Shared posts

04 Apr 16:11

5 Working Examples for How to Interview Industry Experts [Infographic]

by Zac Johnson

In the world of websites and blogging, the one common theme across all sites is a never-ending need for more content. In most cases, content creation isn’t the problem… it’s more about content promotion and giving something of value to your audience.

With all of this in mind, one of the best ways to accomplish both of these feats, is to create content based around industry experts. The benefits of creating content around authority figures in your space is vast, such as bringing recognizable authority names to your site, while also having the opportunity for such content to be shared by featured experts as well. The end result could create lots of great content for your site, while also bringing in a nice consistent supply of new traffic as well.

To help with this process of discovering what works best when it comes to interviewing experts online, Blog Reign has created a great infographic on this topic — giving five working examples of how to create authority and experts content on the internet today.

Try each of the content creation methods below and see which might work best with your audience or business model.

Individual Interviews

Want to spotlight some of the best industry experts in your space, while also coming up with full-length articles in the process? If so, why not start creating weekly interview posts with different authorities in your niche. You can ask the same set of questions to all experts, or simply come up with new and original ones for each.

Expert Roundup Posts

A great way to bring a lot of authority and content to your site, is through the use of expert roundups. Ask one question to many different experts, then compile all of their responses into one big mega post. This is one of the best methods out there for getting social shares and massive content fast.

Co-Hosted Webinars

Webinars are a more advanced way to work with experts in your space, as you can co-host free webinars for your audience. At the same time, webinars can be a much more time consuming and costly process. Weigh your options to see if webinars and JV opportunities with other experts is right for you.

Podcast Interviews

If you ever wanted to start a podcast, but weren’t sure about what type of conversation or content you wanted to create, an interview-based show might be a great option for you. The best thing about podcast interviews is that your guest is going to be providing most of the content, while also likely sharing it with their audience as well. You can see a list of the top business podcasts doing this here.

Citations, Quotes and References

Another unique opportunity for including online experts and authorities within your content, is to simply reference their names, websites, quotes or best work right on your site. This type of name association and branding can do wonders for your own site, while also relating with your audience.

Try each of these methods and see which one is best for you and your online brand.

04 Apr 16:11

The Email Blast is Dead: Here’s How You Should Really Connect with Your Audience

by Liz Willits

email blast

Email blasts are dead. Email marketing, on the other hand, is very much alive and thriving. In fact, it may be the most powerful tool to drive conversions. Does that seem like a contradiction? Let me explain by quoting AWeber’s founder and CEO Tom Kulzer: “If you learn anything about email marketing as a business owner, let it be this: You are not ‘blasting’ prospects and customers. You’re sending emails in order to make personal connections with people.” Email marketing, at its best, is about making connections with your audience. It’s not a “blast” you send to a mass of faceless people. But how do you transform your “email blasts” into personal, quality emails that build relationships with your audience? In this post, I’ll explain how you can use email to truly connect and build meaningful relationships – and boost sales! And as a special bonus, I’ll share access to a free resource in each section of this post to help you apply what you learn.

Give your subscribers content they love

Your subscribers join your email list to get something of value – an answer to a question, a solution to a problem, information or even entertainment. The more you give them, the more they’ll trust and rely on you. And once you’ve given them that value, they’ll be more likely to do something for you in return. In the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini calls this the theory of reciprocity – when people feel indebted to someone who gives them something. Cialdini says, “The implication is you have to go first. Give something: give information, give free samples, give a positive experience to people and they will want to give you something in return.” There are quite a few ways you can give information and value to your subscribers. Once someone joins your list, send them your latest blog posts in a weekly newsletter or email automation series to provide valuable information. Or, consider giving people a free lead magnet or incentive in exchange for their email address. The benefits of this are two-fold. One, more people will fill out your sign up form. And two, it’s a great opportunity to kickoff your relationship with subscribers by giving them content they love. For example, AWeber customers often tell us they struggle with writer’s block and don’t know what to write in their emails. To resolve this problem for our audience and grow our list, we created What to Write, a free 7-day email course and guide that includes more than 20 fill-in-the-blank email templates. (Side note: If you want this course, I’m giving it away in your resource pack if you download it!)

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what to write in your emails

After people subscribe for the course, the first email they receive includes the templates and guide we promised. But on top of that, we share two additional, relevant blog posts to give subscribers even more value.

Send targeted emails to segmented audiences

Sending the wrong message to the wrong person can really hurt your email engagement and your ability to build relationships with subscribers. It’s like a door-to-door steak salesman trying to sell meat to a vegetarian. Annoying? Yes. When you send irrelevant messages to a subscriber, they may feel like you’re wasting their time – which can lead to disengagement, unsubscribes and spam complaints. To avoid sending irrelevant emails, try segmenting your audience and sending them targeted messages. Segmentation is when your filter your subscribers into a group based on a unifying factor, such as their geographic location, interests, an action they took or skill level. This allows you to then send a targeted message by emailing relevant content to this segmented group. For example, Spartan Race Inc. sent me an email with the subject line, “Pennsylvania: Don’t Delay, Morning Heats Are Filling Up.”

segmentation

Since I live in Pennsylvania, this email was relevant to me and immediately caught my attention. Once I opened it, the headline “Pennsylvania Ignite the Fire Inside” continued to address me on a personal level. This segmentation convinced me to open and read this email and likely increased engagement for everyone who received it.

Welcome subscribers to your list

A welcome email is a message you create and set up to automatically send to subscribers when they sign up to your list. Welcome emails get four times higher open rates and fives times higher click-through rates compared to other emails. They’re also an important part of building relationships with your subscribers and increasing engagement for future emails. In your welcome email, you should:

  • Thank your subscriber for joining your list
  • Introduce your company
  • Explain what kind of content they’ll receive from you
  • Give them a lead magnet or incentive if you promised one on your sign up form

Let’s take a look at this welcome email from Chris Guillebeau of the Art to Non-Conformity. In this email, Chris thanks his subscriber, sets expectations, explains who he is and shares more resources.

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This email lets subscribers know they successfully joined his list, and sets the tone for future messages. Additionally, it gets people excited for his next email.

Listen to your subscribers

One of the worst things you can do in any relationship is not listen. And this applies to building a relationship with your subscribers as well. Receiving and responding to feedback from your audience is an invaluable way to deepen your relationship with them because it allows you to send even more valuable content in the future. So how exactly can you get feedback? One way is to ask subscribers to reply to your email to share their thoughts, just as Thinkific does at the bottom of this newsletter:

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Or, email your subscribers a survey. In the example below, Airbnb shares a survey with an eye-catching call-to-action button and mentions how easy it is to complete.

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Asking subscribers to give you feedback by responding to your emails or completing a survey are great ways to learn how you can improve your emails and offers. And when your emails are better, you’ll be able to build stronger relationships with subscribers. Once you receive feedback, however, make sure you listen and take action. Your subscribers will love you even more for it!

Stop blasting. Start connecting.

Ultimately, there’s one rule you can follow to make sure your emails build connections with your audience: give them value. Your subscribers should love your emails so much that they’d never consider unsubscribing or marking you as spam. Instead, they should look forward to the next time one of your emails lands in their inbox. By delivering content subscribers will love, segmenting your audience, welcoming them to your list and listening to their feedback, you’ll avoid blasting your subscribers with emails they don’t want. Before you go, don’t forget to download all the free resources from this post, like 20+ free email templates and 25 content upgrade ideas!

04 Apr 16:10

How Better Conversations Lead to Sturdy Business Relationships

by Sean Evans
  • click2view-photo

In a competitive industry like marketing, proving your company can get the job done is only half the battle. You’ve got to get to the right people and grab their attention from the outset. And once you’ve got it, you have to know how to keep it.

It’s no small feat, but as commercial director of Click2View, an agency that creates factually led strategic content, Mack Hampson has excelled in the field of social selling. So much so that he’s turned his company’s whole sales approach around.

Having worked with Mack as his Account Manager at LinkedIn, I was curious to find out how he transforms a casual InMail into a lasting and successful business relationship. He sat down with me to discuss the building blocks of his approach.

Sean: I understand your company is working on some exciting projects at the moment.

Mack: Absolutely. Right now we’re currently working with senior level marketers in a variety financial, technology and consumer brands, which is definitely very exciting.

That’s excellent—and some of these are accounts you’ve acquired since using LinkedIn Sales Navigator, right?

That’s correct.

So what was your go-to market strategy like before, and how does it differ now?

Our business is all about selling content that drives people towards a specific action, so it’s difficult for us to engage with our customers using the old methods like cold calling. We have to stand by our belief in the power of great content and use it to power our own strategy.

Previously, we were always heavily reliant on inbound inquiries, but we know that in order to grow the business further, outbound activity is very important.

Everything is different now that we’re using the tool. We’ve been able to introduce some outbound KPIs, and the sales team is much more focused on outreach in constructive and appropriate ways.

Give me an example of how you use Sales Navigator in your new approach.

I personally have the Sales Navigator app on my mobile which is a fantastic tool when on the move and meeting a lot of different clients. I get a notification 10 minutes before any meeting automatically, which is a really beneficial feature that enables me to understand and be up-to-date with all of my clients and their recent activities. Building strong relationships is key to our agency’s success. Showing care and knowledge of the individual by knowing what they have been up to, really helps us to do this easily and quite naturally.

Do you think your clients appreciate the more personalized approach?

Yes, very much so. I think we’ve reached a stage where people are sick of being bombarded with cold calls. For me, that’s great, because I’ve never been a huge fan of making, or receiving them. It’s called cold calling for a reason. It is cold.

These days, it’s about building genuinely good relationships, which starts with personalisation, rather than creating blanket emails which i still see so much of. At Click2View our sales team research what kind of content our potential clients share and like on LinkedIn and use this as a starting point for communication.

Time is an extremely precious commodity for my team and my clients and I don’t really like the idea of wasting anyone’s. Having a quick conversation about content in the feed, rather than making it all about the sale from the outset, ensures you are top of mind without constantly pressing for a sale.

How does Click2View try to understand the type of client you should be reaching?

We actually have quite a specific audience type at Click2View. We like entrepreneurially minded marketers. The ones who have genuine business problems they want to solve with content and are looking for new and unique ways to do that. We prefer not to work with marketers who just need boxes ticking. Instead of trying to go after an entire brand, Sales Navigator allows us to seek out and understand individuals in advance of meetings so we don’t waste too much of anyone’s time. Our team is able to gain a greater understanding of our clients from what they post online, for example. That ultimately gives us a better idea of the type of person we’re dealing with and gives us a stronger agenda when we enter meetings.

Have you seen a greater ROI since incorporating Sales Navigator into your approach?

Oh, absolutely. I initially used Sales Navigator to go through some old relationships and opportunities that Click2View had. Within a week of using it, we were introduced to a new contact at a brand we had considered lapsed and secured a healthy sized project as a result. Most importantly, we have now salvaged an important relationship with a regional marketing manager we could have all but lost.

Do you think your job is being made easier through social selling, or does it take time to develop these relationships?

I’m a massive believer in quickly developing relationships, and that’s what LinkedIn Sales Navigator allows us to do. Before using it, my team didn’t have too many options when it came to reaching out to new potential clients. We were spending a lot of time at events as well as prodding our regulars for more contacts internally, which isn’t always the most effective approach.

Our industry is ultra-competitive. We’re competing with huge agencies, and one of the biggest challenges is just getting some airtime with people—getting them to sit in a room so that we can introduce ourselves and our business. We hire great people because we know marketers aren’t just looking for great work, but they are looking for great chemistry with their agencies too. Social selling allows us to leverage and utilize the personalities we’ve hired in a natural way, and differentiate ourselves by being the agency that cares not only about the content that we create, but also the individual relationships that we make. 

04 Apr 16:10

4 Things Your Innovation Efforts Shouldn’t Focus On

by Alejandro Ruelas-Gossi
apr17-04-8301411

Differentiation should be a prime motivator of any strategy; firms should always look to find an edge. But too often CEOs find themselves stuck in what I call an innovation plateau. They fall into chronic sameness, an inertia driven by a feeling that they must focus on cost, even cheapness, to remain competitive.

A main indicator of how widespread this plateau has become is the decline in corporate investment in R&D, the invisible infrastructure that supports true innovation. Investment in fundamental science, the R, has dropped from more than 2% of U.S. GDP in the 1970s to 0.78% today. The less science, the fewer ideas for new businesses.

Related Video
Innovation Strategy: Timing and Scope
First movers and second movers can be just as successful – as long as companies tailor their innovation strategy to their approach.

If this myopia is going to change, CEOs need to be able to recognize when their strategic inertia is staring them in the face. In my research and consulting work, I have identified four symptoms that should warn executives that they are stuck on an innovation plateau. The four are born of good intentions, but ultimately they are self-destructive:

Obsession with low-cost reduction programs. Rather than paying attention to the numerator (increasing revenues), CEOs focus on the denominator (reducing costs). The excuses I hear for this imbalance are pretty simple: Executives say they want to grow the “quotient,” and attacking the cost side is always the easiest and quickest way to achieve it. I describe this symptom as akin to organizational anorexia. What’s striking is that this symptom is so widespread that firms resisting the race to the bottom now stick out in the crowd. Deere & Co — founded almost two centuries ago, and consistently the leader in what it does — have people dedicated entirely to “imagining” the future. Lean is a powerful management tool, but having the “exact” number for efficiently doing the “work” of today jeopardizes the future by not having “extra” people thinking on it. Efficiency is not innovation.

Obsession with listening to the customer. Almost all customers want their products to be as inexpensive as possible. So firms try to respond to this by delivering the value that they think their customers want. But great CEOs understand that the responsibility of defining greatness is the firm’s, not the customer’s. As Steve Jobs was fond of asking, Am I really going to ask customers if they want an iPad?

Obsession with incrementalism. The benefits of compounded marginal gains can be substantial. “Small ball” can be effective in the short term. But when asked about the future, CEOs almost always talk about their current portfolios. By what percentage will they rise or fall? Radical innovation, when a new dominant design emerges that can lead to a step-change in a company’s fortunes, is often absent in their agendas.

Obsession with acquisitions. When failing to innovate, CEOs acquire talent. Apple spending $3 billion on Beats, or Facebook paying around $19 billion for WhatsApp — this to me is indicative that the companies found themselves stuck on the innovation plateau. I have observed that the more innovative a firm is, the fewer acquisitions it makes. It develops the talent inside, focusing on a few great things. Jobs invested $150 million in developing the iPhone; Tim Cook has invested almost seven times that in Didi Chuxing. That is the tale of Apple during growth-driven-by-innovation, and Apple during innovation stall-out.

How do firms overcome the innovation plateau? Firms are discovering that customers don’t always want to shop on price — exploiting an emotional relationship can help escape the race to the bottom. Natura, a Brazilian cosmetics firm, produced a mother-baby product line that undercut Johnson & Johnson’s leading position in the baby market by linking Natura’s products with the Shantala method, a popular technique in Brazil for strengthening the bond between mother and infant through massage. The campaign allowed Natura to compete with Johnson & Johnson on something other than price.

Deepening the science behind the business, focusing on discovering higher-value market segments through new products and in new industries, and looking to expand globally will all keep the top line growing. For example, the small dairy cooperatives Tatua and Westland in New Zealand developed specialized ancillary products such as complex lipids and the world’s first goat milk with a long shelf life. Rather than trying to make the cheapest steel in the world, the Basques (of Basque Country in Spain) make steel for spacecraft. If firms trading in commodities such as steel and milk can climb the value chain, any company should have the imagination to discover global, high-value markets for its expertise — and remain buoyant even in a world of seemingly fleeting competitive advantage and strategic inertia.

04 Apr 16:09

Content Fitness: A Must Have Tool for Measuring Onsite Content Performance

by Assaf Dudai

How do you know if your content works?

You measure it. You look at the metrics for “time on page” and “conversion”. You multiply these two metrics (or maybe you divide them) to come up with a number that gives you an indication of the strength of a specific piece of content.

How do you know what content your website visitors are looking for?

You track it. You look at the metrics for “pages visited” and “referring keywords” and “source”. You cross-reference the results to come up with the conclusion of the most interesting pieces of content on your website.

What is the downside of the two above processes?

They look at content performance in the micro-level. Meaning, you gain knowledge regarding individual pieces of content; this blog post get loads of social shares, this eBook gets downloaded a lot.

As a result of that, you push your best performing pieces of content and the disparity between them and the rest of your content assets widens. Most companies are familiar with this: they live by the sword of a few content assets and let the rest just fill space.

There’s another issue with this pattern. You’re missing the macro-level understanding of your content.

What is content macro-level?

It’s the bird’s eye view of the thematic breakdown of your content pool. The various themes you deal with in your content are tremendously important to understand. Here’s why.

Every company has different themes it discusses in its content. For example, at BrightInfo we discuss the following themes:

  • Real time personalization
  • Conversion optimization
  • Content performance
  • Website experience

These four themes aren’t just what I’m writing about in my content marketing inroads, they are also ingrained in the messages on our website and landing pages, in our paid media campaigns, even in the communication blueprints of our sales department.

These four themes are our hooks, our conversation openers with our audiences. These are the needs we identified our audience have and that our product can answer. So, as a company, we need to provide relevant, informative and solution-driven content that covers these four themes. And the only way to know how thoroughly we cover each theme and how well each theme drives conversions is by looking at it from a macro-level.

Not how well a piece of content performs, but how well a content theme performs.

We can look at it from the supply & demand prism: what content theme(s) your audience is looking for, what content theme(s) you offer. In order to win, you need to find the balance between the two.

Here’s What Thematic Content Analysis Looks Like

This above analysis is of a cyber security company’s website. This company deals with four main themes on its website, and we can see that they are spread pretty evenly across three of them (with Data Center in the lead.) We can also see that the theme Firewall Auditor gets much less coverage. Maybe that’s OK, maybe their firewall auditing tool isn’t their biggest draw, maybe their audience is less excited by it – and searches less for such a tool. The importance thing is that you get a complete view of how your content is thematically spread.

