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14 Jul 16:12

Is Pinterest Worthwhile for B2B?

by Brooke Tomasetti

27707 / Pixabay

I get this question a lot, so I’m excited to shed some light on the subject. Pinterest presents an interesting opportunity for B2B companies to drive traffic to their websites and convert those visitors into leads.

Users on this platform tend to be well-educated with above-average income, and 93 percent of them utilize Pinterest to plan purchases, while another 87 percent of users indicated that Pinterest helps them decide what to buy. Sounds great, but what if you aren’t selling visually appealing jewelry or cute dog toys?

Hopefully you weren’t expecting a direct yes or no answer, because like most things in marketing and business, the answer is “it depends.” I put together a list of questions to think through that will help you determine whether or not Pinterest is worthwhile for your B2B organization.

What goals do we want to achieve by using Pinterest?

Pinterest is an ideal platform for driving traffic to your website and strengthening your brand identity by positioning yourself as a thought leader in your industry. These are the two focus goals that align best with Pinterest. The platform is also ideal for inspiring and delighting existing customers with content they love. I would argue that this is more of a secondary goal, with the primary goal being to generate top-of-funnel traffic back to the site.

Is our website fully optimized for conversions?

Let’s say that you follow all of the Pinterest best practices for scaling an account that drives thousands of visits a month to your website. If you can’t convert this increase in traffic into leads, the effort you put into the Pinterest account is all for nothing. Sure, you might be building brand awareness, but if your website isn’t set up for success, you are better off allocating resources to increasing the conversion rate of your site than putting resources toward Pinterest.

After your site is optimized and you’ve started working on increasing the visit-to-contact conversion rate, keep in mind that traffic from Pinterest typically converts at a much lower rate than organic or referral traffic. Even when it comes to e-commerce stores, which tend to perform best in terms of generating purchase conversions on Pinterest, the conversion rates from social media are higher on Facebook (1.85 percent), Vimeo (1.16 percent), YouTube (1.16 percent), Instagram (1.08 percent), and Twitter (0.77 percent), than on Pinterest which has an average conversion rate of 0.54 percent for e-commerce shops.

How does our industry tie into popular Pinterest categories?

The top 10 categories based on a 2017 survey of Pinterest users’ favorite categories include:

  • Art, Art Supplies, and Hobbies
  • Flowers, Food, Drinks, and Gifts
  • Home, Garden, Pool/Spa
  • Health and Beauty
  • Clothing and Apparel
  • Entertainment
  • Jewelry, Handbags, and Accessories
  • Sporting Goods
  • Footwear
  • Baby Gear

Just because your products and services don’t fall into one of those categories doesn’t mean that you should rule Pinterest out. Get creative when thinking through how your industry might tie into some of the more popular categories. For example, HubSpot has created several holiday gift guide boards on Pinterest. They also have a board focused on career advice for Millennials.

Who are my primary buyer personas?

There are a few key user stats to keep in mind when determining if Pinterest is a viable social platform for your business. A research study found that about 41 percent of women use Pinterest, while only 16 percent of men say they use the site. Pinterest indicates that:

  • Half of new signups are men, and men make up 30 percent of their user base.
  • 50 percent of Millennials use the platform every month.
  • 40 percent of users have a household income over $100k.
  • 60 percent of user households have children under the age of five.

Many companies assume that because their target market is men they shouldn’t bother with Pinterest, but in reality, men are using Pinterest at an increasing rate. You also have a better chance of standing out in the eyes of male users if your boards and content focus on men.

Can I get creative in terms of visually displaying the brand?

B2B companies often shy away from Pinterest because they understand that their products aren’t visually appealing, or maybe they provide a service and haven’t thought through all of the different ways to create relevant visual content. This might be the only question on the list where the answer is always yes. If you’re providing a product or a service, you are impacting the lives of other people in some way. Think about what your product or service does for other people, what other interests and values your buyer personas have, and how these might translate visually.

Below are a few ideas for creating unique visual content for your Pinterest account—even if you’re in the most boring B2B niche:

  • Turn a white paper or e-book into an infographic.
  • Create quote images that resonate with your buyer personas.
  • Put statistics related to your industry and buyer personas into visuals.
  • Highlight industry influencers and/or news.
  • Focus your boards around your buyer personas’ interests and lifestyles. For example, if I own a productivity and time tracking app for agencies, I might create a board called “10-minute meal prep.” If my potential customers are interested in productivity in their work life, they’re likely also interested in productivity hacks at home.

Do we have the resources to execute a consistent strategy?

Even if you believe Pinterest to be a good fit for your brand and target market, if you don’t have the time and resources to allocate to this platform, it likely won’t make sense to start right now. There are tools that can help you whip up creative pins, schedule pins, and more, but if you’re going to give the platform a true test for at least six months, you’ll want to have enough time allocated to it.

Making the Decision

What conclusion did you come to after reviewing these questions? Did you decide to commit to building and launching an optimized Pinterest account, or did you find that your time may better be spent on other platforms such as Instagram (a.k.a. the new Facebook)?

Either way, I hope these prompts helped you think through what’s best for your business. Next time someone asks you if Pinterest is worthwhile for B2B companies, you’ll have some great talking points!

13 Jul 16:31

How to Acquire New Clients

by Anthony Iannarino

If you want to lose weight, there are a few disciplines that you must keep. You need to eat certain foods while avoiding others, always in certain amounts, and increase the amount of time and energy you spend moving your body. There are no secrets to producing that result. What you need to know has been known for a long time.

If you want to create greater wealth, the disciplines that produce that result include saving and investing money. For some with lofty goals, it often means starting or buying businesses. Spending less than you make can be difficult, but it is an age-old recipe with a long history of working.

If you want to acquire new clients, there is a single discipline that will ensure you achieve that outcome. That discipline is prospecting. This discipline might include any number of activities, but the behavior it requires is the same regardless of method: You must ask the client for a meeting to explore helping them do something different.

When you ask someone you know to call and ask someone they know to meet with you, you are prospecting.

When you call someone you believe you could help produce a better result, you are also prospecting.

Showing up at an event where the kind of people you intend to help congregate and asking them for the opportunity to meet with them, is also a form of prospecting.

Even though it lacks the same effectiveness as asking another person in a medium in which a conversation is possible, many people try to ask for a meeting over email. Even though the effectiveness is very low—and will likely be lower in the future because it is being abused by those who seek efficiency over effectiveness—it is still prospecting.

Inbound Marketing is not prospecting. While it is related to prospecting, content builds awareness and can cause people to reach out to you directly, it is not prospecting. It is excellent for building a brand and nurturing relationships with the people who you serve. Unless the content requests that a person schedule a meeting, it is above the funnel, making it marketing, not prospecting.

The post How to Acquire New Clients appeared first on The Sales Blog.

