsewhere, your program may start to erode.

Set The Foundation For An Effective Partner Program: Vision

Whether you are looking to grow your current partner program or start a new program, vision is the critical foundation. For the best results, your vision sets your program apart from others. Remember that your partners always have the option to leave the program or make it a low priority.

What Is Your Vision For The Firm?

In 3-5 years, how will your company transform as a result of interacting with your partners? Your vision will likely include product, financial measures and partner engagement. For example our software product will grow new capabilities from an app marketplace, grow 10% in revenue annually and engage partners in an annual conference. This long term vision will then inform your next steps on how to design the details of your program.

Tip: Minimize the use of vague terminology and feel-good phrases that could be used by anyone in your industry. Your vision should be distinctive.

How Do You Align With Your Partner’s Vision?

Partners come in different shapes and sizes, so it will be difficult to appeal to all of them. Rather than guess what your potential partners want from the program, go out and talk to them. The tools and techniques of the lean movement can be helpful here. To prepare for the discussions, use resources such as Lean Customer Development: Building Products Your Customers Will Buy by Cindy Alvarez. For example, a small firm may have a limited brand presence in the market. In that case, a national brand may attract by partners eager to enhance their reputation by association.

Tip: Your research should cover two distinct segments – companies that already participate in a partner program and non-partners who might fit your plan based on other criteria.

Ideas From Industry Leaders

Two technology giants are well known for their successful partner programs. Let’s explore those programs in depth to identify how the firms have developed these programs over time. While both of these examples come from the software industry, the examples can be transferred to other industries.

Salesforce.com Case Study

Salesforce.com has invested heavily in growing through partners. Consider the different ways that the firm engages partners to grow together:

  • Marketing and Lead Generation. Through the Salesforce App Exchange website, Salesforce.com partners receive leads from prospects who are looking for help with Salesforce products. The platform also includes the capability for clients to leave reviews about their experience.
  • Salesforce has a large catalog of certification programs covering different job roles such as developer, administrators, and architects. These certifications enable partners to deliver projects with confidence.
  • Partners have several avenues to connect with each other. The annual Salesforce conference in California draws over 100,000 attendees and includes a variety of programs dedicated to partners. Also, the company has an online community
  • Product Enhancements. Salesforce partners and software companies have the opportunity to create custom software apps such as Mailchimp for Salesforce (email marketing) and Docusign for Salesforce (an e-Signature service).

As with any other business strategy, a deep commitment to partners does require some trade-offs. For example, there is a constant concern about competing with partners. For instance, Venturebeat pointed out that Salesforce is competing against its analytics partners. If you are perceived to be directly competing against partners, that move does not support partner enablement.

The Microsoft Approach to Partners

Microsoft’s approach to partners has commonalities with Salesforce and distinct elements. In contrast to Salesforce, which is focused on the business market, Microsoft sells to companies and individuals. In the past, Microsoft largely relied on retailers to sell products such as Office. Microsoft enables partners to become successful using several methods. For the end customer, working with a partner often makes sense in cases where configuration, consulting and other support are needed to obtain the most value from the products.

  • Recognize Successful Partners. The need for recognition, especially by peers who understand your achievement, is practically universal. Microsoft has capitalized on this need by offering an extensive award program. For example, Microsoft offers several types of partner awards such as Country Partner of the Year Ward, Public Sector Awards, and Competency Based Awards. Individuals can also seek out the “MVP” (Microsoft Most Valuable Professional). Many Microsoft partners promote these awards on their websites and other materials.
  • Focused Online Communities. An online community of Microsoft enthusiasts has some value. For partners, there is, even more, value in specialized groups for market research and prospecting. For example, if a partner focuses on Microsoft Project then joining a group like Microsoft Project User Group would be worthwhile.
  • Technical Support. Microsoft partners rightly take pride in their technical knowledge. However, enabling partners to thrive means offers technical help. At this time, Microsoft enables partners by supporting Dynamics, Office 365 and Azure.
  • Gamify Certification Training. Signing up to earn yet another technical certification may not be appealing. What if there was a way to encourage your partners to do just that? Microsoft’s partner levels (g., Silver and Gold) offer one way to do that. After all, if your partner earns silver and sees gold next on the list, they are likely to keep on engaging. This ladder of certifications is also a way to help partners stand out from each other in the marketplace.

Introducing The Partner Toolbox: Ways To Enable Your Partners’ Growth

With the groundwork in place, we can turn our attention to the tactics you can use to enable partners to become more successful.

1. Sell The Benefits of The Partner Program

Explain how your partner program drives positive business results for the partners. Once again, Microsoft’s approach is instructive to consider. Their case studies library shows numerous examples of partner companies earning more. For example, CRM Partners grew organically and by acquisition by focusing on Microsoft partners. The business case for joining a partner program may be clear in the abstract, but it is much more valuable to specify the details. Periodically interviewing partners for case studies is an excellent way to keep your partner program grounded in reality.

2. Seek Feedback and Act On It

Many of the world’s leading companies carry out annual employment engagement surveys, and the same process adds value to partners. This is an advanced strategy to use only after your partner program has been underway for at least one year. Use a combination of quantitative measures (e.g., on a score of 1-5, how satisfied are you with Acme’s partner program?) and qualitative measures (e.g., “What aspect of working with us is most frustrating for you?”). For survey methodologies, look into adapting proven systems like Net Promoter Score. Once you receive the results, identify one or two ways to improve the partner experience.