That’s super important for taking educated decisions as what content to create next.

Drilling Down to a Single Theme

Looking into the Data Center theme, we can identify the main sub-themes this company is dealing with. (This isn’t a map of individual pieces of content, but rather the allocation of sub-themes within a theme.) This gives you a much more refined idea of what topics you are actually covering in your website.

If you know that Data Center Migration is a major pain point of your audience, something that keeps coming up in conversations of your sales team, or is simply a ‘hot topic’ at the moment in your circles, than you can clearly conclude that your next few pieces of content should cover this.

But content isn’t just about how well you cover a theme. It’s also very much about how your audience reacts to each theme.

This is, simply put, the whole deal; a complete thematic analysis of the entire content pool of the cyber security company’s website.

On the left you’ve got the thematic breakdown of content, and on the right you’ve got the overall performance metrics.

You can get the performance metrics also specifically for a theme (and sub-themes):

Now we can know not only how the content is spread, but also how each theme is performing.

So you might find out that the theme that is covered most extensively on your website is actually the weakest performer as far as lead generation. That will teach you that you are putting too many of your eggs in the wrong basket. It might be a theme you feel is a good conversation opener with your audience (or is your content team’s go-to comfort zone when an editorial deadline is approaching) but data tells you a different story: this theme is a poor closer. It might be a traffic magnet, but then you find out it’s not traffic that fills out forms.

We mentioned before that your best performing pieces of content get the spotlight, and are the ones that being most heavily promoted. But when looking at your content pool thematically, you might find out that a group of longtail pieces of content, huddled together under a single theme, actually bring you more value than that blog post from seven months ago that you’re so proud of. That will make you think differently about your on-site content strategy, won’t it?

One more thing…

If you’re unsure what thematic content direction you should take next, a good idea might be to check on your competitors. Looking at your own Content Fitness Analysis next to your competitor’s, will give you a solid indication of how your on-site content strategy fares against theirs.

Obviously you can’t get their performance metrics, but you’ll be able to see their thematic and sub-thematic content coverage. And that’s gold. Since many marketing departments don’t use data to plan their editorial calendar, relying mostly on something between a gut feeling and current air turbulences in the social sphere, having data-backed reasoning to fall on will help your create a deliberate content roadmap.

04 Apr 16:09

Is This the Key to Better Facebook Marketing?

by Lindsay Christensen

Is This the Key to Better Facebook Marketing?

As a business owner, you know that you have to have a presence on Facebook. But, what type of presence should you have? How often should you post? What should you post? What is this “boost my post” button? Facebook is subtly telling you to run ads, but is it worth it? You have 295 likes on your page but it’s saying you only reached 75 people with your last post, why?

Let’s explore the reasons an organic + paid strategy may be the key to better Facebook marketing.

Organic Facebook Marketing

Organic Facebook marketing is utilizing the free tools you have access to in order to promote your business. Gaining likes and posting content will lead you down the path of reaching more people with your brand, but, furthermore, having that content liked, commented on, and shared will ultimately impact the growth and success of your Facebook marketing without paying for ads.

Think of how you use Facebook. What do you like, comment on, or share? Facebook users like videos, pictures, and talking about themselves. They like content that hits home for them. The biggest mistake business owners make with their business pages is posting too much of the wrong thing. The reality is that most people don’t care about the same 10% off promo that you post every week (until they are ready to purchase). They may not care about the pictures you’re posting of random people that they don’t know. They also probably don’t care about how awesome you think your business is.

Picture yourself in the yacht rental business where the majority of your business comes from weddings. Write a bulleted “Things to consider when you have your wedding on a yacht” post that walks them through some helpful tips that you know from being in this business. If you are a veterinarian, remind people that Santa will be there from December 6-23 to take pet pictures and ask people to post their favorite pictures of their own pets during the holidays. Providing information that is helpful to your audience and encourages engagement can make more an impact than an overly promotional post.

The key to success in organic Facebook marketing is finding a way to post content that is not all about you; it’s just a little about you. The yacht example showcases you as the expert and the value you bring is above and beyond just booking their wedding with you. The veterinarian example takes a moment to plug an event and hits on everyone’s tendency to want to share pictures and talk about themselves and their loved ones (with fur and without).

Paid Facebook Marketing

Facebook has an algorithm for their News Feed that determines what posts are shown to what people. The goal of their algorithm is to ensure their users are seeing the most relevant content for their specific behaviors and interests. With the exponential growth of content and users and businesses joining Facebook every day, they need this algorithm to ensure their users aren’t being bombarded with irrelevant content and missing out on potentially relevant content based on the information they reveal to Facebook.

Picture your own behavior and how long you spend on your News Feed. Do you look for a couple minutes several times a day? Or do you go on once a day and spend several minutes to an hour going down through your entire News Feed? Facebook has to cater to all the ways that people utilize their News Feeds. This is why Facebook advertising has become necessary. Facebook can’t show everything to everyone. There are so many options to advertise on Facebook, so don’t close your eyes and jump in just because you know you have to jump in. Go to your Insights tab and review your posts to see which had the most engagement and why.

Boosted Posts

Boosting a post is a form of Facebook advertising, but instead of setting up a campaign and choosing a campaign goal, you put a little budget toward pushing an existing post out to users outside of your immediate community. Boosting your post is completely effective, as long as you are boosting the right post to the right people. When I recently reviewed my Insights tab, I could see that a video that was posted had a reach of 1500, 85 clicks, and 45 reactions. This was far superior to any other content pieces I posted, so if I were going to invest the money in boosting a post, I would boost that one. Since this post hit so many of my friends and their friends already, I would go with the “people you choose through targeting” option for my audience (vs people who like my page and their friends).

Facebook Ad Campaigns

Use your own reporting to make data-driven, strategic decisions on how to spend your advertising dollars on Facebook. Before you spend a dime, you need to identify the goal of your campaign.

  • Is it awareness, meaning you want to make your audience aware of a product or service you offer, reach people near your business, or boost your posts to extend your current reach?
  • Is it consideration, meaning you are trying to drive traffic to your website, drive attendance at an event, and/or collect leads from your business?
  • Is it conversions, meaning you want to increase conversions on your website, get people to visit your store, or get people to claim an offer?

Then you define your strategy. Who is your audience? Where is your audience? What message do you want your audience to take away from your ad?

Once you identify your goal and your strategy, your last step is to ensure you have a great ad. Consider your audience and your message to decide on your ad format, but keep in mind the rule of thumb that your image should contain 20% or less of text. The more text you include in your image, the less reach you will receive.

Learn More

Facebook is an excellent avenue to reach your audience. With almost 2 billion monthly users and targeted audience capabilities, you’re sure to hit your customers while they are spending time on Facebook posting, liking, and sharing content!

04 Apr 16:08

The 6 Scientific Reasons Prospects Are Not Buying From You

by Douglas Burdett

There are six reasons why prospects don’t buy from you, but just one is enough to kill a sale. Preempt these objections and you’ll sell more.

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Is your sales team meeting its quota?

Surveys show that nearly half of all salespeople fail to meet their quota every year. Why? Well, it could be related to some Harvard Business Review research indicating that 63% of the behaviors that salespeople exhibit actually drive down their performance. A big part of that is because the way most people sell is not aligned with how their customers make buying decisions.

In The Science of Selling: Proven Strategies to Make Your Pitch, Influence Decisions, and Close the Deal David Hoffeld draws on over 400 scientific studies that show how the human brain makes buying decisions.

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(Click here to listen to a Marketing Book Podcast interview with David Hoffeld.)

The science affirms that there is a gaping disconnect between how people sell and how humans make buying decisions. And to make matters worse, the way most salespeople are taught to sell is grounded in selling, not buying.

To sell the way our brains make buying decisions, Hoffeld decodes the way buyers formulate buying decisions in a framework called “The Six Whys.” These are six specific questions that represent the mental steps all potential customers go through when making a purchase decision.

When salespeople structure their sales processes to answer and gain commitment to each of the Six Whys, they can guide potential customers through the buying process and into a positive decision.

But, if a buyer rejects one or more of the Six Whys, it will cause his or her decision-making process to break down, which can grind the sale to a halt, usually in the form of an objection.

Hoffeld shows how the root of all objections are found in one of the Six Whys:

1. Why Change?

In physics, an object at rest stays that way, unless something happens. People act the same way unless there is some good reason to change.

This is what makes the status quo so alluring: people have a natural aversion to change. The brain is wired to associate a high level of risk with accepting a new idea or purchasing a product or service.

Ultimately, if you don’t give buyers a reason to change, they won’t. Hoffeld explains that the most compelling ways to incite change is to find problems by challenging the status quo with insights that compel your buyers to think about how they can improve themselves or their business.

But don’t stop there – dig for the cause and scope of the problems, and ask deeper questions that help buyers feel the painful outcomes of allowing those problems to continue. Make it hurt.

2. Why Now?

Once your buyer has committed to change, you need to help them understand why change must occur now. Why? Hoffeld explains that the more time it takes to get a buying decision, the lower the probability the sale will happen.

While you don’t want to become an overbearing hustler (that doesn’t work), you need to help your customer realize that embracing change now rather than later is in their best interest. Otherwise, our brains naturally procrastinate.

3. Why Your Industry Solution?

Hoffeld calls this “the silent sales assassin” because salespeople rarely see it coming. To be successful in answering this question you may need to rethink your definition of a competitor.

For instance, Hoffeld owns a sales training company. Sure, his competitors are other sales training companies, but he also competes with in-house sales trainers and companies that might hire a one-time motivational speaker or buy their sales team a book to read.

You need to make sure your potential customer understands the positive results your solution delivers that those outside of your industry cannot match. What are some of the problems that potential customers have experienced when they have chose a solution outside of your industry? Poison the well.

4. Why You and Your Company?

Numerous studies have revealed that the best way to reduce a buyer’s perception of risk is through trust. Think of trust and risk as opposite ends of a seesaw. When trust goes up, the perception of risk goes down.

The best way to increase trust is to position yourself as an expert and share meaningful insights. Cognitive science studies have shown that when the brain recognizes that someone is an expert, it is far more likely to comply with that person’s suggestions.

Showing experience is another way to communicate expertise. Also, displaying confidence plays a vital part in establishing trust, according to studies cited in the book.

5. Why Your Product or Service?

There are two types of primary advantage: 1) cost, and 2) differentiation. Unless you are Wal-Mart, don’t compete on cost – it is a short-lived advantage and a quick race to the bottom.

To differentiate, Hoffeld’s research showed that offering a concept he calls distinct value is most effective. Distinct value is a unique value that a buyer desires and will receive from your company, product or service.

But there’s a catch: your distinct value must matter to your buyer. It changes from buyer to buyer and most distinct value that salespeople offer is irrelevant to buyers. Your distinct value also needs to be unique. And by unique, Hoffeld means scarce. Think of the word “only.”

6. Why Spend The Money?

When you are asking buyers to purchase something from you, you are also asking them not to do something else. The most effective way to answer this question is to appeal to their dominant buying motives, which are the emotional reasons buyers will buy.

Dominant buying motives are highly influential on purchasing decisions and are comprised of two scientifically validated triggers of human behavior: 1) the desire for gain, and 2) the fear of loss.

Neuroscientists in several studies have proven that the fear of loss is a much, much bigger motivator on purchase decisions. But don’t evoke the fear of loss unless you reveal how the buyer can escape that fear through the benefits they will receive from your company, product, or service.

 

04 Apr 16:08

3 Sales Communication Myths Secretly Costing You Deals

by jeff@mjhoffman.com (Jeff Hoffman)

common-sales-communication-problems-compressor-178262-edited.jpg

Communication between salespeople and their prospects isn’t always straightforward. Each party has their own agenda -- and these often conflict. The seller is trying to gauge the buyer’s interest, craft a relevant pitch, and learn how their organization makes purchases and who has power. Meanwhile, the prospect is trying to hide their intent to buy so they can get the most competitive price.

Here are the most common communication errors I see between reps and prospects. Once you’ve eliminated these, critical details will stop getting lost in translation.

1) Assuming the Contact Is a Champion

Reps frequently start referring to their host -- or the person who started the relationship, gives them updates, or schedules meetings -- as their “champion.” They interpret her helpfulness or early involvement in the deal as indicators that she’ll back them.

But just because someone is friendly doesn’t mean they’re a champion. I have two criteria for customer champions:

First, they want to buy your product or service as much as you want to sell it to them. A champion believes their problem demands fixing. Not in a couple months, not when they get more budget: Now.

Finding someone with this much urgency is pretty rare. However, the second criteria is even harder to meet: True champions are rule-breakers.

That doesn’t mean they act without integrity, but they need to be willing to circumvent internal policies or use their influence to move the deal forward.

For example, a normal contact would say, “It’s going to take three or four months to get Legal’s approval because they have a long queue of contracts.”

A champion, on the other hand, would tell you, “Legal has a long queue right now, so I’m going to ask my friend in that department to expedite this.”

When reps mistakenly believe they have a champion, they take their foot off the gas. They hear, “It’ll take three to four months,” and they don’t push back -- because they believe their contact is doing everything they can.

A lot of accounts won’t have champions. Either the rep can create one, or they operate without one.

2) Taking Email Commitments as Truth

Emailing prospects is quick and easy. However, never use email to advance the deal: It’s too easy to misinterpret them.

Suppose you get an email from the prospect with the line, “We’re focusing on you now and not looking at other vendors.”

You might construe that statement as, “They’ve eliminated other vendors.” But it could equally mean the prospect has finished evaluating the competition and now needs to check a final few boxes with you.

Being able to clarify in real-time is crucial.

You can email buyers to:

  • Confirm a meeting agenda
  • Get contact information
  • Red-line the proposal
  • Answer non-critical technical questions
  • Send helpful content

But for deal-advancing dialogue, call, web-conference, or meet in person.

3) Putting Too Much Faith in the Prospect’s Decision Date

Don’t automatically take the first decision date your prospect gives you for granted. Take this fictional conversation, versions of which play out on sales calls all the time:

Rep: “When will you be making a decision by?”

Prospect: “The end of the month.”

Rep: “Why the end of the month?”

Prospect: “That’s when our budget expires.”

Then the salesperson puts the last day of the month as the estimated close date.

The question itself is problematic, since it requires the prospect to predict their future behavior -- and that’s nearly impossible for them to do accurately.

In addition, roughly one-third of the time the end of the month falls on a Saturday or Sunday. Customers rarely sign or review proposals on the weekend.

I recommend finding the specific date and verifying it with the prospect. Here’s an example:

Prospect: “We want to make a decision by the end of the month.”

Rep: “Why the end of the month?”

Prospect: “That’s when our budget expires.”

Rep: “I just looked that up on the calendar. It’s a Wednesday. Do you always start new vendor relationships on a Wednesday?”

Prospect: “No. Well, actually we’d probably decide on the Friday before, because that’s when we have our budget meeting.”

Going from a generic “end of month” decision to a real date makes the purchase feel more real for the prospect.

These communication mistakes plague every salesperson. Stop falling prey to them -- your pipeline will thank you.

Get more of Jeff’s insights and advice on his blog.  

HubSpot Free Sales Training

04 Apr 16:06

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

by Carlo Pacis

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

The year is 2017. If you’re a keen social media marketer, you’re already keeping a close eye on Instagram. The visual media giant has established itself as one of the prime social marketing platforms, arguably edging out old time favorite Twitter and close competitor Snapchat.

The best time to have created your Instagram marketing strategy was yesterday (or last month, or last year) – but the second best time is today. In this how-to guide, I’ll teach you how to craft your Instagram marketing strategy from start to finish, so you can maximize your returns on the platform.

Let’s get started.

Instagram Marketing Strategy Step 1: Determine your content strategy


Your content strategy is the core and foundation of your Instagram marketing strategy. When it comes down to it, if the content you post isn’t engaging or relevant to your target market, you’ll have a tough time being successful on Instagram.

First, determine the type of content you’re going to post. You’re going to want to figure out what kind of photos you want to make up the bulk of your Instagram marketing. Not quite sure what I mean? Here’s a few categories:

  • Product-centric: This is generally the most common Instagram marketing strategy. Having a product-centric content focus means most of the photos and videos you post feature your products. It’s a straightforward way to market on the platform – basically, you’re telling your followers “Hey! Look at the awesome stuff we sell,” in the hopes that they’ll be excited enough about it to buy. As you can see in the Nikelab example below, even a simple product-centric focus can help drive success.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

  • Culture-centric: Sometimes, your product isn’t all that exciting or unique, or your brand just has a really strong company culture. You don’t always need to use Instagram with the goal of monetizing it – it can be a great way to establish your brand identity on social media. Companies like Buffer do a great job of showing their followers what they’re all about through their Instagram profile.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

  • A mix: Of course, you can balance these two strategies. If you do it right, you’ll find you’re still able to maintain a consistent and cohesive Instagram feed, Lululemon is a great example of this – even their product posts show off what they’re all about in terms of athletic culture.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

  • User-generated content: If your brand has enough loyal fans and customers, another strategy you can try out is posting content that’s created by your users. It’s a tough one, and I don’t recommend it if you’re just starting out on the platform. However, it can make for a feed with a ton of cool variety, like Lokai’s below:

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

Instagram Marketing Strategy Step 2: Content scheduling


Once you’ve fleshed out your content strategy, you need to determine a content schedule. Instagram’s feed is no longer totally chronological. Instead, it rewards engagement, ordering posts on users’ news feeds based on content from accounts they often interact with.

Posting consistently increases the visibility of your posts, which gives followers more opportunities to engage. It also means you’ll remain a source of fresh content, which helps to entice people into following you and pull people away from unfollowing.