13 Jul 16:31

The Best (and Worst) Times to Send a PR Pitch

by Hanah Johnson

Pitching stories to the media is a critical component of any PR strategy. And while email is perhaps the primary vehicle to getting your company’s stories out, it’s oftentimes our greatest enemy. Journalists consistently cite email as their preferred method of contact, which sets you up against hundreds of other pitches, media alerts and press releases that flood their inboxes every day. best time to send a PR pitch

What can you do to cut through the clutter and ensure your pitch is at the top of your contact’s inbox? If you’ve prepared content that’s quick to the point, relevant and targeted to the journalist, and topped off with a catchy subject line, you’re halfway there.

But before hitting send, take a quick glance at the time – this is one of the key factors that will play into whether your pitch is even opened. For those who work in PR or email marketing, there are a few best practices you can follow to maximize your open rates.

  • Send pitches in the morning or early afternoon – the best time to send pitches is when the receiver is reviewing their inbox. This tends to be in the morning – many people check email just before or right at the time they arrive at work – or in the early afternoon when some people take downtime around lunch.
  • For major news, avoid Mondays and Friday afternoons – As most of us know all too well, Mondays are typically a scramble to clear out emails and tasks from the weekend or the previous week, while headspace is often occupied with planning for the remainder of the week. Friday afternoons – which arguably, create downtime for certain email recipients – are also a busy time for many others who need to meet end-of-week deadlines. Friday afternoons can be a hit or miss, but to be safe, target the middle of the work week when people are most likely to engage with their pitches.
  • Double check time zones – Of course, for marketers and PR professionals working with a global network of contacts (like we do here at March), time zone differences are another factor to consider. If you’re in the U.S. sending news to a journalist in Europe for instance, the last thing you want to do is share an email during your afternoon, which ends up hitting their inbox at their dinnertime. Make sure to know where each journalist is based before you pitch, and plan accordingly.
  • Pay attention to seasonal events – If you want your story to be noticed, avoid sharing it around certain holidays. An event like Christmas is pretty obvious time for people to go silent over email, but keep in mind the other cultural or regional events that your recipient may be experiencing, depending on who they are and where in the world they’re located. It’s not just holidays either it’s also important to be aware of other industry events that could be saturating the media at a given time. Tech companies, for instance, should steer clear of releasing news at the same time as CES, Apple’s WWDC or Google I/O, unless they have a specific tie-in.

There are a number of things we all know are vital to keeping your pitch from getting deleted: keep it tailored, personal, brief and catchy. But, what’s just as important is thinking about how to ensure your pitches are even opened in the first place, and this could simply come down to the right timing.

13 Jul 16:20

Sales Leadership Really is a Team Sport

by Mark Hunter

I describe sales as not a solo activity, but as a team sport.  A person asked me if I felt the same way about sales leadership being a team sport, and the answer is yes. It certainly is!

Leadership in any form is about influencing and raising up others.  This applies significantly to the essence of what sales leadership is about.  Sales leadership is about influencing customers and others, and it’s about raising them up to allow them to see and achieve opportunities they would never see on their own.

Read the last sentence again and ask yourself what it means to you.  To me it means creating incremental opportunities.

If all we do is focus on base business and opportunities everyone else sees, then where is our leadership?  Yes, leadership is needed in everything, but what I want you to aspire to be is someone who doesn’t just see opportunities, but also creates opportunities from which others can benefit.

Last week a client asked me to dig deep into a particular department of their business and assess why the output from the department isn’t what it should be.   It didn’t take long for me to see it was a lack of leadership in the team in being able to create focus toward achieving the objectives.  Each person was working, and in the end it was activity, but not the kind that was producing great results.

Think about this with regard to your customers and your sales process.  Are you doing nothing more than going through the motions and taking care of the basics?  This is what far too many salespeople and, for that matter, employees in general, are doing each day — simply going through the motions.  You can’t afford to be one of those people. Not only is it not satisfying, but it also isn’t going to get you anywhere in your career or your income.

Sales leadership is a team sport. Make it your objective to engage others, bring them along, and help them see what they didn’t think was possible.   When you do this, you’ll find yourself having a totally different perspective on your job and your life.

You know I believe sales is fun. I hope you do, too! What’s even more fun is sales leadership!

A coach can help you excel in your sales career! Invest in yourself by checking out my coaching program today!

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

13 Jul 16:04

How to Be Productive During Your Commute

by Kayla Sloan

igorovsyannykov / Pixabay

I don’t know about you, but I find that there’s never enough time to do everything I’d like to do. For instance, I love to travel, craft, sew, go for walks, and do other fun activities. But it’s not easy to fit all of these things into my schedule.

Obviously, I try to be the most productive I can at all times so I can get more work done. This helps me fit as many leisure activities into my schedule as possible.

If you are trying to be more productive also there are some ways you can that not everyone thinks of. For instance, you could be productive during your commute.

Now that I work at home, I personally don’t commute each day. But if you do, use that time wisely. Utilizing it to be more productive during your commute will give you more fun time with family or friends later.

Work on Your Task List

Rather than wasting time as you commute to and from work, or other places, use that time productively instead. One of the things you could do during that time is to work on your task list.

By using this time to add, rearrange, and delete things from your “to do” list, you’ll free up valuable time. You can also use the time to prioritize what you have to do for the day.

Once you get to work you’ll be ahead of the game. Instead of spending time figuring out what to do first you can get right to work. This may provide you with extra time to work on more complex projects increasing your efficiency.

Create Meeting Agendas

Something else you could do during your commute is to create meeting agendas. As you probably know, meeting agendas are a great way to ensure meetings run smoothly.

As discussion drifts away from topics at hand, agendas put attendees back on course. They also ensure no important topics get passed over.

Anyone who misses the meeting can review the agenda for a general idea of what was discussed. This is another benefit of meeting agendas that demonstrate their importance.

Use your commute time to be productive and create meeting agendas for your upcoming meetings.

Schedule Meetings

Bringing up meeting agendas reminds me that you can also schedule meetings during your commute. This lets you better use the time you might otherwise be simply wasting.

When your calendar is online you can access it anywhere. This lets you be productive during your commute and schedule work meetings. In addition, if you have a shared office calendar, it makes this task even easier and more efficient.

Organize Your Calendar

While you sit idle in a bus, train, or subway car, why not be productive? During your commute you might as well get organized and a good place to start is with your calendar.

Make Appointments

If you have appointments that need to be added to your calendar, use travel time to get it done. That way you don’t miss any that are important to you both personally and professionally.

Additionally, you’ll be more productive later by better using what would have been wasted time.

Review Your Calendar

Furthermore, while you sit you can review your calendar for the day’s events. Taking the time to look ahead for the day helps you get where you need to be on time. Without reviewing your calendar you run the risk of starting the day behind schedule.

As an example, what if you have an early morning meeting you forgot about? After getting to work barely on time, or a teensy bit late, you now have to scramble.