Tip: Offering a small incentive such as a draw for an Amazon.com gift card is an excellent way to encourage your partners to complete the survey.

3. Marketing

You might assume that channel partners will do all the heavy lifting when it comes to sales and marketing. If you want to stay competitive with other opportunities, you will need to offer marketing support. For example, you might offer run a website like Salesforce.com’s App Exchange that provides leads. Alternatively, you may offer marketing collateral assets such as white papers and case studies about your product. You may also offer a list of preferred service providers such as Microsoft’s listing. Finally, look for ways to make it easy for partners to come together and compare notes.

4. Training

By increasing the skill of your partners, you will help them to become more productive. Training is especially valuable in two scenarios: rapid expansion and significant product development. If your industry is growing rapidly, partners will need support training their new staff. In these cases, training is an excellent way to add value to partners. For the best results, combine several training options include informal options (e.g., a monthly “office hours” session for partners to ask technical questions) and formal options (e.g., certifications, webinars and traditional seminars).

Tip: Your training offerings do not have to exclusively relate to your firm’s products and services. You might also hold sessions on topics such as project management which will help your partners to become more effective.

5. Encourage Partner Loyalty

If partners depart from your program in significant numbers every year, you have a problem. Assuming your partner program is essential to your success, loyalty and retention elements are critical. Take a page from consumer oriented companies that stimulate loyalty through discounts and points programs. For example, consider offering partners a 5% discount on your product after they have been an active partner for two years. For additional insight on the loyalty programs, read “The Loyalty Leap: Turning Customer Information Into Customer Intimacy” by Bryan Pearson.

6. Recognize Partner Success Through Award Programs

Awards and honors are an underrated strategy to engage partners and connect them to your brand. As noted above, Microsoft has long been a successful player in recognizing the achievements of its partners. Fortunately, you do not need to be a multi-billion dollar company to launch a successful award program. To engage partners through awards, provide recognition they can take to the bank (i.e., get your partners in the press). Finally, make it easy for your partners to share the news – provide graphics and badge icons for them to display on their websites.

What goes into a successful award? Generally speaking, there are two components: tangible and intangible. The tangible aspect is an item of value such as a cash bonus, a gift card, a case of wine and so forth. The intangible component – which may be equally if not more valuable in some cases – speaks to the psychological benefit of recognition. To maximize the intangible reward component, carefully think through how and when the award is presented to your partners. Whether you choose to present at an evening gala style event or a less formal event, make sure you include a short speech that highlights the partner’s specific accomplishments.

7. Become The Trusted Advisor To Your Partners

Beyond the product they sell for you, partners have a variety of business needs. Once you have the foundation for an effective program in place, look for further ways to add value to your partners. If your partners are nearing retirement age, you might organize a succession planning webinar for your members. Alternatively, if your partners are in high growth mode, then they may appreciate your support in hiring qualified staff by hosting a partners-only job board. Ask yourself what questions your partners have and how you can support their growth further.

Investing in trusted advisor programming for your partners is a long term strategy that is best suited for established partner programs. If you launched your partner program is new, we recommend deferring this program to the future.

Resource: For additional ideas on adding value to your partners, check out “Networking With the Affluent” by Dr. Thomas J. Stanley. Do not let the age of the book or some of the examples stop you – there is gold to be discovered in that book.

8 .Reduce Partner Friction

Do partners find it easy to do business with you? If your partners have to complete paper forms and other processes to get work done, you are likely to frustrate them. If partners find your website and other resources difficult to access, engagement will suffer. To proactively address this issue, consider appointing a staff position dedicated to partner relationship management.

Final thoughts on partner engagement

Attracting, growing and retaining partners is a proven way to grow your business. As Microsoft and Salesforce.com show, you can achieve tremendous growth by working with your partners. However, these programs require strategy and investment to succeed. Recognize that your partners

In the comments section below, share one example of how you have engaged partners successfully in the past year.

09 Sep 18:00

Make the Right Blog Work for Your Personal Brand

by Personal Branding Blog

Having an active blog for your personal brand is an important marketing tool in which your brand can build a strong reputation and attract more leads and sales. The type of blog is essential for reaching the right target market effectively.

There are two types of blogs that can work for your brand depending on the needs of your audience, and your niche. These are either personal or business. Knowing which one to build on will enable you to know more of what to write about, and develop your content marketing strategy. Here are several ways to discover which one is right for you:

  • The human to human approach – Personal blogs are more popular than ever online, especially with leading influencers. This not only creates more trust for your personal brand, but also helps your audience relate to you on their level. Having that face-to-face interaction helps create a brand personality that they can become familiar with.
  • The business information approach – If your company is more about providing a product or service then this style of blog can work well for you as you inform your community. The education and valuable content is a great opportunity to give them what they need and establish long-term customers.
  • High visibility – Each type of blog needs to include an good opt-in in order to attract interested subscribers. You could set up a free video, report, eBook, ect. that they can download first. Once they have said yes this is the starting point to nurturing your audience and growing through word-of-mouth.
  • Become the trusted source – Create a series of how-to articles and/or videos with email announcements to build authority. These types of blog posts are well received by readers, especially as it answers their questions and meets their needs. After a while they will see you as a go-to brand, especially as you offer regular incentives for them.

Start to see your personal brand’s blog as a relationship building tool that will keep your community growing and active. Connect with other leaders in your niche and provide a mix of content such as webinars, live videos on Facebook, infographics, slideshows, ect. in order to maintain your readers’ interest.