Use a tool like Buffer or Later to schedule your posts in advance. This allows your content creator some room to breathe, since they won’t need to be editing or taking photos right before they’re meant to be posted. This is especially important for small businesses without a dedicated social media manager, as there often just isn’t enough time for a small business marketer to be incredibly active on Instagram.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

Post frequency is all up to you, but whatever it is, keep it maintainable. If you’ve only got enough content in a month for 10 posts, space them out so you’re posting every 3 days or so – you don’t want to post daily for half the month and then leave your profile high and dry for the next two weeks.

Though post timing matters less than ever based on Instagram’s current algorithm, I still recommend you post at times when you’ll receive the most engagement. This depends highly on your target market. Try to identify the times they’re most likely to be active on social media – and as always, test until you find what works best.

Instagram Marketing Strategy Step 3: Media creation and editing


Really, there’s a lot to cover here, so I’ll just give you a quick rundown.

When it comes down to it, Instagram is a social media platform that’s driven by strategic content creation. Users engage with media they find engaging or interesting, and that means you’re rewarded for posting awesome stuff.

Here’s some Instagram content creation best practices:

  • Quality, quality, quality: Look, I know – not everyone can afford a two thousand dollar DSLR or a professional lighting rig. It’s all good! Just try to maximize the quality of the media you post with the equipment you already have on hand. Modern smartphones generally have good enough cameras to get some awesome shots. Photos should be focused and well-lit – those two things go a long way towards making them look great.
  • Editing: Use an app like VSCO, Snapseed or Enlight to make your photos look clean and professional. Edit sparingly – the best edits are those that are barely noticeable. It’s easy to go over the top, so look at some of your favorite Instagram accounts for inspiration before you get all filter-happy. I recommend using the same set of filters (one or two) for all of your photos. This helps you create a cohesive theme for your Instagram marketing.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

  • Captions: If you’re looking to promote your products using Instagram, make sure your captions are action oriented. Direct followers to somewhere they can purchase your products so you can monetize your Instagram efforts.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

  • Hashtags: Hashtags are particularly effective on Instagram, as they’re great for reaching untapped portions of your target market who search for new content using hashtags. You can opt for popular hashtags (#love, #friends), product-related hashtags (#food, #tacos) or my personal favorite, local hashtags (#vancouver, #vancouverfoodie). Adding hashtags increases your exposure and helps you increase engagement.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

Instagram Marketing Strategy Step 4: Additional content


Instagram has been making large strides when it comes to recent app updates, so I’ll go over them quickly here.

The first and arguably most important of these updates is Instagram Stories. Putting aside the fact that it’s a blatant Snapchat ripoff (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and all that), Instagram Stories provides a huge opportunity for you to interact with your target market in a way that’s more genuine and less confined by the cage of “polished” content Instagram users tend to favor.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

Using Stories is awesome because it puts your account at the top of your followers’ news feeds, no matter what. Most recent stories show up first, but they’re always at the top of the feed. Posting on your Story frequently with quick updates or even discounts can boost the exposure you get with your followers.

The next is Instagram Live. Though it’s not the best strategy to use if you don’t already have at least a small legion of loyal followers, it can be incredibly effective if you do. In a similar vein to Stories, Live videos show up front and center on your followers’ feeds, before everyone’s Stories and above everyone’s posts.

Use Instagram Live to preview a new product launch, or to host a Q&A with your fans. It connects you directly with the people who engage with you on social media, making it an ideal way to establish your brand identity and create connections with followers.

Finally, Instagram released their Carousel media type for all users. This means you’re able to combine multiple pieces of content – meaning photos, videos and yes, Boomerangs too – into a single post. Though I don’t personally favor them, they’re great for posting multiple photos of products (think different color options) or even telling a story.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

Instagram Marketing Strategy Step 5: Optimizing for monetization


One thing many business owners and traditional marketers have trouble wrapping their heads around is the idea that they can drive real business results (read: $$$) through social media. Though this is a legitimate concern, there’s many ways you can optimize your Instagram profile for monetization.

Let’s go over some of them:

  • CTAs… CTAs everywhere: If you want to turn your Instagram followers and social media traffic into real sales, you need to show these people where they can buy your product. Make sure your bio directs followers to the link in your profile (“See our latest products at the link below”), and add a CTA to your captions as well (“Like what you see? Shop the link in our bio”).

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

  • Monetization platforms: I’m referring to platforms like Like2Buy and Have2Have.It, which help you create a page that allows you to link the photos in your Instagram feed to products or other pages on your website. This is ideal, as it reduces the barriers keeping your Instagram followers from becoming customers.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

  • Discounts and promotions: Though Instagram is a great marketing platform, it can be tough to get followers to act and actually buy one of your products. One way to jolt them out of their inactivity is to feature an Instagram-specific limited-time offer, like a coupon or discount. Post a photo with your coupon code (or discount link) and a CTA that tells visitors to act quickly.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

Instagram Marketing Strategy Step 6: Contests


Another great way to use Instagram in a way that directly affects your business is by running a contest. They get followers excited about your products, and can help promote them while giving your followers an incentive to engage.

There’s a ton of different ways to run contests on Instagram, and I’ll outline a few below, but I will mention that the most effective contests are those that help your business generate sales. The best avenue for this is through lead generation: getting contact information from the people who enter your contest so you can market to them in the future through email.

That being said, here are some contest ideas you can run on Instagram:

  • Comment-to-enter: This is the most common type of contest I see on Instagram, and with good reason. Comment-to-enter contests are the easiest to enter, so they maximize the number of people who will participate. Generally, these contests require entrants to like the photo, follow the account (or accounts) hosting the contest, and tag two friends in the comments. This drives massive engagement, helps boost follower count, and helps spread the word.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

  • Sweepstakes: Using a third-party sweepstakes app, you can turn Instagram traffic into leads for your business. Though these are tougher to enter, they’re more effective in the long run because they allow you to market to your entrants more efficiently in the future.
  • Photo contest: You can run these one of two ways. The first, easier method is to get entrants to post a photo with a certain theme using a specific hashtag, which you’ll then compile and choose a winner for. This is great because it’s simple to do and it helps greatly to spread the word about your business. You can also use a photo contest app to run these contests with the added bonus that you’ll be able to collect entrants’ email.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

Instagram Marketing Strategy Step 7: Ads


You can’t have a complete guide to Instagram marketing strategy without talking ads. When push comes to shove, ads are the best way to guarantee your Instagram marketing efforts reach your target market.

While you might be hesitant to pay for ads on a platform that can be hard to monetize, know this: Instagram Ads are, bar none, the best way to reach the people in your target market. As much as you can hope your content gets shared, nothing’s guaranteed. With ads, you can serve ads to the people they’re meant for without worrying about whether or not they’ll be seen.

Here are some Instagram advertising best practices:

  • Use eye-catching imagery: It’s both a blessing and a curse that Instagram Ads show up in users’ news feeds like any other post does. On one hand, they’re native – they don’t feel like ads, meaning they’re more friendly – more digestible – with regards to user experience. On the other hand, they look like any other post, and this means they’re just as likely to be scrolled past as any other post. Creating and posting media that’s likely to grab people’s attention gives your ads the best chance at success.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

  • Target precisely: This is Instagram Ads’ big selling point. Depending on your ad and your product, make sure you create an ads audience that’s precise so you can maximize the performance of your ads. Don’t try to create a “catch-all” ad that hits every part of your target market – instead, identify different segments within it and target those individually.
  • Create an ad-specific landing page: Look, you can send people right to your website, but you’ll be way better off creating a landing page that directly matches what you’re mentioning in your ad.
  • Choose the correct CTA: One advantage ads do have over regular posts is the ability to add a CTA to your ad. Choosing the correct CTA based on your business objective will give you the extra push you need to achieve your conversion goal.

How to Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy in 2017

Wrapping it up


There you go – a complete how-to guide to developing an Instagram marketing strategy that’s fit for 2017.

Instagram has become my favorite social channel lately – it’s less cluttered than Facebook and still seems to drive real engagement between brands and consumers. I’m excited to see where the platform takes us in the years ahead.

As always, if you’ve got questions or I’ve missed anything in this guide, feel free to let me know in the comments below. Good luck with your Instagram marketing!

04 Apr 16:06

What You Should Measure, But Probably Don’t

by Maranda Dziekonski

What You Should Measure, But Probably Don’t

Okay data junkies, let’s pause for a second (or about 244 seconds as this article is a little lengthy), and review what we are measuring in our Customer facing organizations.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you build it they will come.” Well l have created a version of my own: “If you measure it, you will have insights.”

I am not proposing sending yourself into a state of analysis paralysis by any means, but having a strong understanding of the world that you own is never a bad thing.

As with anything, you need to look at what’s right for your business, team, and customer base, but here are some core metrics and data points that if you are not already tracking, you should be!

In order to have the full picture of your customers’ experience, I am going to cross multiple chasms here and combine all things Customer Operations (Success and Support).

As you are about to get a lot of metrics thrown at you, I have broken this out into three buckets:

  • The obvious
  • The kind of obvious
  • Whoa, I didn’t think of that

Each bucket will have a mix of customer experience and efficiency metrics.

It’s also very important to note, that while this is customer focused, it is also crucial to measure employee engagement, retention/attrition, and overall happiness (which I do not go into below). Happy, engaged, and empowered team members are probably the strongest lever any organization can have in regards to driving customer success.

Happy, engaged, and empowered team members are probably the strongest lever any organization can have in regards to driving customer success.

Ready to dig in? Great! Engage your data thinking caps, and let’s begin.

The obvious

Many of the points we’re about to get into might seem obvious (especially if you’re a long-time Support or Success professional). Even still, every solid house is built on a solid foundation. These metrics simply can’t be ignored.

  • CSAT: Also known as customer satisfaction score. This is typically a measurement of how happy your customer is with the overall interactions that they’ve had with your team. CSAT is measured on a percentage basis (0-100%). Every positive rating equals 100% and of course negative 0%. Generally speaking, CSAT is sent out after each contact made (or case solved) with your Customer Support Team. Customer Success Managers should get into the habit of checking the CSAT of the most recent interaction(s) their accounts may have had with support. This will help them have a better picture of the overall account sentiment.
  • NPS: Also known as net promoter score. Simply said, that is asking your customers if they would promote your product. There is a lot of information already available on how to conduct a great NPS survey, so I won’t go into it in too much detail here. But, what I will say is make sure you segment your customers appropriately (by MRR, CSM, Sales, etc.), and be sure to follow up on the feedback (good, bad and ugly). There is nothing worse than giving feedback and feeling like it was filed away with no further thought.
  • Time to resolution: How long does it take your team to solve your Customer’s issues (bugs included!) from contact initiation to resolution? This metric is typically owned by Support, but yet another measurement that Customer Success should be knowledgeable about with their customer base. It’s always good to know before reaching out with any proactive tidbits if your customer has a ticket that has been dying on the vine. Save yourself from unnecessary surprises and any degradation of customer sentiment.
  • Churn: This should need no introduction. Are you able to retain customers? How many leave you? How many downgrade (yes – downgrading is a type of churn)? I suggest some key segmentations when you are looking at your churn. There are always telling tidbits when you gather this data and really have a holistic view.
    A few things that I like to segment on:
    – Revenue
    – Products Purchased
    – Time with your company
    – Sales Professional that closed the deal
    – Customer Success Manager that managed the account
  • Overall Contacts (both quantity and reasons): The information that you learn from support contacts (reactive in nature), can really inform your Customer Success Team and help guide them on the areas that they should focus more on during their proactive interactions.
    • For Support, you will need to track how many contacts (emails, tickets, phone calls, chats) and reasons (cancellations, passwords, general help) to understand many things such as:
      – Forecasting for head count.
      – How to provide improved self-service options.
      – Random trends from changes you’ve made in your product.
      – Overall efficiencies.
    • For Success, you should track things in a similar manner, but for different reasons:
      – Forecasting against the different customer segments to better understand and anticipate the different needs that SMB, Mid-Market and Enterprise customers may have.
      – How to become more proactive by learning from each interaction.
      – And just like support, understanding how changes in your product impact your customers.

The kind of obvious

The points that fall into this category are kind of obvious. These are things that you have heard of or even thought about putting into place, but didn’t really have a clear vision around what value they could drive. Now that you have a strong foundation, it’s time to start adding to it.

  • Customer Health Score: Whether you have a homegrown system or use a Customer Success tool, having a health score is a great beacon that can help guide Customer Success and Executives on the overall state of the customer portfolio. This is where you define what activities make a customer successful in your product. And based on the actions that they take and the health profile they fall into, this score will be a guiding point on how to help move that needle.
  • Customer Onboarding: Measure onboarding? Absolutely! Measure time to onboard, create milestones for your customer and measure the success in hitting those milestones. Also, measure post-onboarding feedback. The key is to measure it. Analyze it. Optimize it. Improve it.
  • Upsells/Cross Sells/Renewals: I am constantly hearing and involved in conversations around who owns what in this category (Sales vs CSMs). The honest truth is there are many ways to slice that pie and depending on your model, Success could own it through to completion, or pass it once it reaches the negotiation point. However, regardless of who owns the upsell or renewal, track it. If Customer Success is doing a great job helping the customer achieve their desired value and remain sticky, barring no unforeseen circumstances (customers funding, etc), renewal should be a no brainer. Measure the different upsell and renewal rates across the various CSMs (even if they don’t own the negotiation/closing piece). CSMs do a huge part even getting them to that point.
  • Customer Interactions with your Product: Logins, overall usage frequency, feature utilization – anything that is an interaction with your product – track it, learn from it, and use it to influence product decisions and the success of your customer.

Whoa, I didn’t think of that

And finally, the points below should really get you thinking about how to continue adding to the already strong foundation that you’ve built. These metrics are not actively measured in Customer facing worlds and may be measurements that are frequently missed.

  • CES: Also known as Customer Effort Score is a newer measurement in the customer-facing world. It’s almost like a cross between NPS and CSAT. How much effort is involved for the customer to do business and/or interact with us? There is a lot of helpful information out there on what it is and how to implement. Check out this article by Customer Thermometer about how to measure your CES score.
  • Average Time To First Value: How long does it take to get your customers to what would be considered their first value? This is different than onboarding a customer, as you can be completely onboarded in a product and still not be realizing value. As this may feel subjective, you should work with customers to see what first value means to them. Find trends, group them and then start measuring this by segment: CSM, Sales, and any other cohorts you’d like drill into. Understanding what helps customers get to what they consider their first value quickly is a very powerful tool to have in your toolkit.
  • Cancellation Saves: Track these. Period. This is an important value add to the company (as long as you are saving the customer and solving for the original reason that they were cancelling). Track this at both Support and Success level along with the revenue that you saved. Don’t arbitrarily save someone that will never be successful on your product.
  • Feedback delivered to Product: Yep, track this too! This is very important at the CSM level. CSMs should be having conversations with the highest value customers and understanding what they need to make them successful in your product as they grow and evolve. And unless you get very bizarre requests and all of your customers are on an incredibly different spectrum from each other, what is beneficial for one, will most likely be beneficial for many. Track the revenue associated with the customers that benefit from the feedback items and tie it to their overall value.
  • Customers presented to Marketing for case studies or customer references: Same idea as above. Just like insightful product requests fueled by high value customers are golden nuggets, case studies and customer references help drive revenue and value. Track these and partner with your marketing friends on how many leads your referred case studies have developed (most Marketing teams track these as they want to know their levers).
  • Help Center/Knowledge Base Traffic: What are your customers searching for? Do they find it? Are you providing the right content and keeping your content fresh? How many people are visiting your Help Center on a daily basis? These are all important as you grow, scale, and evolve your product and your customer base.

If you are still here, congrats, and thank you for hanging in there! You made it through a fairly exhaustive list of suggested metrics/data points, that hopefully sparked some thought for you.

Before you take any of this information and start making changes, make sure you are very deliberate in thinking through what outcomes you’d like to drive. Understand the problem that you are trying to solve for before you start changing anything that you are currently doing.

While this list doesn’t have every possible thing you could measure, nor would I want it to, these are the key things that I have personally found to provide me with a strong understanding of my levers for customer experience and efficiencies.

04 Apr 16:06

Complete Guide to Using Instagram to Grow Your Business

by Scott Sims

Visuals play an important role in marketing. They appeal to customers and increase engagement. Hence, Instagram is the perfect platform for any successful Internet marketing campaign.

Unfortunately, few social media marketing teams understand the true value of the platform, especially when sharing captivating pictures translate into engaged followers and more sales. Several social media marketers never even start an Instagram account.

There are some who are under the impression that Instagram won’t yield results. They start Instagram accounts and then close them.

Whether you have tried and failed, or have never even logged in, now is the time to get on the Instagram train. A solid Instagram account can transform your social media following and generate revenue for your business.

Fortunately, Instagram is not as confusing as it initially seems. This guide will help you to understand what Instagram is all about. Then, you will be ready to finally win with Instagram.

Your Instagram Profile

Many business owners dive right into Instagram without taking the time to correctly set up their profiles. That is a big reason why so many businesses fail with Instagram. Take the time to create a compelling profile, and you will gain traction on Instagram.

To get off on the right footing, here are five important components for creating a compelling profile.

Instagram Profile Component #1: First, you need to create an impactful profile photo. Don’t go with a generic photo or people won’t understand what you offer. Instead, use your company logo so that your ideal customer will identify your brand by glancing at your photo.

Instagram Profile Component #2: Your account name is next. No need to come up with anything cute for this. Your company name will suffice.

Instagram Profile Component #3: Use your company’s name again for your username and take out the spaces which aren’t allowed in usernames. For example, if your company was named “My Company,” your username would be mycompany.

Instagram Profile Component #4: Add your website’s URL. You have two options for this. Either use your main URL, or send people to the link that contains your special offer. You can always go back and change this URL as your offers change.