But reviewing your calendar during your commute, on the other hand, prepares you for the day.

Block Time for Work Tasks

Blocking time for work tasks is another way to be productive during your commute. It helps you take control of your time so you can get more done. Also, if you use a shared office calendar, it keeps others from scheduling meetings when your time is tight.

If you have large, complicated projects on your horizon, make sure you schedule accordingly. Make appointments with yourself by blocking time out of your schedule. This keeps you, from overbooking your calendar.

Listen to a Podcast

Podcast movement

Need an option for a way to be productive during your commute while driving? Try listening to a podcast. It’s a good way to gain the motivation you need to get through the week or even just that day.

Use your phone, tablet, or another electronic device to listen and gain inspiration. Spend the time learning about organization, leadership, productivity, and many other things that you find interesting. You may gain valuable insight that will encourage you and spark your creativity.

Learn Something New

Another way to not waste time during your commute is to learn something new. The more you understand about the different applications you use the better you can use them. It will also help you to learn hacks and shortcuts that save you time.

One idea you could try is to learn more about your calendar app. Rather than repeating the same motions every time you create a calendar event, learn about ways to do it faster. Refresh your memory about things you may not use often and could have forgotten.

Check Your Messages

A great way to be productive, as an alternative to doing nothing, is to check your messages. Check your cell phone for texts and voicemails. Dial into your work landline and listen to messages that may have been left on your desk phone.

Or course, depending on the time of day, it may or may not be too early to return phone calls. But it’s entirely possible that you could answer some text messages.

You could also read and respond to your emails during travel time to and from work. This helps you be a better manager of your time and gives you a jump start on your day.

Post to Social Media

better social media

To get as much out of your work day as possible, schedule your social media during your commute. There are social media apps that you can use on your phone to post social media. This lets you get that task out of the way so once you’re at work you can do other things.

Put on Your Thinking Cap

While on your way to or from work you could use the time to think and brainstorm. Furthermore, quiet time during a commute may make it easier to brainstorm than at work in a busy office.

For instance, if you are putting together a presentation, use the time to research and plan. Or, if you need to write an article, but have no idea what to write about, brainstorm some topics.

Play Some Music

Although some people wouldn’t necessarily consider listening to music as productive, it can be motivational. Listening to something that pumps you up and makes you feel energized can improve productivity after you arrive at work.

What’s more, music can lower your stress levels so you are ready to face whatever happens at work that day.

Let’s face it. Commutes can be long, tiring, and boring to say the least. But, as you can see, you don’t have to suffer through the boredom. Instead try some of these ways to be productive during your commute and get more done in your day.

13 Jul 16:04

What Is the Best Way to Reconcile Client Specifics with Standard Pricing Tiers?

by Doug Bartels
We often hear from clients that pricing differences across their client base are crippling their ability to scale and truly operationalize their business.   It starts with a one-off that a client asks for. This is usually accommodated to close the deal,
13 Jul 16:00

How to send the perfect cold email to get an investor interested in your company

by Zoë Bernard

man laptop tech email computer

Getting the attention of investors isn't easy. 

Venture capitalists turn down thousands of offers from prospective entrepreneurs each year and receive multiple funding requests every day.

While having industry connections undoubtedly helps, cold emails, if done right, can be a very effective method of spearheading a company's fundraising efforts.

But how do you get the attention of a busy VC whose inbox is glutted with requests?

Niv Dror, founder of San Francisco-based firm, Shrug Capital, has been on both sides of the equation. Dror singlehandedly raised his own fund with contributions from high profile VCs like Founder Fund's Cyan Banister as well as Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz.

In an effort to raise his own fund, Dror spent a lot of time thinking about what makes the perfect pitch.

Now that he's receiving scores of cold emails from entrepreneurs by the day, Dror is offering his insights to founders seeking funding. 

Here are his tips on effectively pitching an investor:

1. Keep your subject line simple.

"If you have some really clever-sounding subject line, it comes off as gimmicky," said Dror. "It needs to be authentic."

Your best option in getting an investor to open your email is to keep your subject line as straightforward and simple as possible.



2. Make it personal.

You should be focusing on cultivating a personal connection from the very first sentence, suggests Dror.

"Make it very clear that it's personal. Offer up a sentence about yourself. The person on the other end of the email is wondering, 'Who are you? Why are you emailing me?' Give your name, say what you do, and then get straight to the point."



3. Don't apologize, ever.

Dror says he often receives emails from people who apologize for taking up his time.

While the person sending the email might think the apology makes them seem more considerate, Dror says it's more likely to rub him the wrong way. 

"When you email an investor, don’t be like 'Hey, sorry for emailing you. By the way, do you want to invest $100,000 of your own money in this thing I'm making?'"

The issue with this, says Dror, is that it makes it seem as though the sender of the email doesn't value their own time.

"When people say things like, 'Hey, sorry for emailing, I know you're very busy,' it shows that they don’t respect their own time. You're essentially telling the other person: 'I don't value my own time. I value your time more. Your time is more important than mine.'"



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
13 Jul 15:58

3 Fundamental Goals of Sales Leadership

by Bob Apollo

TeroVesalainen / Pixabay

The art and science of sales leadership is clearly complicated, but the fundamental goals of sales leadership – at least from my observations of complex B2B sales environments – seem to be remarkably consistent:

  • They want to be confident that they are going to consistently achieve their revenue targets
  • They want to progressively narrow the performance gap between their best salespeople and the rest, and
  • They want to ensure that they hire the right new salespeople and make them productive quickly

If any of these goals are important to you, I hope the following experiences might prove relevant to your situation…

Revenue targets

Every sales leader wants to be confident that their sales organization is going to consistently achieve their sales targets – and yet the end-of-month or end-of-quarter is a stressful time in most sales environments.

It’s worth reflecting on the most common causes:

  • Their sales teams simply aren’t working on enough well-qualified, highly developed sales opportunities – so they end up having to attempt unnatural acts to close business before it is ready
  • Their sales teams have failed to make a strong enough connection between the specific business value of their offerings and the specific business issues of their customers
  • Their sales teams have missed out or rushed through some essential elements that the customer needs to go through in order to advance their own buying decision process

Performance Gap

Every sales leader worries about an over-dependency, quarter-after-quarter, on a handful of top sales performers and wants to narrow the gap between their best salespeople and the rest.

This also has a small number of common causes:

  • They haven’t made enough of an effort to understand exactly what it is that their top performers do differently – sometimes assuming that it is simply down to raw talent and not recognizing that much of their success can often be attributed to learned behaviors
  • As a consequence, they have been unable to incorporate these winning behaviors into simple frameworks and checklists that every salesperson can be guided to adopt and apply
  • They haven’t invested enough effort in the targeted training, coaching and mentoring that is required to move middle-of-the-road salespeople with potential into the sustained high-performance zone

New Hires

Every sales leader wants to ensure that they hire the right new salespeople and make them productive quickly and to avoid getting into a desperately unproductive hire-fail-and-fire cycle.

Unsurprisingly, there are a handful of common causes here as well:

  • They have focused too much on the apparent historical achievements of candidates and not enough to assessing the aptitude, attitude, and their ability to thrive in their new organization’s culture
  • They train their new hires in what to sell (product training) but (when hiring experienced salespeople) unwisely assume they know how to sell and so fail to train them in how to sell successfully in their new organization’s specific environment
  • They fail to invest enough time in coaching these new hires during the critical first few months of their tenure – when the foundations of long-term success or failure are established

What’s holding you back?

These goals – consistently achieving revenue targets, progressively bridging the performance gap, and recruiting and onboarding the best sales talent are close-to-universal objectives for most sales organizations.

But it’s also true that many sales leaders (and their Chief Executives) find themselves frustrated by their inability to reliably achieve these goals. And it should be obvious that the challenges that are holding them back are equally common.

There is, in my experience, an often-untapped opportunity to do better – and working harder clearly isn’t going to be enough to move the dial. Now, more than ever, sales organizations need to work smarter, to encourage winning behaviors and to eliminate bad practices.

Flexible Frameworks

But in complex B2B sales, we’re not going to achieve our goals through the application of canned scripts or rigid processes. We can only make progress through the application of flexible frameworks that make the collective wisdom of our top performers accessible to all.

This doesn’t have to be an expensive, complicated or time-consuming exercise. You can start simple and grow. Here are half-a-dozen things I suggest you focus on first:

  • Taking the time to observe and understand how your top sales performer’s behaviors differ from those of the rest of the sales organization
  • Based on these insights, clearly defining your sales pipeline stages and ensuring that every member of the sales organization understands what best practice indicates they are expected to know and do at each stage, and which milestones need to be completed before they can advance the opportunity to the next stage
  • Establishing clear and consistent guidelines for opportunity qualification, and insisting that every member of the team regularly re-qualifies their active sales opportunities
  • Establishing similarly clear expectations for proposal generation, with a particular emphasis on ensuring that every proposal includes a personalized executive summary
  • Separating forecast meetings from opportunity reviews, and using the latter as a platform for targeted opportunity coaching
  • Training your managers on how to coach their staff, and insisting on regular skills-based 1:1 coaching sessions

There are, of course, many more initiatives you could and should be taking to give you the best possible chance of achieving your goals, but these represent a pretty good start.

If you’ve got any additional experiences, I’d welcome your comments below.

13 Jul 15:58

The 5 Key Barriers to Setting High-Value Appointments & How to Overcome Them

by Joan
13 Jul 15:58

Your Must-Have Checklist for Successful Blog Promotion (Infographic)

by Brody Dorland

must-have-checklist-blog-promotionEditor’s note: Given ongoing demand for better content promotion, the author updated his earlier posts on blog promotion with this fresh checklist.

Unfortunately, while you might like to click “publish” on a blog post and wipe your hands clean, savvy marketers recognize that the work is only beginning. Without an effective and repeatable process for promoting blog posts and maximizing their visibility, all the hard work spent creating them can easily go to waste.

To help you with this component, I’d like to present a fresh take on a handy infographic that my team created in 2012, The Future-Proof Checklist for Promoting Your Blog Post, which you can find below in infographic and text form.

While important, most of these actions are more procedural than creative, letting you reserve your brainpower for the blog post creation process. By following this checklist, which is customized to highlight today’s (and tomorrow’s) most impactful amplification techniques, you can be confident you’re doing all that is necessary to squeeze every last drop of juice from your content.


Follow #blog promotion checklist to squeeze every last drop from your content, says @BrodyDorland.
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Read it, save it, print it, pin it. Follow this blueprint consistently to make some noise with your content marketing.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

1. Get visual

The data is clear: Strong visuals are needed to grab the attention of today’s web user. If you’re including all text or only dull stock images, you’re not setting yourself up for success. We recommend including in any blog post:

  • One bold and relevant feature image
  • Two additional images to support the body and narrative of your text
  • One punchy interactive or animated visual embed (meme, GIF, short video, etc.)

2. Optimize for search

SEO best practices change as quickly as the algorithms that dictate them, but some cornerstones for gaining search visibility will never go out of style:

  • Identify a target keyword, plus several longtail variations, and populate them throughout your post.
  • Run Google searches for these terms to learn about types of content already ranking.
  • Use tools like BuzzSumo and Answer the Public to find out what’s trending socially around the topic.
  • Write a meta description that accurately depicts what’s inside and compels a click.
  • Draft an irresistible title tag that includes your target keyword.
  • Crosslink to other relevant content within your post, leveraging keywords in anchor text.

Use tools like @buzzsumo & @answerthepublic to find out what’s trending socially, says @BrodyDorland.
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3. Plan for social

Social media is made for sharing. But with so much sharing going on across every network, a well-crafted approach is critical. You’ll want to lay groundwork for a sound social strategy, mixing organic and paid promotion. Take these steps before clicking “publish”:


Mix organic and paid promotion on social media to amplify your blog post, says @BrodyDorland
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  • Develop a budget for paid reach on the channels used most by your audience.
  • Draft several different sets of social copy for organic posts tailored to each network.
  • Build relationships with influencers and thought leaders with authority around the post topic (outreach, social interactions, comments on blogs, etc.).
  • Identify online communities, groups, or forums covering the subject area, and create a helpful presence.

4. Engage your email list

Much like social media, email remains an effective platform for blog promotion, but today’s environment necessitates more nuanced and thoughtful campaign execution. Here are a few ways to make your deliveries more dynamic:

  • Use an RSS-to-email feature to automate blog post deliveries.
  • Segment your subscriber list and target only groups relevant to the post topic.
  • Write attention-grabbing subject lines, and A/B test to optimize.
  • Make sure formatting is clean, simple, and (above all) mobile-friendly.
  • Include links for recipients to share socially directly from the email.

5. Follow through on social

The prep from Step 3 will make this one a breeze. Now that your post is live in the wild, it’s time to share and amplify via social media so people can find it. Follow this formula:

  • Publish organic posts with teasers, trackable shortlinks, and eye-catching images on your social networks of choice.
  • Schedule several spaced-out posts to those same networks over the following days and weeks.
  • Boost your best-performing organic promo posts through paid amplification.
  • Reach out to influencers whose specialties tie to the subject and ask if they’d like to share (providing them with pre-written posts will make it easy for them).
  • Include the social handles of experts mentioned or quoted in the post to get their attention.
  • Share the post in relevant communities or groups where you’ve established a presence.