Use your social media listening tools to find out what offers your audience respond to, and then change them accordingly.

Instagram Profile Component #5: Finally, complete your bio. This is your chance to let people know what you offer. Speak in clear language. Explain your business’s value proposition, products/services, and how your ideal customer can reach you.

Instagram Profile Cheat Sheet:

Instagram-Profile-Tips - Using Instagram to Grow Your Business

Build Your Community

Many businesses think in terms of followers when building an Instagram presence. Because of that, they buy followers, or use other nefarious tactics to increase their following. Then, they wonder why they are not getting results.

Instead of thinking in terms of followers, think about building a community. You don’t just want followers. You want engaged fans who will act as brand advocates. These are the people who will comment on your photos and engage in conversations. They will @mention your brand and help build excitement. These actions will help your community grow even bigger.

The thought of creating a community might seem overwhelming, but you already have a community you can tap into. Use your email list to reach out to people. Let your list know that you’re on Instagram and would appreciate a follow.

You should also utilize your social media networks. Announce your account and include a link. Many of your followers will head over to check out your Instagram profile.

As you move your community over to Instagram, it’s important that you keep them engaged. Instagram might be for pictures, but that doesn’t mean you can’t include a call-to-action on those pictures. You can caption your pictures, so use the caption for your CTAs.

Use your caption to instruct people to tag a friend or ask a question below. Use the caption to ask questions and instruct people to respond in the comment section. Play around with different ideas. Over time, you will discover what your audience responds to, and then create more of the same. This will happen sooner than you expect, provided you use social media monitoring tools.

Gain More Traction with Hashtags

You’ve started building your highly engaged community. Now, it’s time to take it to the next level with branded hashtags. Your community members will use the hashtags, and that will increase your Instagram presence. Create a branded hashtag and add it to your bio. That will let your followers know what hashtag to use when talking about your company. People can also click on the hashtag to see the posts associated with it.

Don’t be afraid to switch out branded hashtags from time to time. Create various hashtags for different campaigns. Then, measure your results to find out how your hashtags perform.

It’s Time to Strategize

Once you lay the groundwork, develop an Instagram marketing strategy which might seem like it goes against the very nature of Instagram. It’s true that Instagram photos often contain spontaneous moments. You don’t have to throw spontaneity out the window when strategizing.

Successful social media management teams use two types of Instagram strategies. First, there is the overall strategy. This is the strategy you will employ for all your Instagram campaigns. Then, there is the strategy you will employ for your individual campaigns. This strategy will change from one campaign to the next. For instance, you might run a campaign to get more followers, and another campaign to get clicks to an external URL. It makes sense that these campaigns would have different strategies.

Regardless of the strategy that you’re creating, it needs to contain certain components to be successful.

Begin with your goals

Every strategy must have measurable goals to access whether your strategy is successful.

You also need to think about the types of photos that you will use. You don’t need to list the actual photos. Just think about the kind of photos you will need.

In addition, you need to consider when you’ll post. Think about how many times per day or week you’ll post, and when you will add those posts. Will you post in the morning, or do you need to post at night? Maybe you need a mixture.

Hashtags are also an important component of a good strategy. From branded hashtags to general ones, add the list of hashtags you will use, and include them in your posts.

Next, create a list of the influencers you want to reach. Influencers can amplify your content and help you build trust with your followers. Find out which of your market’s influencers use Instagram, and then decide which ones should be a part of your campaign or overall strategy.

Finally, include a competitor analysis. The analysis will let you know how to overtake your competitors.

Build Your Story

Stories aren’t just for the written word. You can build a story with pictures as well. If you can tell your story with pictures, you will kill it on Instagram.

While there is a lot that goes into a story, it is based on one thing. It’s about your brand. What is your brand’s message? What is the purpose of your brand? If you can answer those questions, you can begin to build your story.

Let’s say that you run a camping supply store. Your brand was built with the goal of increasing happiness for customers by helping them enjoy the outdoors. Using that as the basis for your story, upload photos that show the joy of experiencing the great outdoors.

The joy of experiencing the great outdoors is your main narrative which you can build upon by including pictures that tell their own stories. For instance, include pictures of individuals enjoying the great outdoors. These stories will fit into the main narrative, but they will stand on their own as well.

Reach Out to Influencers

Once you know your brand’s story, you will be ready to reach out to influencers in your market. Influencers are also considered to be power users. These users will help you to rapidly build a following. If you want to be taken seriously on Instagram, this step is essential.

You have three options for leveraging influencers.

First, you can pay for shoutouts. Some of the biggest power users are constantly approached so they charge for the service. You pay a fee, and then the influencer gives you a shoutout. This can be expensive, but it is also effective. Once you receive the shoutout, expect your traffic and followers to spike dramatically.

If you don’t want to spend money, go with the free option. This takes extra work, but it will help you get authentic endorsements, and build some additional trust with your followers.

In order to do this, you need to engage with the influencers. Follow them on Instagram and then comment on their photos. You can also tag or @mention them. They will be notified when you do this.

You should also go beyond Instagram when reaching out to influencers. Find them on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. Continue to interact with them on those channels. After you spend time getting on their radar, you can send them an offer.

If that still doesn’t work, you can up your game by offering samples of your products. For instance, you can send an influencer a sample in exchange for an endorsement if he or she likes the product.

Try Your Hand at Ads

There is a good chance that you aren’t familiar with Instagram Advertising. It hasn’t been available for that long, but it is a great tool, because Instagram Advertising is a part of Facebook Ads. That means you can target your ads like crazy and get the results you want.

Choose between image, video, and carousel ads. Include a clickable call-to-action in each of these ads. Your social media management team can track the clicks to find out how your ad is performing. Then, find out which leads are coming from Instagram, and which one originate from different channels. Your team can also find out how much you are spending on Instagram leads. This will help you determine your budget.

Start out small and scale up. Over time, you will be ready to run a huge ad campaign. By then, you should know what your audience wants, and you will be able to get instant results.

Get Creative with Promotional Posts

What’s the number one rule on social media?

Don’t make too many promotional posts.

That might be true on Facebook and Twitter, but you can make lots of promotional posts on Instagram, as long as you get creative.

Instead of making posts with generic shots of your products, have a little fun with it. You can stage your products in a fun way, or include pictures of influencers or fans using your products. You can even use Instagram’s grid layout when showcasing your products.

You don’t have to copy what other brands have done with this. Blaze your own trail in order to get the most engagement.

Get Started Now

Instagram might seem like the great unknown, but anyone can master it. It all comes down to using the right techniques and strategies. Use these tips to build your following and become a power user. Then, you can send people over to your website and make more sales. Get started using Instagram to grow your business today.

Original article was published on the Buzzlogix Social Media Marketing blog.

04 Apr 16:05

10 Half Truths About Sales

by Anthony Iannarino

There are a lot of “truths” about sales bandied about on social media by people who have a something to gain if your believe their half truths. Here are some to watch for.

  1. Buyers are spending their time researching: I am sure there are some people in purchasing departments somewhere researching something they need to purchase for their company. My experience tells me that most decision-makers are not. If there is information parity between you and your prospective client, you are doing sales wrong.
  2. Buyers are well-educated and well-informed: About many things, yes. About you and your industry and the choices that available to them when it comes to producing better results, not so much. Buyers have experience when they repurchase, and most of their education is gained through the experience of having bought and used a service.
  3. Buyers are spending their time on social sites: There are surely some people in business with buying roles that are engaged on social sites. What you’ll find to be true is that the higher up the organizational charts you climb, the fewer people you will find spending their time on social sites.
  4. Buyers now control the process: If buyers knew how to get the results they needed, they’d already be getting those results. When a buyer has a process, it’s called an RFP. What you sell is surely being commoditized,  this process will never serve you, and it rarely serves the company well. You can still control the process if you initiate it.
  5. Marketing is going to generate your leads: Marketing creates awareness. When things go well, they generate leads. The other half of this truth is that those leads will not be enough for you to grow your business. Sales is about opportunity creation as much as it is about opportunity capture.
  6. Marketing automation can nurture your relationships: Marketing can automate messages. Nurturing is something different. You don’t nurture a lead. You nurture a relationship. Your prospects don’t have any relationships with anyone in your marketing department. When they have a need, they are not calling marketing. People nurture relationships with other people.
  7. Inbound is better than outbound: Inbound can be enormously helpful. But it isn’t better than targeting your dream clients, building relationships over time, developing a case for change, and winning your dream client. Outbound still rules the roost.
  8. Salespeople are only necessary to close opportunities: Why, sir, so few opportunities then? If inbound isn’t working, and marketing doesn’t generate leads, where are the opportunities you need going to come from? Salespeople are necessary to create opportunities. That commitment comes way before the commitment to buy.
  9. The best salespeople should not prospect: Closers. Sure. Whatever. The person with the greatest ability to create value for their dream client should prospect and they should be engaged early in the process, where deals are won and lost. Saving the best salesperson for the end of the process and allowing them not to prospect is a bad idea.
  10. There will be fewer salespeople in the future: This is a half truth. If your model is transactional, this is almost certainly true. Where you model is high trust, high value, and high caring, this is not true. In fact, there is already a shortage of salespeople with the necessary skill sets to sell in businesses with these models.

The post 10 Half Truths About Sales appeared first on The Sales Blog.

04 Apr 16:05

How to Align Marketing + Sales Strategies

by Jeremy Durant

It’s always been puzzling to me that marketing and sales can be at odds in an organization. I’ve always viewed them as two departments working towards the same objectives. Think about it. At the end of the day, marketing departments strive to provide MQLs (marketing-qualified leads) to the sales department that they can build a relationship with and hopefully turn into new clients.

The Breakdown Between Sales + Marketing

The breakdown seems to occur either a: when the sales team doesn’t value the MQLs or b: when marketing thinks sales is mishandling the leads.

The solution is to focus on aligning B2B marketing and sales strategies. Why?

Aligning sales and marketing strategies can:

  • Create a seamless customer experience
  • Increase conversions
  • Reduce waste and build efficiencies
  • Improve client retention
  • Maximize ROI
  • Build a better internal environment

Open Dialogue

The first thing B2B marketing and sales departments need to do is check their egos at the door. Both departments have a vested interest in attracting prospects, nurturing them, and turning them into new clients. As such, both departments can more effectively do their jobs with the support and help of the other department. An open dialogue between the two departments is essential to fostering a positive environment where the teams or individuals can align their strategies.

Get Input

Let me start by saying this is a two-way street. Sales should be providing input to marketing and marketing should be providing input to sales. This does not mean they are telling each other how to do their jobs, however, it does mean that they are providing valuable information that can help the other in being successful.

Marketing often has a pretty good idea of the company’s ideal client persona. However, the sales team works directly with these ideal clients and prospects every day. They understand their objections, challenges, and needs. We’ve found that the sales team is often a great resource for content topics and for input regarding marketing campaigns.

On the other side, marketing works hard on different initiatives to bring in qualified leads. Many of these leads are fairly warm and qualified, however, like any lead, they may need some nurturing. This a great spot for marketing to provide sales with a variety of materials, including blog posts and downloadable guides, to nurture prospects and make their job of closing the deal a little easier.

Share Objectives

How can your fellow coworkers support your efforts if they aren’t clued into your objectives? I always encourage marketing managers to discuss their objectives with the sales team. By simply sharing what you are trying to accomplish between your departments, you can get better support. Remember, you can’t get support for your initiatives if no one outside your department knows what they are.

Coordinate Plans

Have you ever been working on a project only to find another person in your organization is working on the exact same thing? Duplication of effort is a common issue affecting sales and marketing departments. Once you have shared your objectives, it’s a good idea to continually coordinate between marketing and sales. This enables you to discover any duplication, reduce wasted time, and streamline your processes and procedures.

For example, if the marketing team has a lead nurturing email campaign in place, it doesn’t make sense for the salesperson to also be calling the prospect to schedule a call. However, it might make sense to include the salesperson’s contact information within the campaign and make them aware of what the prospect is receiving and when, so they can properly handle a call or email from the prospect.

Compare Strategies

The next step to busting out of the internal silos is to compare overall strategies. This can be an eye-opening experience. If the sales strategy is to increase a certain book of business, then it’s important the marketing strategy also includes a focus on attracting that type of business. Similarly, if a particular product or service is popular, but the sales team isn’t incentivized to sell, that could impact the success of the marketing efforts for that service or product. Take a look at the B2B marketing and sales strategies for your organization. Ask if you are both working towards the same goals? Calling on the same mission statement? And using the same approach with prospects?

Report Back

The last stage in aligning the sales and marketing strategies is to report back to each other. The marketing team must get clear feedback on the MQLs they are sending to sales. (This must be data-backed and not anecdotal.) Much of this data can be found in your company’s CRM, but it’s helpful to talk to sales to see what closed, the final dollar amount, and the term of the relationship. Similarly, marketing should communicate their successes to sales to let them know how effective their campaigns are and if they are changing their approach or strategy based on the results they are seeing.

Communication

Communication is often the main conduit for aligning B2B marketing and sales strategies, creating a streamlined process, and improving a company’s overall ROI. Work with your teams internally to create a culture of communication and honest feedback. Creating a focus on the customer experience with both sales and marketing will help both teams to be successful and to build long-term relationships with clients and prospects.

04 Apr 16:05

ROI Reporting Templates and Tools That Really Rock

by Brittany Laeger

Proving the value of your marketing efforts is absolutely essential, but that doesn’t mean that you want to spend hours and hours creating customized reports and searching for data points to show the ROI of your marketing efforts on a quarterly or monthly basis.

With 900 things on your to-do list, finding a ROI reporting template that helps you wrangle business metrics can be an easy way to save yourself some time and create a repeatable process so you can check this item off your list and get to the next thing.

Creating a clear and concise reporting template is essential, because the human brain can better translate data when it’s presented visually instead of in rows and columns on a spreadsheet. And when you’re presenting complex marketing metrics to bosses or clients, that’s even more important. Peter Caputa of Databox explains it like this:

As soon as your audience sees a KPI spreadsheet, their brains must decide whether it is worth the cognitive energy. If you want them to stay engaged with your progress, you need to make it simpler for them to understand your achievements.

Knowing What to Track & Report

First, let’s establish a set of ground rules for measuring your data. It’s important to make sure that you aren’t just pulling information from Google Analytics or your marketing automation software, but instead, keeping an eye on your essential metrics that directly correlate to sales and business.

  1. Uncover Your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Spend time exploring the connections between your marketing initiatives and your customers. Try to identify what actions and activities drive the best-qualified business to your company. Is it organic traffic, webinar registration, video views, reading a specific blog post or downloading a certain e-book? By understanding this connection you can start to understand what metrics are the most important to your bottom line.
  2. Set SMART Goals: Once you’ve determined your KPIs, set clear and SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, time-bound) goals. Try not to get distracted by vanity metrics like views or visits, but instead focus on the core metrics that will ultimately to help your company close new business, like new sales qualified leads or inquiries.
  3. Find a Reporting Template that Fits Your Needs (or Create Your Own): Every business is going to have slightly different needs when it comes to reporting templates. We’ve got some pre-made examples listed for you below, but if you don’t find something that works for your business, don’t be afraid to use custom charts and graphs in tools like Excel, Numbers, Keynote, Powerpoint, Canva or Prezi.
  4. Mine the Data from Your Analytics: Use your reporting template to start tracking the relevant data. You may need to pull information from Google analytics as well as your marketing automation software and possibly your CRM.
  5. Report Data Consistently: If you’ve determined the most essential metrics for your business, it will be vital for you to monitor this data consistently. Find a way to incorporate your reports into a weekly check-in or monthly meeting so that you stay on top of any changes in your KPIs.
  6. Refine Your Marketing Strategy Based on Results: By closely monitoring your most important metrics, you should become hyper-aware of what’s driving better results. Use your new data to drive future decisions. Don’t be afraid to cut tactics and campaigns that aren’t driving results so that you have more resources to focus on the ones that are working.

With the internet full of options, it can be hard to decipher what template will be best for your business. So, we’ve compiled a few of our favorite ROI reporting templates and tools so you don’t have to go scouring the world wide web.

HubSpot’s Monthly Marketing Reports

For HubSpot Users: If you are a HubSpot user, you might want to check out the auto-generated report template before spending a lot of time creating a custom report for your business. It’s a solid baseline report that can save you some time and effort while still allowing you to track the progress of your business metrics.

If you are not already getting these reports, go into the “Profile & Preferences” settings in your Hubspot portal and make sure that you have the “Monthly Marketing Report” box checked. You can also hit the “Resend” button to access last month’s report at any time, but there is no way to access legacy reports, so having them delivered to your email is a great way to make sure that you keep it top of mind.

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For Non-HubSpot Users: HubSpot creates great free resources for marketers. Their monthly marketing report is an editable Powerpoint template with charts and graphs that you can fill-in to help show the value of your marketing efforts. While it provides a great starting point for measuring key metrics, you’ll have to gather all the data manually, so it can be a little bit time-consuming.

Download the Monthly Marketing Reporting Template

Databox

If you are looking for a way to create a solution that brings all of your data into one place, Databox might be the solution. It’s a SAAS reporting solution that allows you to connect all of your marketing channels to one place and create “Datawalls” for each of your sources.

It connects to a lot of the major players such as Google Analytics, Adwords, Salesforce, Facebook Pages, Facebook Ads, MailChimp, LinkedIn, and Instagram, as well as many of the e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Stripe, and Paypal. Using Zapier, you can connect out to even more tools like Google Docs, Base CRM, Braintree, Sugar CRM, Magento, and most importantly other marketing automation tools like Marketo and Infusionsoft.

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When you connect each app, you can choose some of their pre-made data visualizations or you can start from scratch and make one report that pulls in all of your most important information. This is a great tool if you are looking for one solution to do a marketing report dashboard as well as deep dives into each of your different marketing channels.