6. Spread the word

There are additional actions you can take to maximize your blog post’s reach and impact. For example:

  • Add a link to your email signature so it appears at the bottom of each message you send.
  • Include the post in your company’s next newsletter.
  • Write a guest blog post for a popular industry site and link back to your post.
  • Share directly with high-value customers who are most likely to find the post useful.
  • Link to your post on social bookmarking sites like Digg or StumbleUpon.
  • Encourage coworkers to share in their networks.

#Blog promotion tip: Add a link to it in your #email signature, says @BrodyDorland.
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7. Continue ongoing promotion

The work doesn’t stop. To truly get the most out of your post, and set up future entries for success, you’ll want to make sure you’re systematically enhancing your promotion process for sustainability. Build a routine around these practices:

  • Monitor analytics vigilantly to determine which channels are driving the most traffic and invest more in top referrers.
  • Switch your headline and/or imagery if the post isn’t gaining traction.
  • Thank influencers and peers who shared your post; pay back the favor by sharing their content.
  • Grow your personal brand to expand your network and find new readers.

Hit ‘publish’ and promote on

Creating an exceptional blog post is hard work. Don’t do it a disservice by failing to properly promote and amplify. 

  • Develop a budget for paid reach on the channels used most by your audience.
  • Draft several different sets of social copy for organic posts tailored to each network.
  • Build relationships with influencers and thought leaders with authority around the post topic (outreach, social interactions, comments on blogs, etc.).
  • Identify online communities, groups, or forums covering the subject area, and create a helpful presence. 

Consistently following this checklist will ensure that your content doesn’t fall silently in an empty forest.

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used). 

Get more tips and insight on how to maximize your content at Content Marketing World Sept. 4-7. Register today using code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post Your Must-Have Checklist for Successful Blog Promotion (Infographic) appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

13 Jul 15:57

6 Ways Email Marketing Can Boost SEO Results

by Allison Quirk

As a marketer, you likely associate SEO with things like site links, SERPs, and keyword research. But have you considered how email can help you boost your performance in SEO?

Marketing emails aren’t ranked by search engines, and the goal of an email campaign is usually to get opens and click-throughs—not to boost your SEO.

But considering 51% of people discover new websites through email, it’s worth looking at how you can leverage those visits not just for one-off click-throughs, but for high-quality traffic that increases your search engine rankings.

Let’s look at a few of the benefits of designing emails with SEO in mind.

1. Improves bounce rates

Search engines know how long people tend to stay on your site and what percentage of them leave immediately (or “bounce”) without checking out your content. Your bounce rate is an important factor in your overall search ranking. Even with the best SEO writing in the world, a high bounce rate will kill your ranking.

The first step to cutting your bounce rate is creating outstanding content—and by linking to your content in email newsletters, you can actually control the quality of your visitors. Visitors from email links tend to be more engaged and more interested in your content, which makes sense because they were interested enough to sign up for your emails in the first place.

2. Boosts social engagement

An email with links for social sharing encourages your most enthusiastic visitors (subscribers) to promote your content across their social channels. Be sure to include a CTA asking subscribers to share new content. These loyal first readers can help sow the seeds of virality and drive much needed organic engagement.

Social media sharing has a clear relationship to SEO. According to a study by Google, the top five ranked pages were also the top five shared on Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+.

3. Helps target content

This is where email segmentation and CRM tools really come in handy. Using demographic info from your email list, you can deliver content directly to those who are most likely to find it valuable.

And in our modern email environment, that’s more important than ever: More than 65% of marketers are already leveraging personalized email content.

With email polls and surveys, you can ask your subscribers what they want, build content around their needs and interests, and then deliver that content in your emails. Segmentation allows you to be deliberate about the relevance of your content, and relevance is one of the pillars of SEO.

4. Creates a content hook

Email is a great way to get people to read a post and it’s a great way to distribute any single piece of content. But while you have a reader’s attention, why not try to get them to engage with multiple pieces of content?

Use your email campaigns to cross-promote your other social channels by asking readers to subscribe to your YouTube channel or follow you on Twitter, for example. These efforts will help organically grow your following and can lead to cross-promotion of even more content. Win-win.

5. Boosts engagement via CTAs

The personal nature of email makes it the ideal place for calls to action (CTAs), so when it comes to comments and shares, just ask for them with a compelling CTA. Later, you can use segmentation to target the most active contributors within your comment feed.

The same goes for reviews: Make an ask through a CTA. Better yet: Embed review forms and links to your Google Business reviews in your emails. This is vital for retailers and for anyone interested in local targeting. A 2017 study by MOZ found reviews to have a 13% impact on local search results.

6. Gives content a second life

Your emails are beautiful little value-packed pieces of content in their own right, so why not get as much mileage as you can out of them? The inbox is just the beginning. You can repurpose long-form emails or batch smaller ones as blog posts (which have a direct SEO benefit).

You can also put them in an archive on your site, giving non-subscribers access to the top-shelf content ordinarily reserved for subscribers, and you might just convert some new subscribers in the process.

Wrap up

Think of email marketing as a way to connect high-quality visitors with your high-quality content. Search engines are getting better and better and separating quality content from the rest, and SEO is becoming a matter of just putting out good stuff.

Email marketing puts your best content in front of the best possible audience, and segmentation tools take the guesswork out of knowing your audience. Your email initiatives should take into account what you’re trying to accomplish with SEO and should be designed to support those goals.

13 Jul 15:50

Are Your Proposals Losing New Business?

by Tobin Lehman

rawpixel / Pixabay

Are you suffering from a low close rate on your proposals? Have you considered that your proposal, when held up to your competitors’ proposals, is losing your bid?

Here’s how to create a killer proposal.

Proposals are clearly one of those things that tend to get very little attention once we’ve created the first draft. The work that goes into the copy, content, and design is like the work that goes into writing a novel; we tend to want to change very little of what’s been working to this point.

That’s until what worked doesn’t work any more.

I estimate that a company should do at least an annual proposal review to make sure they are adjusting and staying on top of the competition. In addition, we should be striving to do our very best on our proposal package to make sure it stands out and presents our company well.

How do we do that? Here are some steps and thoughts to help you along the way.

Quote vs. Proposal

First, let’s start with a big mindset issue: a proposal is different than a quote. A quote is a pricing mechanism to help ship product in quantity to others. Quotes are for assets; proposals, in my mind, are for services. That does not mean that what we talk about here can’t be used for quotes, too, but I’m focusing on proposals.

The problem is that some proposals are attempting to be quotes. They offer very detailed itemized lists and services to be rendered. They become Magna-Carta-size documents of details around the services one firm will do for another, yet they never step back and discuss purpose.

The purpose of the proposal is to position your firm as the best choice. If you believe that pricing isn’t everything, then you are in the right camp. But if you believe that, why does your proposal focus on the price tag?

Now, I hear you all balk at that comment: “Of course you need pricing.” “We’ve got to be transparent.”

Both of these are true, but that doesn’t mean they necessarily deserve the weight they’re often given.

I’ll let you know right now, I was with you – until I invested in process and proposal crafting. Now, I have one line that discusses price. Yes, I have one number in my proposal. The point of that is to tell you it is possible to be more focused on value than on price.

As we focus on value, it’s your job in the proposal process to review, pitch and sell value to your prospect.

I guarantee that the value you present to your prospect can’t be expressed in digits. It’s far more nuanced and valuable – and it’s intangible in many cases. So why do we try to take that value and put it on a invoice?

Proposal Structure Has Meaning

We’ve all received an RFP that told us exactly what they thought we wanted to hear. That works about as well in services as it would work in marriage. So why do we submit to that type of ignorant behavior?

RFPs exist to help mitigate risk and blend differences from firm to firm. That is why we don’t do them* – they are taking the legs out on your very value, your position.

Back to the point: RFPs dictate how you are to be presented. Have you put that kind of thought into how you want to be presented to your clients?

How do you express your value to your customers?

I’d recommend thinking about what value you have. If you are a consultant, your personal experience and expertise is far more valuable than detailing every possible logistic surrounding what a consulting gig would look like. Could you do 5 pages on you, and one page on your service, pricing and terms?

That’s how it should look if you’re focused on communicating value in your proposal more than you’re focused on communicating price.

The point is this – the structure and focus of your proposal will express how you view yourself and your firm’s value. If you slap on a company bio and then rush into itemized pricing, you’re presenting yourself as a vendor and you’re seen as one of the flock of competitors out there. If you take the time to express your value, it will yield much more value.

Proposal Design Matters

So now that we have the big picture in place with structure, we need to talk about design. Word is not a design tool. Yet most proposals are created in there – and it’s because not everyone knows all the design programs.

Search for compromise. Can you have some professional design done on your most important areas that never change? Can you create templates in Word that keep most of your design in place?

You can also look at services like Proposify and Pandadoc that make your proposal templates online and give you some design control.

Once you have the details of the content and structure in place, have a professional design it. They can bring brand, image, and meaning to your words. They can add some feeling.

This serves to help set you apart. You can’t imagine some of the proposals I’ve seen that are 12pt font, no spaces, no color. Now imagine that next to a full-color, image-based proposal with a professional design. It’s not even a contest. If the pricing is even 10% higher, they are going with the designed proposal every time. I’ve been in the conversation, and it’s opened my eyes.

The Complete Package

As you roll all of these thoughts together, the big concept is to create a memorable, differentiating proposal that clearly defines your value against the competition.

It should serve as a complete package for anyone looking to engage in your services. Have you ever had a salesperson or internal staff hand you a proposal to review? You’ve never talked to the sales rep, you’ve never attended the meetings, and now you’re making a decision based solely on what is in front of you. This is why the proposal needs to be a complete package.

It’s marketing, sales, and vision all in one document.

There’s a tendency to try to limit content to avoid being repetitive. But being repetitive is exactly what you need to do. Repetition gives birth to consistency and trust. Having a full proposal that reviews everything you’ve talked about previously is a great way to build that consistency and trust.

Ask yourself this question: can someone make a good decision to buy from your proposal? If not, go to work.

13 Jul 15:44

How Any Business Can Use Text Messaging to Increase Positive Reviews and Reduce Negative Ones

by Ford Blakley

People rely on the Internet for information on, well, basically everything. When we have a question about who appeared in that movie from ten years ago, we ask the Internet. When we’re looking up a recipe for tonight’s dinner, we turn to the Internet. And when we’re deciding whether or not to make a purchase or spend our money, we refer to the Internet. With so much information at our fingertips, it’s become second-nature to look up what we’re buying and scour through images, details, and most importantly, reviews.

Reviews act as a trusted advisor for buyers who are ready to buy. They’ve done their research, know the facts, but want an opinion from those who have already taken the plunge – an inside look – so they can feel comfortable spending their money. For businesses, this means that generating good reviews on their products, services, and even their overall ability to serve the customer is crucial to attracting new buyers, retaining current customers and building loyalty.

The proof is in the numbers: 92% of consumers read online reviews, and 88% of consumers trust those reviews as much as personal recommendations. In fact, more than 50% of millennials trust online reviews more than they trust the opinions of their own friends and family. Even just having reviews at all can make a difference in securing a purchase, with 63% of consumers more likely to complete a sale for a product with reviews.

Reviews even have the potential to increase sales from 4-18%. It’s important not to discount negative reviews either. 95% of consumers suspect something fishy or fake when they don’t see bad reviews, so it’s vital that consumers are getting a clear picture of the experience you’re customers are having – even if that experience is less than stellar.

Need more proof? Consumers who don’t think online reviews are important are in the minority. In fact, only 1% of consumers think reviews aren’t at all important. And for those who think that online reviews aren’t applicable to your brick-and-mortar stores: nearly 60% of consumers are looking at reviews on their phones while shopping in-person in-store. It’s safe to say that businesses of all types need to consider how to generate positive reviews and reduce negative ones to ensure that they’re optimizing sales.

For businesses that are ready to step up their review game, luckily, there’s an extremely accessible technology that can improve the likelihood of receiving good reviews while reducing negative ones: text messaging. Think about all of the reasons why a customer might leave a bad review: the product they ordered online was delivered late; it took too long to schedule an appointment; they didn’t get to take advantage of a promotion. Businesses that open lines of communication with their customers via text messaging can actually prevent some of these pain points from ever becoming painful.

Here are some of the ways businesses can utilize text to boost positive reviews:

Send reminders & updates: Does your customer have an appointment coming up, or maybe have a payment past due? Keep your customers up-to-date by sending them a text message for expected delivery dates, appointment reminders and other notifications. They’ll appreciate that you’re on top of things and are looking out for them and their schedules.

Help with customer service: Give your customers another way to reach you. Allowing current and potential customers to text you with questions, concerns, or feedback about your products or services provides them with a convenient to communicate their needs and resolve their issues. It’s faster and less intimidating than talking on the phone for some and text has proven to be far more effective than other forms of communications such as email.

Get feedback: You can preemptively get your own “review” by sending customers surveys through text messages. If you have a product, reach out to customers to ask them how they’re liking it. If you offer a service — like a cleaning service, a take-out food business, landscaping, you name it — ask customers whether the experience met their expectations. Then, if you get negative feedback, you’ll be able to address it directly and redeem yourself, turning a bad review into a good one. Whatever feedback you rreceive make sure you let your customers know how much you appreciate it!

Accept orders: Imagine how great it would be to place an order at your favorite take-out place without having to do more than send a text. Give customers the convenience of ordering food, a service, or a product via text message to reduce the number of barriers between them deciding they want something and making that purchase. Brands like Whole Foods, Dominos and many more are already enabling text message ordering for their customers.