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My least favorite feature/function is that you have to create separate reports for mobile vs. desktop, even if you’d like them to have the exact same information. It would be great if the data just reformatted for mobile.

DashThis

DashThis is another great SAAS option for marketers who are looking for an all-in-one tracking solution that creates a repeatable and shareable dashboard from a variety of sources. The dashboards are graphic and similar to something that you’d see in Google Analytics, however, it does integrate with many different services out there like Adwords, Google Search Console, Bing Ads, Facebook Ads, Twitter, Instagram, Google +, LinkedIn Paes, Moz, Brightcove, MailChimp and more.

You can also target specific date ranges and export the data as a PDF, which is great for sending the reports to your team or upper management.

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EOS Traction Scorecard

As a Traction company, we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention the EOS scorecard. One of the main benefits of the traction process is that it forces companies to be really focused on their goals.

Look, I’ll give it to you straight. If your marketing goals aren’t aligned with your business goals, they don’t really matter. You can track the average visitor session for blog posts that were written circa 2002, but why does that matter to your bottom line?

By focusing the key metrics that will help you drive new business, you can get laser-focused on what marketing activities are really moving you closer to those goals.

Download the scorecard along with the other traction materials from the EOS website.

So What’s the Bottom Line?

As a marketer, it’s so easy to focus on your shiniest stories — the one blog that gets 2,000 new page views every month or the piece that got retweeted by the famous person with 20,000 followers. And while these are awesome stories that should be celebrated, they probably aren’t the stories that your business owners and sales team care about the most.

When creating reports to show the ROI of your marketing efforts, remember that upper management and sales want to see how your efforts are impacting the bottom line and contributing new business. Spend some time really understanding what tactics are leading to prospects, customers, and purchases so that you can show the lead and lag measures that contribute to your company.

I’ve found that when it comes to reporting, longer is not always better. People are busy and have short attention spans. If you can create a concise, kick-ass report that helps explain how you are helping the company, don’t water it down. Let your fabulous work do the talking!

04 Apr 16:05

Cold Calling Is Dead: 15 New Prospecting Strategies Salespeople Should Use

by richs@angelfish-marketing.com (Richard Stephens)

prospecting_strategies-compressor-401897-edited.jpg

Cold calling used to be one of the best -- and only -- prospecting strategies salespeople could use.

But in the past 40 years, a variety of more effective alternatives have emerged.

A good prospecting strategy is:

  • Consistent: It reliably generates new leads.
  • High-return: It generates a high number of potential customers for the amount of energy and resources required.
  • Targeted: It connects you with the right prospects, not just any prospects.

Why doesn't cold calling fit this criteria?

With over 200 million people on the global Do Not Call list, T-Mobile releasing data-only mobile packages, and corporations not taking calls unless you have a named contact, it’s clear that our desire to speak with people on the phone is dwindling -- especially if those calls are unsolicited.

On top of that, prospects can now research company information, reviews, feedback, and all manner of information online. Cold calling is becoming an unnecessary nuisance -- prospects no longer need salespeople.

In fact, it’s fair to say that anyone interrupting your day with an uninvited three-minute script is going to have to do some seriously fast and impressive talking to keep you on the line. Let’s face it; the odds aren’t on the salesperson's side: Chances are the caller has already had to get creative about how they got through to your desk phone in the first place, and the call itself has probably begun with you being mildly irritated at best.

So while prospects are annoyed that their days are still being interrupted by cold calls, sellers aren't having a good time either. They most likely have managers who demand more than 20-30 calls a day and expect just as many meetings booked per week.

But expectations and reality could not be farther apart. In sales organizations that rely on cold calling, lead flow is slowing down, the sales team is getting frustrated, and managers are getting increasingly angry.

The Harvard Business Review reported cold calling is ineffective 90% of the time, and more recent research shows that less than 2% of cold calls actually result in a meeting. Assuming a 0.3% appointment-booking rate and a 20% win rate, it would take 6,264 cold calls to make just four sales.

15 Lead Generation Alternatives to Cold Calling

What can the modern business do to protect its future and get new leads without cold calling? The good news is that it doesn’t involve a circus act or shameless begging of any sort. The bad news is that it requires a completely different way of thinking and some serious energy and hard work. Here are 15 alternatives to cold calling salespeople can use to generate leads.

  1. Share interesting content that helps prospective customers solve their business problems. Once you've built up your personal following, you'll have a natural flow of prospects to your products and/or services.
  2. Blog. Focus on the overlap between your expertise and your prospects' pain points and opportunities.
  3. Engage on social media with the right people (i.e. users who fit your ideal buyer profile) and grow your audience.
  4. Join LinkedIn groups and answer questions.
  5. Share relevant blog posts or interesting articles in online groups to help kick off the conversation.
  6. Create a great series of sales emails designed to provide inbound leads with helpful information. Make sure you're moving beyond your regular sales pitch, regular request for a meeting, or product information. Remember, it’s about them, not you. Use this sequence to help prospects learn during their research and consideration phase, so they’re ready to talk by the time you get on the phone with them.
  7. Track your web visitors' behavior and understand when the time is right to reach out with a call.
  8. Set up email notifications when prospects are researching articles on your website that signify buyer intent such as demos, price lists, and product walkthroughs.
  9. Sell based on your expert knowledge, not Jedi mind tricks.
  10. Use an integrated and intelligent CRM system so you have a context for every buyer before you reach out.
  11. Keep in touch with prospects after the sales process. Make sure you continue to send them helpful content even if they decided not to purchase. This helps you do more beyond your initial follow-up and stay in the prospect’s mind.
  12. Ditch the script: Be human, relatable, and consultative in your calls.
  13. Offer free half-hour consultations on your area of expertise. Once you've earned credibility and trust with a potential customer and delved into their challenges, explain how your product can help.
  14. Ask your happiest customers to refer you to others who might benefit from your solution. Make your request as specific as possible ("Do you know any companies of X size in [industry] who struggle with [challenge]?" ) so a name immediately leaps into your customer's head.
  15. Make a video featuring your tips for solving a common challenge or capitalizing on a timely opportunity. At the end, tell viewers you're willing to give them personalized recommendations on the topic if they'd like. Share the video on your social media platforms and send it to your customers.

Once you start turning your new social and website visitors who are in active research phase into contacts, and prospect using social media, blogs, and your own email campaigns, your prospects will be be more receptive and ready to talk -- unlike when they’ve been unexpectedly interrupted by an unwelcome phone call before their next meeting!

By looking at your website and social pages as powerful lead generation tools, you can get your sales team fully connected with your marketing team. The result? A powerful new approach that will help you nurture your leads and close deals.

Are you interested in generating more new leads from your B2B social media? Download our free beginner’s guide here.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and freshness.

HubSpot CRM

03 Apr 19:21

Leveraging Your Unique Selling Points to Grow Your Business

by Julie Chomiak

In the past, we’ve discussed the importance of having a brand and how to build a brand that sticks. However, today we’re going to look into utilizing your brand for business growth. Every business aims to increase sales and acquire new customers, yet knowing how to do that can be a challenge. This is where your unique selling points come into play.

Now, you might be thinking, “Unique selling points? What are those?” Don’t fret. We’re going to explore what unique selling points are and how to leverage them to grow your business. You may remember that when establishing your brand, you identified a unique selling proposition (USP). This is the piece that differentiates your business from every other competitor in your space and is what your business likely relies on to attract, convert, and retain customers.

In essence, your unique selling points are the translations of your UPS into actionable ideas, which help you market your business more effectively to your target audience. You probably already enlist them in your marketing efforts without realizing it.

With an understanding of what your unique selling points are, let’s explore how to leverage them for business growth.

Show what your business stands for

Your unique selling points make it possible for potential customers to easily understand what your business is about. A cursory glance at your business website, business card, or other marketing materials should convey your industry, but your unique selling points go deeper. They speak to the passion, character, personality, and values of your business. These characteristics play a major role in purchasing decisions.

By having clearly defined selling points, you are better able to communicate how your business is different from the rest. When you can successfully engage your target audience with your unique selling points, your business is on track of growth. The more attention you can generate and leads you can convert into customers, the more your business’s bottom line will benefit.

Narrow your niche

Unique selling points also serve to narrow your scope and hone in on a specific niche. Your target audience has definitive traits that should align with your selling points. Highlighting selling points about your small business that resonate with a small group of the population means you can get their attention and keep it. When customers feel like a business understands their needs and interests, they are more inclined to do business with that company.

This is exactly what you want to grow your business. By focusing on the right niche, your business can capitalize on its unique selling points and build a community around shared goals, location, and needs. Ultimately, a business could become the authority in certain niches and have a strong and loyal client-base that has potential to grow through community expansion.

Improve your networking skills

Your unique selling points go further than your marketing efforts as they translate to networking. Just like marketing campaigns, networking is a growth opportunity for any business. Meeting new people, making connections, and expanding your network are all components for a successful business.

However, networking does not always come easily to people, and this is where your unique selling points come in. Armed with clear bullet points about your business’s differentiators, it’s more natural to speak about your business and highlight its nuances in the marketplace.

You only have one chance to make a first impression, and using your business’s unique selling points gives you a leg up in networking conversations. Given the nature of the selling points, they are inherently intriguing and entice people to learn more. A casual meeting with an acquaintance could go from cursory conversation to an actual customer in no time when you include your selling points in the dialogue.

Make a bold statement

Business is all about being memorable. With unique selling points that are distinct, your business can position itself as a branded entity to the world. Incorporating intentional language and imagery into print and digital marketing, a small business can establish awareness in the marketplace.

It’s easy to think of three companies whose brands reflect their unique selling points. Aim to make every marketing material, from your website to your profile picture, consistent and compelling, while drawing on your selling points.

Consistency is king when it comes to building a business, and customers want instant recognition with their preferred businesses. By curating a cohesive online and offline presence, your business instantly gains legitimacy within your niche. Take time to develop these products in a cohesive way that represents your USP. This foundational piece sets the stage for your business reputation, which directly impacts your business growth potential.

Growing a business takes time, but armed with the right tools, it can happen more quickly than expected. These four tips will help break your business out of its routine and reveal new opportunities. Leveraging your unique selling points separates your business from competitors while providing new ways to generate revenue.

03 Apr 19:14

Discover Questions Get You Connected. Deb Calvert

by Reg Nordman

Circle-no-questions

Discover Questions Get You Connected. Deb Calvert. 2016.   Written for sales professionals it takes little effort to apply this to anywhere you need to ask questions.   For sales it is exemplary, enough that this will become my 2016 Sales book of the year.  The author makes a great case for  asking the right question early enough so the seller can communicate value.

The book has three major sections

  • How questions help us get better connected.
  • The types of questions to use
  • Practice

The author puts the questions in eight groups that you can remember using the word DISCOVER:

  • Data questions
  • Issue questions
  • Solution questions
  • Consequence questions
  • Outcome questions
  • Value questions
  • Example questions
  • Rationale questions

She works hard to put the materials into context with good examples of situations that any salesperson will recognize.

The book for all sales reps and managers to have right on their  desk to read and reread and apply every day.

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03 Apr 18:38

The Email Blast is Dead: Here’s How You Should Really Connect with Your Audience

by Liz Willits

email blast

Email blasts are dead. Email marketing, on the other hand, is very much alive and thriving. In fact, it may be the most powerful tool to drive conversions. Does that seem like a contradiction? Let me explain by quoting AWeber’s founder and CEO Tom Kulzer: “If you learn anything about email marketing as a business owner, let it be this: You are not ‘blasting’ prospects and customers. You’re sending emails in order to make personal connections with people.” Email marketing, at its best, is about making connections with your audience. It’s not a “blast” you send to a mass of faceless people. But how do you transform your “email blasts” into personal, quality emails that build relationships with your audience? In this post, I’ll explain how you can use email to truly connect and build meaningful relationships – and boost sales! And as a special bonus, I'll share access to a free resource in each section of this post to help you apply what you learn.

Give your subscribers content they love

Your subscribers join your email list to get something of value – an answer to a question, a solution to a problem, information or even entertainment. The more you give them, the more they’ll trust and rely on you. And once you’ve given them that value, they’ll be more likely to do something for you in return. In the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini calls this the theory of reciprocity – when people feel indebted to someone who gives them something. Cialdini says, “The implication is you have to go first. Give something: give information, give free samples, give a positive experience to people and they will want to give you something in return.” There are quite a few ways you can give information and value to your subscribers. Once someone joins your list, send them your latest blog posts in a weekly newsletter or email automation series to provide valuable information. Or, consider giving people a free lead magnet or incentive in exchange for their email address. The benefits of this are two-fold. One, more people will fill out your sign up form. And two, it’s a great opportunity to kickoff your relationship with subscribers by giving them content they love. For example, AWeber customers often tell us they struggle with writer’s block and don’t know what to write in their emails. To resolve this problem for our audience and grow our list, we created What to Write, a free 7-day email course and guide that includes more than 30 fill-in-the-blank email templates. (Side note: If you want this course, I'm giving it away in your resource pack if you download it!)Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 3.17.42 PM what to write in your emails After people subscribe for the course, the first email they receive includes the templates and guide we promised. But on top of that, we share two additional, relevant blog posts to give subscribers even more value. Bonus resource: Not sure what valuable content to give your subscribers? Download the bonus content for this post to get 25 Content Upgrade Ideas (That People Actually Want!)

Send targeted emails to segmented audiences

Sending the wrong message to the wrong person can really hurt your email engagement and your ability to build relationships with subscribers. It’s like a door-to-door steak salesman trying to sell meat to a vegetarian. Annoying? Yes. When you send irrelevant messages to a subscriber, they may feel like you’re wasting their time – which can lead to disengagement, unsubscribes and spam complaints. To avoid sending irrelevant emails, try segmenting your audience and sending them targeted messages. Segmentation is when your filter your subscribers into a group based on a unifying factor, such as their geographic location, interests, an action they took or skill level. This allows you to then send a targeted message by emailing relevant content to this segmented group. For example, Spartan Race Inc. sent me an email with the subject line, “Pennsylvania: Don’t Delay, Morning Heats Are Filling Up.” segmentation Since I live in Pennsylvania, this email was relevant to me and immediately caught my attention. Once I opened it, the headline “Pennsylvania Ignite the Fire Inside” continued to address me on a personal level. This segmentation convinced me to open and read this email and likely increased engagement for everyone who received it. Bonus resource: Trying to figure out how to send personal messages? Download our resource pack to get a 7-day course that'll show you how to write more personal emails.

Welcome subscribers to your list

A welcome email is a message you create and set up to automatically send to subscribers when they sign up to your list. Welcome emails get four times higher open rates and fives times higher click-through rates compared to other emails. They're also an important part of building relationships with your subscribers and increasing engagement for future emails. In your welcome email, you should:
  • Thank your subscriber for joining your list
  • Introduce your company
  • Explain what kind of content they’ll receive from you
  • Give them a lead magnet or incentive if you promised one on your sign up form
Let’s take a look at this welcome email from Chris Guillebeau of the Art to Non-Conformity. In this email, Chris thanks his subscriber, sets expectations, explains who he is and shares more resources. Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 4.02.25 PM This email lets subscribers know they successfully joined his list, and sets the tone for future messages. Additionally, it gets people excited for his next email. Bonus resource: Get a free fill-in-the-blank welcome email template and 20 more templates when you claim the resource pack from this post!

Listen to your subscribers

One of the worst things you can do in any relationship is not listen. And this applies to building a relationship with your subscribers as well. Receiving and responding to feedback from your audience is an invaluable way to deepen your relationship with them because it allows you to send even more valuable content in the future. So how exactly can you get feedback? One way is to ask subscribers to reply to your email to share their thoughts, just as Thinkific does at the bottom of this newsletter: Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 4.26.06 PM Or, email your subscribers a survey. In the example below, Airbnb shares a survey with an eye-catching call-to-action button and mentions how easy it is to complete. Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 2.49.12 PM Asking subscribers to give you feedback by responding to your emails or completing a survey are great ways to learn how you can improve your emails and offers. And when your emails are better, you’ll be able to build stronger relationships with subscribers. Once you receive feedback, however, make sure you listen and take action. Your subscribers will love you even more for it! Bonus resource: Ready to send your subscribers a survey to get feedback? There are a few mistakes you don’t want to make and guidelines you’ll want to follow. Learn all about them in our Survey Guide and Worksheet in the bonus content from this post.

Stop blasting. Start connecting.

Ultimately, there’s one rule you can follow to make sure your emails build connections with your audience: give them value. Your subscribers should love your emails so much that they’d never consider unsubscribing or marking you as spam. Instead, they should look forward to the next time one of your emails lands in their inbox. By delivering content subscribers will love, segmenting your audience, welcoming them to your list and listening to their feedback, you’ll avoid blasting your subscribers with emails they don’t want. Before you go, don't forget to download all the free resources from this post, like 30+ free email templates and 25 content upgrade ideas!

The post The Email Blast is Dead: Here’s How You Should Really Connect with Your Audience appeared first on Email Marketing Tips.

03 Apr 18:38

10 Easy Customer Engagement Strategies

by Candace Huntly

Like it or not, your customers have the power in your relationship with them. Not only do they make the final decision when it comes to purchase, but they are also connected 24/7 to a network of information – and other options. With the tap of a finger they have the opportunity to compare pricing, check reviews, and ask a friend. The path to purchase has literally become a game show that customers always win at.

Knowing this, there is no excuse for running your marketing strategy on blind hope that it will engage your audiences. You need to build a strategy that is focused on your customers’ needs, wants, and behaviours.

Whether you have a small or a large audience, here are a few strategies that you can incorporate into your own customer engagement efforts.

  1. Use Social media to listen: Everyone knows that one person who ONLY talks about themself. Those times where you sit through an entire “conversation” and your only involvement is to agree with how great they are or express your wonder at what they had to eat yesterday when they went to that fancy restaurant. Don’t be that person. Engage your customers in dialogue and really listen to what they have to say in return. If you haven’t yet built up an engaged community online, find forums where your target audience is engaged online (ie. Reddit, Tumblr, etc). Ask questions, dish out compliments, whatever you can do to elicit a positive response.
  2. Real time updates: If you are running a live workshop, or an event, don’t be afraid to give updates via social media in real time. With so many live streaming options available, you have the platform already set up. Try to get creative, but make sure you stay on brand. If you’re in real estate, why not do a live walk through of a house that just went on the market? If you run a trade show, you could do a live walk through of the show floor and speak to someone at each vendor booth. Look for value add for your customers and for those on camera.
  3. Put the spotlight on customers: User-generated content is a great way to both listen to what your customers have to say while beefing up your own unique content library. Running a contest where customers have to submit photos or stories can be a great way to get product reviews and encourage general brand engagement. And your contest doesn’t have to be run on social media, you can set it up as a landing page on your website, have email submissions, or use a third party.
  4. Loyalty programs: it’s always nice to reward loyalty among your customers. While nothing can guarantee a loyal customer won’t go to one of your competitors, if you treat your customers well, there is a greater chance they will continue to stay loyal to your brand. Here are a few options:
    • Offer a discount for returning customers
    • Offer a volume discount for returning customers (ie. Buy 10 get 1 free)
    • Create a rewards/points program
    • Offer a referral discount
    • Have a regular event for your loyal customers
  5. Engage influencers: You can only engage with so many people through your immediate audience. By having an influencer tell your story, you can then engage with a larger audience as they act as a loudspeaker for your brand. A great way to include an influencer in your strategy is to have them review your product.
  6. E-newsletter: An E-newsletter is a direct line to your audience. They have already shown interest in your brand by signing up for your list. The key is to share valuable content and offers that will keep their interest. And sending a newsletter once per quarter isn’t enough. At the very minimum you should send something monthly so you stay top of mind.
  7. Customer surveys: Once a customer has tried your product, have them complete a survey to get valuable feedback. The key is turning the data into actionable strategies to better the customer experience.
  8. Offer a free trial: Sometimes getting that first nibble can be tough. By offering a free trial you have a captive audience that is trying out your product. This means that they are in the market for what you’re selling and they liked yours enough to try it out. It also gives you the opportunity for multiple touchpoints throughout their trial period to convert them fully to a paying customer.
  9. Content strategy: Your content should address customer needs and concerns. It should answer their burning questions. In short, it needs to provide value. By creating valuable and interesting content, you have a platform for customer engagement.
  10. Quicker turnaround times: Something as simple as not making a customer wait is a great way to engage them. If they send in an inquiry via your customer care channels, try to cut down on the response times and get to a quick solution. The more they wait, the easier it is to walk away.

This article was originally posted to the SongBird Marketing Communications Blog.

03 Apr 18:38

How Sales Analytics Is Useful For Your Sales Team

by Dan Sincavage

Sales analytics represents many things to different sales teams. It could mean hard data, or the various numbers and information put together through your CRM system. It could also pertain to pipeline forecasting, lead scoring and customer information analyses.

Whatever it’s come to represent for your team – how it’s used (or not used, in some cases) to set goals, motivate and assess sales performance – it is something you shouldn’t take for granted. The optimized utilization of marketing and sales analytics is a guaranteed way of forging ahead.

Sales analytics is not just about numbers. It is there to help you put together and manage a formidable sales team.

Sales Analytics Tip 1: Use It To Set Proper Goals.

It is master salesman Zig Ziglar who first said: “A goal properly set is halfway reached.”

Goals motivate your team. It spurs them to work towards something attainable and measurable. However, an unclear or improper goal does the exact opposite, providing only spurts of unsustainable progress.

Sales data analysis provides you with the information you need for setting long- and short-term goals that are clear-cut, measurable and timely. Because it is data-driven, your team will see your goals as something they can achieve. It gives them something they can focus on and measure themselves against.

Look to your sales analytics and then apply the SMART standard of goal-setting, wherein your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Rewarding and Timely.

Sales Analytics Tip 2: Optimize Your Sales Team’s Performance.

Again, we turn to Mr. Ziglar to start things off: “Don’t count the things you do, do the things that count.”

Why keep doing something that’s ineffective and adds little value to your sales efforts? Sales analytics provides you with the best insight into your team’s performance, and what works and what doesn’t.

Because, the reality for many sales teams is that there is no need to increase the frequency of calls nor the number of agents on the job. What’s more important is to be better at what you do. Make more effective calls. Maximize the value of each call and shorten sales cycles.

Improve your conversion rate by devoting more time on prospects who are likely to buy, based on lead scoring and customer information analyses. Use these same analyses to improve how your team members engage with prospects and customers.

Sales Analytics Tip 3: Gamify Sales.

Sales analytics is a way to make several aspects of your sales processes and data visible to your team members, such as the number of calls, new accounts, and sales value. This can be used as basis in “gamifying” your team’s sales efforts.

Provide incentives and prizes for sales leaders. Assess which sales metrics lag, and reward efforts there. Even the simple act of making ranking visible can ignite each person’s competitive spirit.

Sales Analytics Tip 4: Turn Visibility and Access Into Action

With performance metrics visible and accessible, your team members know exactly where they stand. They know how far they’ve gone to achieve sales goals. Through leaderboards, they can compare themselves with their team mates. They know where each of their prospects and clients are in the sales funnel. They have in-depth insight on their own progress, and if they’re meeting their target calls, close rates and what-not.

This makes your sales analytics a great motivational tool. You could be a sales manager who needs personalized insight on the performance of each of your team members. Or, you could be a sales person who want to take proactive control of your career. When you know how you’re doing, you can take control and work towards improvement.

Sales Analytics Tip 5: Use Your Sales Analytics Tools To Empower Your Mobile Workforce.

It makes a huge difference when you provide your mobile workforce with real-time access to up-to-date information and performance metrics. They don’t suffer from information lapses that might cost them a sale or waste their time on bad visits. When they have the information they need when they need it, they can be more effective in their work, even while in the field.

As Donal Daly, founder and CEO of global sales transformation leader The TAS Group/ Altify, says: “Allowing your remote salespeople to perform the same tasks on the road as they do from their office with a mobile CRM helps them work smarter.”

Sales Analytics Tip 6: Use Your Sales Analytics Data To Identify New And Underserved Markets.

There are several ways to enhanced your sales analytics data. For instance, at the basic level, you can integrate your CRM with Google Adwords when you want to be on top of your online advertising and keyword optimization.

You can also take advantage of third-party information sources, such as Dun & Bradstreet, for industry-specific data. This data, when assessed alongside your internal sales analytics, can provide you with priceless insights to pinpoint emerging and underserved markets.

03 Apr 18:37

What is Word of Mouth Marketing?

by Brandon Gains

If you’ve been to a National Park, you know Smokey the Bear. With the classic slogan “Only you can prevent forest fires.” posted throughout the great outdoors. An earnest brown bear in a wide-brim hat holds a shovel in one paw and points a finger with the other. The message is clear: even in this huge wilderness, you can make an impact.

Just like you can prevent forest fires, marketers can ignite massive conversations with word of mouth marketing. Why is word of mouth marketing important? Because being able to create conversations around your brand is the ultimate goal of your marketing strategy. The power of word of mouth relies on the fact that humans are already social creatures – we will talk.

Today, we’ll dive deep into why word of mouth marketing is increasing in popularity and how to drive results from the strategy. A recent study from the American Marketing Association finds that 64% of marketing executives believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing – yet only 6% say they’ve mastered it.

Assisting in this discussion will be examples from five leading brands who are winning with their word of mouth marketing campaigns. Once you’ve read today’s guide, you’ll be able to put the piece together a word of mouth marketing strategy that creates a truly viral level of customer engagement.

What is Word of Mouth Marketing?

Word of mouth marketing is the process of encouraging authentic brand conversations through customers and influencers.

Similar to starting a fire, word of mouth marketing is a strategy that aims to spark a wave of brand engagement, be it in the form of referral visits, first-time purchases, customer engagement, website traffic, social sharing or mobile app downloads. The most effective word of mouth campaigns go viral. When ignited by a targeted offer, engaged customers share it so enthusiastically that it attracts new users in an exponential fashion.

  • 74% of consumers identify word-of-mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decision. — Ogilvy
  • 88% of people trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from personal contacts. — BrightLocal

How Does Word of Mouth Marketing Work?

Simply create something worth talking about. Then guide your audience to talk about it.

If I started a fire, do I need to tell you to gather around it? No. You’d do that naturally. People love to engage another around common interests and share interesting things with each other. It’s the foundational aspect of our social structure.

Whether it’s a funny video, a valuable piece of content, or an offer from a product or service worth knowing about – word is mouth is basic form of communication. The trick is making these branded topics authentic to your users and irresistibly shareable. If you succeed in this, the effect is more word of mouth and more audience engagement, both factors which fuel further revenue growth.

What makes for effective word of mouth marketing?

Jonah Berger, Professor of Marketing at Wharton, cites three factors:

#1 Emotion

Berger’s studies, published in his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, found that the strength not the type of emotion is what creates sharing behavior. Whether positive or negative, emotional responses are the key to any word of mouth initiative.

(Source)

For example, the “United Breaks Guitars” video came out and accumulated a million views in four days. United stock dropped 10% from this comic-tragic spoof. And when Microsoft had Robert Downey Jr. deliver a real bionic arm to a kid in need, viewers rewarded the deeply caring video with over 2,000,000 views.

#2 Social Currency

“Talking about remarkable things provides social currency,” says Berger. Yes, we share to connect. But also to feel good about ourselves by reaffirming what we believe is important, like holding up a mirror to our lives.

So what does your audience value? By finding what Berger calls the “inner remarkability” of something, we can use that to create positive word of mouth activity. After all, who wants to listen to a boring story. Even if you’re not showcasing awe-inspiring products like Apple, practical products or services all have something worth talking about in an interesting way.

#3 Triggers

“Triggers are the foundation of word of mouth and contagiousness,” writes Berger.

Triggers are a mechanism that reminds us of something else – even when we don’t see an advertisement in front of us. For example, many of us will always associate (and cringe from) the phrase “Wassup!” with Budweiser, no thanks to that 1999 Super Bowl ad. If you’re a beer drinker, no doubt that residual association will encourage you to buy Bud in the future.

(Source)

But if content is king, context is the key. Rather than simple catch phrases, marketers are better off looking for everyday situations their audience can be triggered. For example, Berger points to Kitkat being linked to taking coffee breaks. Since coffee drinkers are die-hard, associating a trigger with chocolate will be a frequent and profitable reminder.

#4 Trust

As with all effective customer engagement strategies, trust is an essential factor. We know that people are 4x more likely to buy when referred by a friend. But even if they’re not buying, people trust what others have to say. It’s more efficient for us to learn from others experiences than suffer through the mistakes ourselves.

How can brands gain trust from potential customers?

Utilizing user-generated content in word of mouth marketing is essential for creating brand trust and social proof to get the desired action. We can encourage user-generated content with targeted campaigns that ask customers at the right time to make a referral, leave a review, share a branded photo, etc..

This is a form of word of mouth your brand can freely employ to engage others. If your audience sees a positive review of your service, they’ll be more likely to buy. When they read a real customer testimonial, they can imagine their own success with your brand. This is why user-generated content helps build brand trust and promote further word of mouth.

5 Ways to Build a Word of Mouth Marketing Strategy

The key to word of mouth marketing is identifying what’s remarkable about a brand that will generate buzz and then fan the flames. Look to where your brand interacts with consumers and leverage various aspects of that relationship to create something worth talking about. According to WOM marketing guru, Geno Church, three different motivations spark conversation around brands:

  • Functional: Users engage in practical conversations in order to get information and better operate in the world around them.
  • Social: Users engage with brands to express their individuality, boost their reputation, and gain peer recognition.
  • Emotional: Users engage when their strong emotions are tapped.

Each brand applies these motivations differently, depending upon their audience and offering. Below we’ve highlighted five leading brands using word of mouth marketing.

#1 Leverage Influencers

(Source)

Who can fan the flames more than an influencer with a huge following? Consumers trust third-party individuals, so pairing with an audience-appropriate influencer can lead to explosive word of mouth success. When Superdry sent David Beckham a few pieces, it was definitely not a sure thing. But the fashionable soccer star took to the jackets and started wearing them out – free of charge! Social media blew up.

This type of social word of mouth paid off huge and led to similar off-the-cuff campaigns with Kate Winslet, Justin Bieber, and Zac Efron. Then Superdry capitalized and launched a YouTube channel to maximize the buzz around these celebrity interactions. By encouraging customers to share across a new channel, Superdry expanded their multi-channel marketing strategy and increased engagement with their target audience.

#2 Tap into Real Emotions

(Source)

Whether it’s shock, awe, sadness, or empathy – your brand needs to appeal to human emotion for word of mouth success. Take TOMS for example: the buy-one, share-one model is hugely profitable because it enables customers to feel like they’re making a change in the world. Regardless of buying a $60 pair of shoes and giving a $2 gift, new and loyal customers get a serious emotional boost by donating to charity.

The buzz is built into the soul of the company. Every time users wear a pair, they’re advertising for the lifestyle and the brand’s positive message. When users are equipped with such an important sense of pride it’s easier for brands to encourage word of mouth activity like referrals, reviews, and social sharing. When doing good is on the line, people are eager to spread the word any way they can.

#3 Involve Established Communities

(Source)

Red Bull knows they can always turn to the extreme sports community for a good jolt of word of mouth. So the beverage brand makes itself available to this audience through a variety of high-profile events, music concerts, on-campus college events, by circulating with Red Bull cars and giving out free samples.

By being available and interactive with consumers, they can’t help but spread the word. A remarkable car? Check. Funny backpacks? Yep. Red Bull knows that influencers will drink their beverage and spread the message, but also makes sure to appeal to their customer base in a fun and engaging way.

#4 Start Conversations Around Customer Service

(Source)

Customer service interactions are always going to be an important area to focus on and encourage word of mouth. If you’re like Starbucks, you’re always exceeding customer service expectations and netting huge word of mouth as a result.

Starbucks has always maintained a premium product, ever since 1971 when it began importing Italian coffee to the United States. An excellent product with a compelling atmosphere, which the brand grew into an internationally recognized fixture with stimulating drinks available across the globe.

From multiple social media marketing campaigns like “Meet Me at Starbucks” to the new Starbucks app, customer engagement has always been a cornerstone of their brand strategy.

We see Starbucks leveraging its product design for the White Cup Contest and Christmas time means #RedCups. Plus, there’s always funny moments to be shared with misspelled names on cups. These are provocative ways to kickstart word of mouth sharing from their target audience. This also gives the brand a unique, non-corporate feel worth talking about.

#5 Make Leaving Reviews Easy

(Source)

Casper knows people love to comment on YouTube videos. So when the mattress company initiated an unboxing campaign for users filming themselves setting up their new mattress and posting it to YouTube, the responses came flooding in.

Not only did onlookers get a taste of the ease of use and a direct testimonial about the cost (the two best features of Casper), people were compelled to comment and leave their own experiences. Plus, viewers could click a link for the full written review.

You want to equip your audience with the means to leave feedback while giving them something positive to talk about. Casper was able to showcase their disruptive product while collecting quality user-generated content and social engagement.

Last Words

Word of mouth marketing is like making a campfire: spark a conversation in the right way and you’ll see customers gather around your brand. Your challenge as a marketer will be to create a meaningful dialogue with your customers and encourage them to share it with their personal network. When building your word of mouth marketing strategy you should take advantage of consumer behavior principles of emotions, triggers, and social proof.

03 Apr 18:37

Sales Training Programs to Improve Your Team’s Selling Skills

by Dan Sincavage

Many sales managers turn to sales training programs for help shaping up their teams. Immediate goals include sales technique and skills improvement; while some seek intervention in their sales processes. Ultimately, the end goal is to improve their bottom line.

Are they always successful? No.

While CSO Insights says that top rated sales training programs help salespeople improve their win rates by 10%, this doesn’t always translate to a sustained increase in sales and profits. The ES Research Group (ESR), an independent evaluator of sales training programs based in West Tisbury, MA, claims that up to 90% of these programs have no lasting effect on sales teams after 120 days.

ESR founder and CEO Dave Stein says: “….It’s not clear whether the investment in sales training is paying off in improved sales for the training provider’s clients. Money is often wasted because companies select sales training providers that are not the right match for them.”

The key to sales training programs that truly impacts your sales team’s long-term productivity and effectiveness is to find one that truly fits your needs and industry.

Evaluation Criteria For the Best Sales And Marketing Training Program For Your Team

There are several important criteria that you need to consider when choosing a sales team training program.

Foremost are: location, budget and focus.

The first thing to consider here, of course, is focus. Which aspect of sales does your team need help with? You can get the most return from a sales and marketing training program provider who specializes in your specific requirements, as well as your industry.

Then, think about your location and budget. Location used to be a non-negotiable. Trainers needed to come to your workplace for training; or, you took a business trip to theirs. Today however, you have online training as a feasible option that suits smaller budgets.

Your team’s schedule should also be considered. The training focus would have bearing here. The more complex your training needs are, the more time you have to allot for it.

Here’s a short list of reliable sales and marketing training programs you might want to consider.

Public Sales Training Programs

Public sales training workshops are open to all individuals who want to move up in sales. You could be a sales manager or sales agent. Or, you might have individual members of your team who need specific help in marketing and sales. Public sales training offers the best opportunities for an individualized investment into your sales career.

Franklin Covey
Franklin Covey is a global training company that was launched after its The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was released. They offer a variety of sales training opportunities, online and on-site, focusing on several aspects of sales. However, they are best at training teams on critical thinking, leadership, time management and self improvement. Their public sales training programs range from 1-day to 5-day events that will set you back by $500 to $3,000 for a seat.