Schedule appointments: Let customers cut through the small talk and schedule appointments over text messaging. Not only will this let them schedule with you quickly and more frequently, but it will ensure both you and they have an accurate record of when and where the appointment is happening — reducing any miscommunication that can take place over the phone or a self-service system.

Offer promotions: If you’re slashing prices, offering coupons, or have an amazing deal on a product or service, you should text your customers about it. You’ll prevent them from feeling FOMO (fear of missing out) by letting them know immediately and directly as opposed to letting them wait to find out about the promotion or campaign on their own. This will catalyze the purchasing process, perhaps getting them in-store, asking for a service, or buying that product more quickly. However, you must be careful to set expectations about communicating via text and make sure to follow data privacy guidelines.

Improve internal operations: Text messaging can also benefit your business from an operational standpoint. You can reduce the backlog with customer service by giving customers a faster channel for communication. The best part is you’ll also have the enable text message automation capabilities, like auto-responders and templates that help reduce the time to respond to customers while saving staff resources for more complicated issues. Your team will be able to streamline requests or inquiries so they can work on getting to solutions and customer needs faster.

Text messaging can also serve as a way to reduce bad reviews. Here’s how:

Let customers know they can text you: Obviously, your customers aren’t going to text message you if they don’t know they can. Make sure you’re promoting this new channel of communication on your websites, in your emails to customers, in your stores, and any time you’re communicating with them. If they know that texting you is an option, not only is it likely that they’ll take advantage of it, they’ll also appreciate that you’re offering them another way to speak with you.

Encourage negative feedback: This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s key to your success. Encouraging your customers to provide you with feedback of all types will helps you build trust with them by demonstrating that you truly want to help customers, and that you’re committed to their experience and satisfaction. Negative feedback gives your business the opportunity to learn about where you need to improve and how you can uplevel the customer experience.

Did we mention – surveying?: So nice, we had to list it twice. You should always be asking your customers whether they enjoyed your products or services, but you should make it clear that you also want to hear about the good and the bad. The important thing here is to survey them as close to their purchase or interaction as possible so their memory is still fresh and provides a chance to rectify your wrongs and prevent that bad review from ever hitting the Internet.

Customers are looking at your business’s reviews, whether you want them to or not. Given that so many customers rely on these reviews to make purchasing decisions and decide whether or not they trust a business, it’s better to get on board with reviews than leave it up to fate.

Thankfully, by incorporating text messaging into your customer communication strategy, you can improve their overall experience and ensure that you’re getting lots of stars, thumbs-ups, and smiley-face emojis. In the end, good reviews are a sign that a business cares about its customers, and that caring will ultimately impact your bottom-line.

13 Jul 15:40

5 Lead Nurturing Tactics to Get More Opportunities

by Pushkar Gaikwad

Today’s marketplace is driven by the consumer. This means effective lead developing entails establishing and nurturing buyer relationships. This is based on lead scoring as well as content marketing.

Web traffic is not guaranteed by good content alone. Visitor retention is what matters; that’s how visitors can be converted to prospects. Content created should be centered on what the lead is looking for to effectively cater to them.

By using lead nurturing tactics, you can develop successful leads who will then bring about the actualization of your desired results; you can identify which of them have potential, how much effort is worth being invested in them and what expectations can be set from them.

After all, a lead is nothing but a prospective consumer turned into an effective promoter.

Understanding Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing is developing relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel. It focuses on marketing and communication efforts on understanding the needs of prospects and providing the information they need.

The next obvious question raised is what a sales funnel even refers to. In simple words, it is customer buying cycles broken down into distinct stages:

The Top – At this stage, people are searching for ideas, tips, and resources to help them answer questions and get ideas for problems they’re facing. The objective is to assist and provide enough value to get a conversion and move them from anonymous visitors to known people.

The Middle – At this stage, people took some conversion step to express interest – subscribe, register, or download brochure, etc. You need to learn if this person and/or their company are fit and their level of qualification.

The Bottom – At this stage, you’re moving them from being a lead to a sales qualified opportunity. This is where the hand-off from marketing to sales takes place and where people ultimately make the buying decision.

Effective Lead Nurturing tactics

The following tactics can effectively be utilized for effective lead nurturing. Some of these are effective across the Funnel, while others are more applicable to the individual stages:

1. Craft Your Buyer’s Journey

To move your buyer through the Sale’s funnel it is important to create a personalized engagement journey for them. This data can be collected and analyzed using customer relation platforms (CRP).

They store comprehensive data about current customers, their buying habits and their engagement level with the business. You should create a list of individuals who match certain traits with your ideal clients.

This creates a contact list of people. Then the marketing team targets those individuals with ads across the digital landscape: Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube or news outlets. For a personalized engagement that encourages the buyer to move forward, it is important to adopt automation.

2. Implement a Follow-Up strategy

Automated lead nurturing can help you reach large groups of prospects, but to convert inbound leads to qualified sales leads, you still need a timely follow-up email or a phone call.

A well-researched call to an inbound lead is far more effective than any volume of cold calling. You know exactly what the prospect is researching based on their recent browsing behavior and you also have enough information about the prospect to do some initial research about the organization they work for and their specific role within the company.

You can send triggered emails when someone downloads your gated content, clicks on links in your emails, visits certain pages on your website, or when they demonstrate a high level of engagement.

When you combine the power of marketing personalization with behavioral triggered emails you can deliver the right marketing messages to the right people, at exactly the right times.

3. Adopt Lead scoring

Lead Scoring is ranking of prospects by the value of their contributions to the business. Lead scoring can be implemented in most marketing automation platforms by assigning numeric values to certain website browsing behaviors, conversion events, or even social media interactions.

The resulting score is used to determine which leads should be followed up with directly by a sales rep or which leads need to be nurtured further down the funnel.

Parameters used to determine what makes a qualified lead include engagement with the business, content generated and sales values brought by the prospect.

4. Enable Sales during nurturing

Sales are an essential part of building your lead nurturing process. The ultimate goal of lead nurturing is to get more sales and advance more qualified opportunities into the pipeline.

Ground test ideas for nurture messaging before you implement. From the initial stage of interest, the prospect must be pushed towards an assured sale. Salespeople often struggle with developing nurturing content without support.

Sales cycles must be tracked diligently to determine whether the lead is qualified or not. Correctly identified qualified leads deserve concentrated efforts of Sales and Marketing.

5. Co-ordinate Sales with Marketing

Sales and Marketing depend on each other for effective sales nurturing. Information from Sale helps Marketing target the right prospects, while marketing research gives Sales potential qualified Leads.

Marketing and Sale’s efforts must thus be aligned with one another. Your sales team is on the front lines when it comes to dealing with prospects, and has the best understanding of your prospects’ pain points, needs, and interests.

Sales and marketing should be touching base on a regular basis to see how each team can get the most value out of your nurturing programs.