MHI Global
You can’t lose with MHI Global’s tried and tested standard-format seminars that cover the gamut of sales training topics. Training seminars last between 2 to 3 days, and are held regularly in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe. They are best at enterprise sales training, as well as topics like SPIN selling, large account management and strategic training. A seat can cost anywhere between $1,500 to $3,000.

On-Site Sales Training Programs

When you prefer a visit from your trainer, choose any of these leading on-site sales training programs.

Your SalesMBA™ Workshops
This is the go-to sales workshop in Boston, MA and Menlo Park, CA, run by Jeff Hoffman. A typical workshop is a half-day event packed with masters-scale information. Topics range from getting a prospect’s attention to the entire sales cycle. Fees run from $395 to $595 per attendee.

Driving To Close
Driving To Close is a John Barrows-led on-site sales training program, especially created for B2B sales teams. Typical seminars take a whole day and focus on topics, such as analyzing opportunities, running effective meetings with prospects, and addressing objections. Training comes with a customized manual and sample call scripts and email templates.

Selling Your Stories
Selling Your Stories by the Hoffeld Group is a two-day affair that teaches your team to sell the right story in order to make the sale. This is a hands-on workshop where you get to create and practice your story in front of an audience. It is best for agents, managers and trainers.

Sandler Selling System
The Sandler Selling System takes on your sales process through their ongoing training program, conducted in their training center. The target is B2B sales teams. The program covers practically everything in your sales process. The approach is repetitive and methodical so this is a training investment that will not be forgotten after 120 days.

Sales Presentation Training
The Sales Readiness Group specializes in value presentation. Their Sales Presentation Training trains your team on strategies and approaches to doing relevant and interesting presentations. It spans a day and a half to two days, and is best suited for B2B companies.

Richardson’s Consultative Selling Skills
The Richardson’s Consultative Selling Skills program is conducted on-site for a day or two, and is then continued online through their Accelerate platform. Their focus is on technical skills, value proposition and client assessment. There is no set price, to date.

Online Sales Training Programs

Online sales training programs are slightly cheaper than their on-site counterparts, and offer comparable value. Your choice between online and on-site really depends on your preference and requirements, as well as the schedule of your sales team. Some online courses can be accessed through phones, making them your practical options if you have remote sales teams.

21st Century Sales Training for Elite Performance
This marketing and sales training program by Brian Tracy is a 3-month online course on the 7 key aspects of sales: prospecting, trust and credibility development, assessing buyer’s problems, overcoming resistance, value proposition, closing, and referrals and repeat business. At $997, it comes with videos, exercises, workbooks and bonus training modules.

Smart Calling College
Smart Calling College by Art Sobczak is a month-long course that includes 2 hours of video modules a week. It is designed for companies that rely on the phone as their main method of reaching out to prospects. The weekly videos come with a workbook, online coaching sessions and online forum. The price starts at $795 for a company’s first attendee. Additional attendees from the same company pay only $695.

Sales Training and Strategy
Marc Wayshak’s Sales Training and Strategy program focuses on prospecting, and sales strategy and process. It is designed for entrepreneurs and top-level salespeople. The time frame and cost of the program vary according to client.

Inbound Sales
HubSpot Academy’s Inbound Sales program is best for those looking for inside sales training programs. It spans three hours, and focuses on your sales methodologies, from prospecting to drafting presentations. It is for sales people of all levels. The greatest thing about this sales training program is that it’s free. Once you’re done with the course, you can take an exam and get a badge you can display on your website and LinkedIn profile.

Sales Strategy: Mastering the Selling Process
Conducted by Sales Engine, this 5-week sales training program focuses on Sales 101. It is best for new sales agents and entrepreneurs as it teaches the fundamentals of selling. It is free and you have the option to pay $95 for a certificate.

B2B Inside Sales Training
This online sales training program by Salesbuzz spans 8 weeks, and covers sales skills and processes. It is ideal for inside sales agents, sales development reps, and business development reps. At $2,500 per group, you can include up to 5 agents in the training program. Each session ends with a graded exam to help agents assess their progress.

03 Apr 18:37

400% Returns on Assets

by Don Dalrymple

multiples.png

Take a look at the chart of some sample industries and the multipliers on asset value (business). If you can get net income or profit to $100K in a business like plumbing, you can sell the business for $450K. Every thousand of profit increases the sales price by 4.5x.

You can try and hunt for such returns by finding a better stock at 8%, however, you can’t beat a business profit of 56 times that rate.

Or put your money in a piece of real estate. But finding multiples on asset value would be a rare homerun. You might eke out 15%, and miss out on 30 times the opportunity.

Paper assets, real estate and businesses are holders of value that have different scales of return that the market will bear.

And if you want to exit with a business liquidation event then you focus on the variables to increase the asset value:

  • Operational efficiency and cost savings
  • Expanded paying customers
  • Product pricing
  • Top line revenue
  • Cash flow predictability

The strategy is to maximize the value of your business asset.

Of course, picking an industry that has a conventional return impacts your exit as well. Picking well creates a built-in multiplier effect with leverage.

Ultimately, strategy around leverage is the key component here when it comes to driving an exit that makes sense and the built-in variables govern your maximum upsides and opportunity.

Some leverage strategies to think about in the game you have chosen to play:

  • How much upside are you able to capitalize on?
  • How leveraged is the nature of the industry norms on value?
  • Where can you impact value the most?

If you are in a low leverage, low upside, small impact game (like employment or mutual funds), time will pass and you don’t have a shot converting your energy and time to something major.

If you’re going to have to work anyways, what about thinking a bit more strategically about what game you are in and what the end game looks like?

03 Apr 18:36

Is Your Account-Based Marketing Program Putting the Cart Before the Horse?

by Robert Pease

revisit your ABM strategy

Account-based marketing (ABM) is not going away anytime soon. In fact, Sirius Decisions found that 92% of B2B marketers worldwide consider ABM “extremely” or “very” important to their overall marketing efforts.

It follows on the heels of marketing automation, attribution, and other core themes that are becoming increasingly important as marketing becomes more data-driven. However, all too often, a cool new feature, rather than the program’s goals and objectives, leads the tools and technology decision, giving marketers anxiety. Struck with a sense of urgency, they move forward without thinking through how their strategy should inform their decisions.

To ensure you’re not putting the cart before the horse, revisit your account-based marketing strategy for these three essentials:

1. Align Sales and Marketing

Leverage account-based marketing as the forcing function to drive better alignment between sales and marketing. ABM is an organization-wide initiative and requires buy-in from stakeholders outside of marketing. Because marketing and sales are on the front lines, you’ll need to align both teams around your goals, objectives, strategy, and metrics. Only then can your marketing campaigns and sales outreach weave a consistent story that builds the case for change.

To structure your organization for alignment, define distinct roles that set expectations for how each team will engage and close your target accounts. On the marketing side, who is responsible for generating target account leads, creating personalized content, and supporting sales during deals? Who is growing customer lifetime value through cross-sell and upsell and advocacy programs? In sales, who is outbound prospecting to target accounts and closing the deals? Between the two teams, who is monitoring service level agreements and ensuring database cleanliness?

2. Know Your Audience

In the past, account-based marketing was mainly reserved for the complex enterprise sale. Now, however, new tools and technologies have enabled organizations of any size to put account-based marketing into practice and do what you should have been doing all along.

If you’ve been running ABM programs, you should already have a pretty firm grasp on the segments your business targets, the companies in those segments, and an understanding of the buying process in those companies. How else could you be investing money and resources wisely? If you’ve overlooked this step, then it’s time to take a step back to reevaluate your strategy. Target account selections will vary across organizations, so consider the accounts that are strategically significant for your business. This includes accounts that are likely to generate more revenue, look similar to your existing customers, and/or have a business need that your solution addresses.

From there, map your accounts to different marketing personas to identify key stakeholders: decision-makers, influencers, and gatekeepers. Understand that the buyer’s journey will vary—some may not be in an active buying cycle, some are currently evaluating your solution, and many others are considering options. These people all represent future business prospects, so have some patience and establish yourself as a true partner who can uniquely solve their problem, even if they aren’t looking to solve it immediately.

3. Focus on the Right Metrics

Even when your strategy and tools are aligned, it’s difficult for marketing and sales organizations to shake that old “spray and pray” mindset where a larger volume of less qualified leads are prioritized over fewer, more qualified leads. When vanity metrics like clicks and opens are the focus of marketing status updates, you are blind to how the organization is progressing toward the goals that will actually grow your business. Metrics like penetration, engagement, and active discussions per account as well as the speed at which leads progress through the funnel provide a much clearer path to forecasting the trajectory of your ABM efforts.

This targeted ‘quality over quantity’ approach may initially result in fewer incoming leads, but you’ll gain faster close rates when you reach the right people with the right message in each target account. In fact, MarketingProfs found that companies who practice ABM generate 208% more revenue for their marketing efforts.

Don’t let the ABM cart get ahead of the horse. Whether you’re thinking about investing in ABM or already piloting a program, approaching it with the right strategy will help you generate more results from your efforts. If you’re interested in learning more, join me and Matt Heinz for our interactive online workshop ABM: From Strategy to Action and Results.

 

03 Apr 18:36

Spending Precious Capital: A Startup How-To Guide

by Derek Hutson

As a technology CEO and angel investor, I am occasionally asked for advice on raising capital, timing, how to invest the capital you do raise and other decisions that can make or break a young company. Often, those questions come from founders or executives who are seeking their first or second round of “institutional” money to launch or grow their company. For those who know me, it’s no secret that I’m a frugal guy. My kids might even be a bit more candid and say, “Dad, you’re just plain cheap.” So be it. I’m proud to admit that mentality extends into my business life too. We don’t need a giant chrome panda to remind us to spend our capital wisely. If you ask Datical employees about our culture and how we invest our capital, they’d probably make comments about focus, creating value and delighting our customers.

We’ve been hyper-focused on execution and remaining lean from the very beginning. Our mentality and approach doesn’t fundamentally change as we grow. We’ve maintained that identity through rapid growth and appropriate follow-on VC funding, critical junctures during which some in the tech startup community get distracted by proverbial shiny objects and lose sight of the real objectives.

While creating a highly enjoyable work environment, offering great benefits and other perks are critical, having the “coolest” office isn’t the objective, nor is serving unlimited meals, snacks and beer. Providing irreplaceable value to customers is the objective. Having happy customers is the objective. Growing the business long-term is the objective. And raising capital is not the goal — it’s a means to those ends.

So once a startup is given some capital, what should they do with it? The adage that you have to spend money to make money is true to some extent, so how can founders, CEOs and other leaders spend capital intelligently, effectively and efficiently, continuing to hit the growth targets and live up to the potential that earned them that capital in the first place? In other words: If they had one dollar left to invest, what should they do with it?

Make hiring talent your number one priority, and don’t compromise.

People are our company’s most significant expense by a long shot, and rightfully so, as they are our most important asset and most vital place to invest. If you establish your company as a place people truly want to work, then the talent comes to you, and talent breeds exceptional products and happy customers. Understand that people want to work with other people who are just as experienced or even overqualified for job they have, to the point that you’ll often hear, “It doesn’t matter what I’m building, just that I’m doing it with this team.” It may seem obvious, but without bringing in premier talent from the bottom of your organization to the top, you can kiss any prospects of long-term success goodbye. Commit capital to this cause.

Invest in exemplary leaders and advisors.

Rock solid leadership makes a company, and nothing breaks a company faster than poor leadership. Use capital to recruit the right leadership team. Prioritizing which leadership positions to hire for first depends upon many factors, including company stage, size and others. Here are a few constants to consider: Hire leaders who complement your own expertise, bring diversity in style and experiences. Hire leaders with proven track records growing companies. And lastly, the saying to “hire people smarter than yourself” definitely applies. When hiring a leader for your company, you need to be able to answer how your company will be materially different within three to six months directly because of the fact that you hired this person. If you can’t readily answer that question, pass.

Scale your sales funnel and business structure.

If you’ve received capital, it’s safe to assume you’ve successfully sold your product a few times. Now for the fun part – repeatability and scale in your sales efforts. Start “professionalizing” your sales organization early. Hire people with a proven track record whose sole job it is to smartly, avidly and repeatedly sell, sell, sell.

Assuming your product is ready to scale, invest in your sales and marketing organizations. Insist on instrumenting your sales funnel, achieving repeatability and measuring everything. Sales and marketing are more science than art. Make sure you understand the key milestones or stages of your sales cycle and activities required to meet them. It’s also important to understand what it takes to optimize the conversion between these stages. A common mistake is believing that you must wait to start measuring pipeline, demand creation, maturity and cycle time. You can (and should) do that from your very first batch of leads and sales.

Never stop innovating on your product, but make sure it’s in the right way.

You got to this point because you built a product that has value – it solves a problem. But don’t rest on your laurels. In parallel with scaling, continuously innovate and build upon your product. As I once heard, “make your product too good to ignore.” Part of using capital wisely is only developing capabilities where you already know there is existing market demand. Invest in product management, cultivate that competence in your organization and ensure there is a sound business case as you add to your product. Innovation is a key part of enhancing value, but it needs to be pragmatic innovation.

Be flexible and adaptable, but don’t thrash.

One of the wonderful things about small, growing companies is that they are adaptable and can change quickly if needed. Be strategic about your investments by deciding on the three or four things you must do, making those investments and then keeping your eyes on the prize by executing without diversion. When you need to make changes, make them fast. Measure results and make the inevitable tough decisions. Some companies lack the discipline and focus to stay the course – they thrash about looking for the proverbial magic to happen. The “magic” happens when you have the right team, product, market and capital in place and you flat-out execute better than your competition.

Raising a substantial Series A or B sum of venture funding is always an exciting time for startups, and exceptionally so for first-time founders and executives. Pressures and questions mount quickly as soon as that capital is nailed down, but the most successful startup leaders always have a plan in place for how they’ll spend the capital before they secure it, and then they stick to the plan both fiscally and culturally. Follow the pieces of advice laid out above and you’ll be in great shape to make your investments count, help your capital go a long way, execute, grow and reach those all-important end objectives.

03 Apr 18:33

6 Ways You Can Repurpose Case Studies To Generate More Leads

by Keith Smiley

You’ve created a case study that brilliantly shows how your product or service helped solve a problem that your client was having. Instead of letting it sit on your website why not take that case study and repurpose it in to other content pieces. According to Demand Gen’s 2016 Content Preferences survey 73% of respondents said that case studies were the most valuable type of content that was viewed during their decision making process. So why not get more out of it?

Case studies are great for repurposing because the content comes directly from a satisfied customer. It shows how your product or service helped them solve a problem.

Here are 6 ways you can repurpose your case study to get the maximum benefit.

1. Write A Blog Post

Once you create a case study you should blog about it. Siobhan McGinty writes on Hubspot, “The trick is to write about the case study in a way that identifies with your audience’s needs. It’s important not to center the blog post around your company, product or service — instead the customer’s challenges and how they were overcome.” For example, if you’re an HR software firm, you could have a case study about how your software helped a client become more efficient. It could be titled: “How To Manage all of Your HR Tasks in One Solution [Case Study].” The blog post would then have a mix of tips, stats, and other examples from your case study. You should also have a call to action at the end of your post. The call-to action should provide a link to the case study so that your web visitors can read it.

2. Incorporate It in Your E-Newsletter

A great way to get more mileage out of your case studies is to put them in your e-newsletter. Just like your blog article, you can provide a mix of stats, tips, and examples from your case study. You should also provide a link to your case study so that your prospects can read it.

3. Pitch It For A Bylined Article To Be Used In A Trade Publication

Bylined articles are another great way to use case study materials. The media loves case studies because they make great stories, similar to an action movie. Case studies always describe a problem, the hero (Your company) solves the problem, and a there’s always a happy ending. Case studies can be published in industry or trade publications that accept articles from vendors. It’s a lot easier to get an article pitched and placed in a publication if you have one or two customer success stories you can talk about.

4. Distribute It In A Press Release

Case Studies are also great for PR purposes. You can send a press release detailing your case study across regional or national news wires to get in front of editors and bloggers for potential coverage

5. Use It As The Focus Of A Webinar

Webinars provide a great way to repurpose case studies. They are great for a lead generation campaign or to help further educate prospects that are already engaged with you. The webinar can be centered on one or more case studies or the case studies can be used to support the claims made in the webinar.

6. Create A Video Version

Case studies can also be repurposed for video. A video case study combines customer testimonials with more a more in-depth explanation of how your company’s products and services helped your customer be successful. These case studies usually incorporate two voices – a narrator and the voice of your customer. The video structure follows the same “Problem, Solution, Benefit” format found in a printed case study.

Conclusion

Promoting and repurposing case studies is definitely a win-win situation for you and your client. Your client will get some recognition, which could lead to more business for them. As for you, it could establish you as a thought leader and problem solver in your industry. What more could you ask for?

03 Apr 18:33

Outsourcing Lead Generation – A Business Evaluation Guide

by Will Humphries

Lead generation is one of the most important undertakings for a company or marketing team.

Qualified leads are the foundation of a healthy sales pipeline and a strong business.

However, attracting the right leads for your business, that efficiently convert into paying customers, is much more complicated, challenging and time-consuming, as many of you know only too well.

And the more you delve into this area, the more questions arise.

– What areas of your business do you need to review to help drive the right leads?

– Should you be getting your sales people to focus on converting your existing leads or have them generating new leads?

– Are there gaps in your marketing funnel and how do you identify them?

– Have you got the resources to focus on all leads throughout your funnel, and how should you prioritise them?

Full Marketing Funnel - Internal Results

Focus on the areas where there are gaps in your marketing funnel.

First, you need to build a consistent and coordinated plan for attracting prospects that match your ideal customer profile for a given solution.

Next, you need to gather data to identify the best practices for doing so.

The culmination of your data-gathering efforts is a well-documented and defined system for generating the leads you want and then either handing them off to your sales team for conversion or nurturing them further along their buyer’s journey.

These challenges are the same for all businesses. For this reason, outsourcing lead generation to an experienced and professional partner has become a viable alternative.

The following is a comprehensive guide outlining how to successfully outsource lead generation for your business.

Why Outsource Lead Generation?

To understand why outsourcing lead generation makes sense, compare the benefits of an expert partner to managing this process internally.

A recent CSO Insights study showed that 68 percent of B2B companies struggle in fulfilling their lead generation system.

If your sales team is getting bogged down by the lead generation process, speaking to a lead generation company about outsourcing part of this process may be an option for your organisation. To that end, working with a lead generation partner can prove to be a smart business decision.

Many companies recognise the key benefits:

  • Efficient conversations with top, qualified prospects – Appointments are set with the most qualified buyers, eliminating waste that can impact upon the productivity of your sales team.
  • Improved concentration on nurturing and closing for your sales team – Your team isn’t frustrated and burdened with time-consuming activities that don’t align with their passion or expertise.
  • Access to an established technology-supported system for managing the entire lead generation loop – An expert partner has the infrastructure and tools in place that you need.
  • Faster time from lead targeting to nurturing – Your sales cycle functions more swiftly with better targeting, qualifying and appointment setting, allowing you to complete more sales in a given period.
  • Lower costs – The costs of hiring an expert partner are offset by the time saved internally, and higher productivity.
  • Improved evaluation of results and modification of marketing activities – An expert partner must have a plan for helping you evaluate your lead generation system on an ongoing basis.

Step One: Assessing Your Needs

Before approaching a partner for outsourcing lead generation, conduct an internal assessment to determine where your lead generation efforts are falling short, and what areas you need to focus on to improve your results.

Common areas requiring improvement are as follows:

  • Defining your buyer personas
  • Identifying primary benefits desired by each persona
  • Attracting leads
  • Turning leads into appointments
  • Capturing data and updating records during lead generation

This needs assessment helps you recognise the areas in which outsourcing lead generation offers your company the greatest value.

It is also helpful to go to your potential partner with an idea of where the gaps are in your current sales & marketing funnel.

This knowledge enables your partner to help establish a system that addresses your core concerns.

For example, you may have prospects that are due to close fairly soon, but there is a gap between your top of funnel marketing leads and your high-quality leads.

Or, if you are a startup business, you may have a large number of marketing leads to work on, but you need to get some quick wins on the board. So you need to be getting face-to-face meetings with decision makers.

Step Two: Identifying a Lead Generation Partner

After you’ve conducted your needs assessment, it is time to determine the right lead generation partner.

As with any area of business, not all specialty providers are created equal. Knowing what qualities to look for in a lead generation partner and what questions to ask helps you make the best choice.

The ideal lead generation partner has experience and insight into your particular business sector.

It is a major hurdle to collaborate with a specialist that lacks industry familiarity. You also want a partner that takes a professional approach.

Look for case studies and testimonials from satisfied clients that speak to the firm’s process and solution elements provided.

A company that dedicates itself to learning about your business and customers is also vital, as this allows the partner to function as a virtual extension of your team.

The following are some important questions to ask as you vet potential lead generation partners:

  • How long have you been in operation and how much experience do you have with lead generation in our industry?
  • Can you provide some examples of companies that you’ve successfully helped achieve objectives?
  • What is your process for reviewing our current system, identifying challenges and areas of need, and putting together an ideal lead generation process?
  • How do you work with a partner to coordinate the hand-off from lead generation to nurturing of a prospect?
  • How do you track results of core activities throughout the process?
  • How do you work with a client to review results and suggest modifications based on data?

Step Three: Starting the Process

Following your due diligence and selection of the ideal partner for outsourcing lead generation, the next step is to get the process started.

If you have identified the right firm, your provider should emphasise a collaborative approach that allows them to leverage your value proposition.

Internal Results, for instance, uses our unique prospecting methodology to target your best prospects, and our highly-skilled sales people work to get you appointments.

The number one goal when starting the process is selecting your chosen accounts and identifying key contacts to target.

Sixty-eight percent of B2B marketers view attracting “high-quality” leads as their greatest challenge.

lead generation specialist priorities

At the time of hand-off, you want your team meeting with highly-qualified buyers with a natural interest in the solutions you provide.

Step Four: Tracking Your Results

When you choose the right lead generation partner, the steps involved in your collaboration are clearly defined, which allows you to track results of communication methods and prospect types.

They are also repeatable, so the partnership functions efficiently, and you achieve the highest possible return on your time and resource investment.

Missed opportunities are damaging to a sales organisation.

As you track performance over time, you gain insights into the types of tools and methodology that create success.

You develop a sense of the kinds of demographic, geographic and firmographic data that contribute to top-converting prospects versus those that are a drain on your time.

Some companies (yes, like Internal Results) even ties its compensation to your results by only charging you for landed appointments. This approach puts the pressure back on us to ensure our collaboration sets up the most effective and efficient lead generation activities.

Man and woman meeting

Wrap Up

Outsourcing lead generation may seem like a distant possibility for an organisation striving to achieve a return on investment. But you must bear in mind that you are not outsourcing your sales or marketing operation. You are only outsourcing the lead generation aspect, which is often a drain on internal resources.

However, when you compare the benefits of working with an expert partner to the costs and impediments of going it alone, this strategy is something to strongly consider for your business.

If you do make the decision to outsource, the next step is to find the best lead generation partner suited to your business.

Utilise the actions and questions provided to evaluate your options. A quality partner makes all the difference in your success or failure with outsourced lead generation.

After you identify a great partner, get started with the process of building a repeatable system, evaluate results and revise your efforts as time goes on.

Whether outsourcing your lead generation is an option for your organisation is only something you can answer. But I would say this, as with anything in life, do your homework and talk to experts in this area. Only then can you make an informed decision.

03 Apr 17:47

How to build a truly actionable social media audience

by Mark Schaefer

social media audience

By Mark Schaefer

If you’ll oblige me, I’d like to start with a little story from a conversation I had recently with a woman who had a disappointing experience after taking an online class on how to monetize through webinars.

My friend followed the advice from the class with engineering-like precision and nothing happened. Several webinars. Few attendees. No sales.

So she asked me what I thought was wrong. And I said that the reason it worked for the instructor, and probably didn’t work for her, is that the instructor been doing this for a decade and she is known, and has a large, passionate audience that is ready to buy from her. She has worked consistently, diligently, methodically for years to build an emotional connection and trust with an audience that is now actionable.

My friend really had no audience like that. She was at the beginning.

For most people, it takes years of work before you can hope to monetize an audience. And it takes more than just building Twitter followers. If I went out today and asked my Twitter followers, ‘Hey everybody, buy my book’ here’s how many books I would sell. None.

Most of the connections we build on social media are weak relational links. It’s a beginning. It’s a handshake. It’s an introduction to people we never would’ve met before. But you have to spend that time  to build true relationships that are actionable.

One of the biggest myths I face as a marketer is the customer’s idea that simply building any kind of social media audience correlates to business benefits. Make no mistake, building a social media audience is a good start. It opens doors to a world of potential, but that is all it is — potential.

There’s no shortcut. Over time, we have to build an actual emotional connection to our audience that turns potential into something actionable.

Of course in business there are many ways to build those relationships. When I started out, this meant phone calls, meetings, client dinners, even hopping on a plane. Thankfully, the internet has put a jetpack on those networking efforts and a combination of social media and content has made life easier.

Today, we can effectively build global connections — even loyalty — without ever meeting somebody. We do it, over time, through our content:

emotional connection

Let me give you an example of how this works.

Three years ago, the London-based CMO of a Fortune 500 company learned about me from Twitter and began to read my blog. I didn’t know he was out there, but through my content, he began to discover my thinking, views, and values. Since he was connected to me, he learned that I had a new book out in 2015, The Content Code. I know this for sure because he sent me a note telling me how much he enjoyed the book — the first time I had heard from him.

A few weeks ago, he hired me to conduct a workshop with his global content team at the company’s headquarters … and this is the first time I ever met the man. What are the lessons from this success story?

  • I created content consistently. One or two blog posts would not have built the emotional connection and trust that led to action.
  • My content was meaningful and relevant to this man, my target audience.
  • This relationship took more than three years to result in a business benefit.

Leads versus relationships

When it comes to content marketing, there are two distinct camps. Let’s call the first one the Hubspot model. The goal is to create short-term leads for a room full of telephone sales people. There’s a place for that kind of business but your sales and marketing costs are also astronomical (which has been well-documented in the case of Hubspot).

The other option is to use this content to build real relationships. Frankly this does not fit well in our culture of quarterly-driven sales goals, but for those who can patiently built an emotional connection instead of a “lead,” it can produce dramatic results … if you are willing to put in the time. Here’s an illustration of the process:

emotional connection graph

The goal of any business is to increase the level of engagement with our customers over time by providing opportunities for them to know us, and connect with us in deeper and deeper ways. Historically, this has come through advertising, or in the case of B2B, industry conferences, phone calls, and meetings. Today, we can also provide those provocations through our content.

But, it takes TIME.

The first stage is AWARENESS. At the bottom of the curve, our potential customers are just learning about us and considering whether they want to stick around. This is a non-actionable, weak relational link.

The next stage is RELIABLE REACH. At this point, a customer is following us, subscribed to us, maybe even engaging with us. We are building trust.

What an opportunity. We are building trust with strangers! Over time, perhaps many years, our fans are in a position to finally buy something from us. We are building a deep connection that may even transform to loyalty. At this point, our audience is actionable. They’re advocates and they can’t get enough of us!

Content marketing is not the answer for everybody

Contrary to what some gurus may tell you, content marketing is not for everyone because not every company has a culture that can sustain something like this. Many, many companies are stuck in the advertising/broadcasting mode trying to shout their way to glory. Don’t get me wrong. Advertising still works really well but we are also moving toward an ad-free world. We need alternatives.

I recently coached an entrepreneur who had a desperate cash flow situation. He had written 12 blog posts. “When do the customers start coming in?” he asked me. This poor man has followed some bad advice. I told him the truth. The strategy isn’t going to work in a month, or maybe even a year, because the emotional content that leads to an actionable audience has not been established.

Successful content marketing is a complex cocktail of positioning, consistency, quality, SEO, social media, engagement, analytics, and more. But most of all, it takes patience to build a truly actionable audience, not merely a bunch of social media followers.

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

The post How to build a truly actionable social media audience appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

03 Apr 17:47

Sales Processes That Your Sales Team Should Automate For Best Results

by Patrick Hogan

The most important thing for sales reps to do in a day is talking with potential customers.

However, most company systems are not set up for this. Sales reps are being robbed of their valuable hours in their work day by tasks that they don’t need to be doing. According to a recent study, reps spend less than a third of their time actually selling. How should sales teams spend their time? The best answers are talking to prospects and closing a deal.

Time available for selling is plummeting. Less than 20 percent of a salespeople’s time was being spent directly on customer-related activities. By customer-related activities, we mean preparing for a call, engaging with customers, closing sales, and doing follow-ups. It’s no wonder that sales and quota performance is plummeting as well. Sales reps are basically spending one day a week selling, and the other four days doing other things

Time drains are insidious. Each, individually, look small but combined they conspire to keep sales reps from spending time with customers and prospecting potential new ones. There’s something wonderful about understanding these time drains and eliminating them. Without changing anything about how people sell or their own effectiveness, eliminating time drains drives more customer engagement and higher sales.

“By the year 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.”, according to Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company.

As a result, reaching the buyer has become even more difficult and the value of sales reps has shifted. Customers look to the quality of their interactions with representatives as the influence on their buying decision. They require timely, consistent follow-up with the right information to meet their needs – and often without much conversation up front. They want a sales representative to quickly understand them and provide helpful insight for making an informed buying decision. To do this, sales organizations need to arm their representatives with the right tools.

Automation is the key.

Why should you automate your sales process?

An automated sales process can save you and your sales team vast amounts of time. Just imagine not needing to create weekly reports manually – you get the gist. In today’s hyper-competitive business world, sales automation has become increasingly important. Sales automation systems can eliminate many of the essential, but time-consuming, manual tasks that eat up valuable selling time.

Sales process management ensures that companies don’t miss out on any potential opportunities by managing follow-ups and also setting reminders through each stage of the sales process. Sales reps can concentrate on improving the quality of their customer interaction instead of managing follow-up procedures.

Here are some sales processes that every sales team need to automate:

Call Dialing

For most sales teams, manually dialing phone numbers day in and day out can be a drag. Not only does it take precious amounts of time but it also takes away potential company revenue. With the right tools, your team can dial leads directly from their CRM with just one click. According to the Bridge Group, a technology that automates dialing can help reps dial 40% more leads daily.

Your sales team can connect with a lot more people in a single hour by using automated dialing solutions. Automatic phone dialers boost your team’s productivity and effectivity by reaching more contacts in less time. This leaves more time for your sales team to be in a conversation with potential customers. Look for a phone dialer that integrates with your company’s CRM solution to keep information on your entire sales cycle in one place and make it a whole lot easier for your sales team to know which place to look up information on.

Qualifying and Prioritizing Leads

One of the challenges most sales teams face today is the pressure to generate qualified leads and prioritize them.

Automating this will give you and your team the flexibility and process efficiency you need to scale campaigns and generate more qualified leads through a lead scoring model. You can create automated campaigns that nurture prospects to leads without a reinvestment of time and resources. You can also integrate all your efforts on the same platform. This will help you more easily set up the programs needed to pull new people into your marketing pipeline. Apart from that, you can pre-qualify leads based on lead scores to your sales team can focus their outreach on people most likely to buy.

Creating Reports

Creating reports manually can be quite a daunting task especially if you need to create reports daily. Sales teams have a lot of better things to do than spending hours in front of the computer going through multiple data sources, dredging up relevant data, combining it, updating a file (usually an Excel spreadsheet or a Google Sheet), and then distributing that file to multiple users around the company. That’s the primary reason that companies choose to automate reports: to save time.

The number one reason why you should automate reports is to free up time and resources. You will also get access to the report data right away, without having to wait for somebody else to run it. Another important reason is accuracy – the elimination of issues and errors due to manual intervention, like hitting copy-and-paste at the wrong section.

An extra benefit is that, by freeing up time, automation allows your team to have the opportunity to focus on analyzing the data instead of on pulling it.

Sending Emails

It’s amazing how much can be accomplished with a simple note sent at the right time in the right context. But it’s not surprising that many sales representatives see this as a menial task and fail to take the time to do it.

According to a research conducted by Penn State University, it was found that sales departments do not pursue 70 percent of leads generated – something researchers called the “sales lead black hole.” If that figure could be brought down to zero with minimal effort, imagine how many more leads would convert into customers.

With sales process automation, you can draft emails and send them to current and potential customers based on triggers like submitting a form on your website, clicking on an ad, or viewing one of your product pages. What’s more, the email can be personalized with all kinds of details such as the name of the customer or the product they are looking at, ensuring that the email is as impactful as it is efficient.

Companies are now investing more than ever in technology that radically improves sales productivity. According to TOPO research, fast-growing sales development teams now have an average of five technologies in their sales stack. In order to maintain competitiveness, investing in sales productivity solutions like automation is now a requirement to enhance sales processes and amplify team effectiveness.

“The first rule of any technology used in business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” -Bill Gates

03 Apr 17:46

What is Demand Generation and Why is it so Important?

by Muhammad Rafiq

You’ve heard the buzzwords “Demand Generation” a thousand times. But that doesn’t mean you have a clear handle on what it is, or why you should care about it. Given this, I thought it would be useful for business2community readers to explain what “Demand Generation” is, and how it should fit in with a small-to-medium-sized business’s overall marketing strategy.

Demand generation is any activity conducted by an organization’s marketing department that directly contributes to more revenue (and profit) generated for the company.

This is quite distinct from branding and awareness campaigns, where companies spend thousands (some even millions) of dollars on TV commercials, billboards, radio, or any other form of paid advertising that cannot directly be traced to sales.

Advertising is therefore split into two distinct activities (in reality many more). On the one hand, getting the word out about a company and sowing seeds for sales. While on the other one, generating active demand in the form of tangible leads or sales of goods.

The demand generation marketing manager will be able to trace his or her budget to revenue and ROI.

While it is possible to draw a correlation between branding and awareness campaigns and sales – that is not their overarching goal, so it isn’t as necessary to determine a direct causal link.

As the famous adage goes – you know one half of your advertising budget worked – you just don’t know which half.

This is because it is virtually impossible to measure the impact of a TV, radio, or billboard campaign on your sales team’s pipeline and therefore on the company’s bottom line. Although there are some cases where a company used a special phone number or website to track sales from billboards, commercials or radio.

With demand generation campaigns, the marketing department is focused on generating interest and contactable leads for their sales team. At least in a b2b environment, which is where demand generation marketing staff are more common. This is because there’s an extra step required by sales to undertake in order to close a deal. In the case of b2c, if marketing has been effective, the consumer simply makes a purchase. A call from a salesperson isn’t generally required.

But in a b2b environment, marketing helps sales by enabling quotas to be met, which in turn helps to grow for the company. ROI is measured accurately via marketing automation systems, which plug into their existing CRMs. In this way, marketing – or demand generation – campaigns can be assessed as profitable. Or, if for some reason they are not profitable, staff can analyze the data produced and optimize accordingly.

The 80/20 rule applies here to your target audience. 80% will be conducting research before they make contact with you via your website or sales line. The remaining 20% have already done their research and are now in – or close to – buy mode. Buy mode means that I have ascertained what type of product I want and / or need, and I am now looking for the vendor that can give me:

  • The best value for money
  • The best customer service
  • The best overall experience

After all, purchasers do not buy based on spec sheets and bells and whistles; they buy on emotion.