As sales funnels lengthen, buyers become more independent, and attention spans shrink, the case for strategic, effective lead nurturing continues to grow.

In today’s environment, there is tremendous competition, which means your competitors are working on their own lead nurturing strategies. Immediate attention to lead nurturing with full involvement of Sales and Marketing then is imperative.

Content should then be developed for each stage in the funnel. Brand awareness can also be raised better if automation is integrated into the process of lead nurturing.

13 Jul 15:40

The Flipside of Qualified Leads: Disqualification

by Kirsten Lyons

For most marketers and sales representatives, lead disqualification is something that’s met with hesitation. Even if a lead doesn’t seem like it’s ready for a trip to sales, some teams fall into the trap of thinking it’s worth a shot. The rationale behind this makes sense, the more people you engage and pitch, the more sales you generate, right?

Well, not exactly. Chasing leads for quantity’s sake can be a costly practice for a business to get into. It wastes time, energy, and money. In order for marketing and sales to truly synergize, efforts should prioritize identifying quality leads. In order to optimize your sales funnel, there needs to be a focus on lead disqualification as lead qualification.

Today, marketers are charged with putting more quality leads in front of sales than ever before. With 57% of B2B companies regarding “converting qualified leads into paying customers” as a top priority, the pressure is on to not only generate traffic at the top of the funnel but filter the quality leads for sales, while separating the poor ones.

(Source)

The differences may be subtle in nature, but properly focusing attention on the power of a disqualification process (for new or existing leads) can help unearth new approaches to demand generation and the overall lead qualification process.

In this post, we’ll explore the value of disqualification and how interactive content can be used in the process to better differentiate the good leads from the bad.

What is a Qualified Lead vs. an Unqualified Lead?

Across industries, and truthfully, within companies, the definition of a qualified lead may vary. With this in mind, we’ll focus on the high-level definitions of lead qualification, and what makes unqualified leads different from the rest:

Leads: Leads are prospects that fit into your buyer personas that have taken actions that indicate an interest in purchasing your products or services. At this stage in the sales funnel, both marketing and sales teams need to collaborate in order to define the specific behaviors that indicate a buyer’s intent to convert.

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): In order for a lead to become marketing qualified, the buyer needs to express direct interest in purchasing a product or service from your business. In other words, the buyer has taken some kind of direct action that has already placed him or her within your CRM. Typically, this involves a download (ebooks, whitepapers, infographics, etc.) along with a landing page form-fill.

Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs): Sales qualified leads are the potential buyers who’ve taken actions that indicate a serious interest in purchasing your products or services. In order to become an SQL, a lead will have to be properly researched and evaluated by both the marketing and sales teams and determined that the individual has serious potential to convert into a paying customer.

Unqualified Leads: Unqualified leads are contacts not ready, interested, or able to invest in your product or service due to any number of reasons. In other words, they don’t fit your ideal target buyer persona. In some cases, unqualified leads need additional nurturing and/or education, but it’s critical for sales and marketing to work together to find ways to identify this type of lead.

Every business and product is different and the behaviors that will indicate whether a lead is qualified should be developed from market research and data, as well as observations made from current interactions with leads.

Focus on the Leads that Have Potential to Drive the Business Forward

Properly vetting leads for both marketing and sales readiness has a number of benefits that should be seriously considered. Specifically, by separating the good leads from the bad, your marketing and sales teams:

Save Time: As any sales rep will tell you, “time is money.” With that said, the more time and effort that’s spent on finding qualified leads with a high likelihood of conversion, the more effective your sales team will be, and the higher your overall conversion rate will be.

Additionally, the focus on qualifying and unqualifying leads helps marketers gain insight into patterns, behaviors, and trends that help identify lead qualification faster. For example, if a number of SQLs downloaded a particular ebook prior to converting, marketers can then use that content as a key indicator for future lead scoring.

(Source)

Prevent Misattributing Leads: Sometimes, a lead that looks like a real opportunity for a sale turns out to be anything but. For example, a lead interested in what your business offers who doesn’t have the purchase authority to convert, or a lead who seems to be engaging with your content but doesn’t include the correct contact information. In fact, 67% of lost sales are the result of not properly qualifying potential customers before taking them to the sales team.

Keep Accurate Metrics: Sales teams want to have a healthy amount of leads in the pipeline; however, if those leads aren’t sales quality, then marketers are essentially wasting their efforts. By properly researching and disqualifying the leads that sales can’t leverage, you’re ensuring that sales funnel metrics stay accurate, helping to make sure it’s filled with quality prospects.

Using Interactive Content for Better Lead Disqualification

Now that we understand the importance behind effectively disqualifying leads, how can marketers successfully understand which leads to keep and which to disqualify? Often times, marketers accomplish this by measuring the lead engagement with product or service related content. However, this process requires marketers to make assumptions into the level of engagement or the specific insights of the potential buyer. For effective lead disqualification, marketers need better insights into the specific engagement and interests of their leads.

Enter interactive content.

By placing a variety of interactions between potential customers and the business, marketers can leverage their content for activity-based lead scoring, placing a series of interactions in front of a lead to gauge his or her level of interest in conversion as well as the overall quality of the lead. This allows marketers to gain insights that remove the need to make assumptions about prospect interest because the questions about their intentions are laid out clearly in front of them.

When marketers introduce interactive content into their lead generation efforts, it can help:

Engage Audiences: Interactive content places a variety of potential content interactions in front of users. Each interaction is designed to engage a reader based on their specific level of interest in the products or services a business sells. Through interactive content, businesses can now connect audiences to relevant content they want to engage with, no matter where the reader is within the sales funnel.

Increase Demand Generation: While interactive content facilitates engagement, it also facilitates demand generation by pushing readers further down the sales funnel with every content interaction. A potential buyer who was originally only curious about a very high-level piece of content will be connected with content that targets awareness and demand generation.

Highlight Behavioral Insights: As potential buyers engage with interactive content, their actions provide marketers and sales representatives alike with clear insights into what products or services they’re interested in, whether or not they’re close to conversion, and whether or not it seems probable they’d respond to further lead nurturing. These kinds of insights help remove the need for assumptions in the lead qualification process, leading to more high-quality leads in the funnel.

Final Thoughts

Demand generation, marketing, and sales teams have a limited supply of three things: time, budget, and people interested in their product or service. Lead disqualification should be a part of optimizing all three of these. Spend less time on dead-end leads. Focus marketing budget on nurturing promising prospects. And, ultimately, convert more leads into customers. Leveraging interactive content is a way to add disqualification (while gaining specific insights into your good leads) to your existing sales funnel.

Want to learn how this strategy worked for a real business? Check out our case study describing how S&P Global Market Intelligence aligned their sales and marketing team, implemented interactive content, and improved their conversion of MQLs to SQLs by nearly 7 percentage points.

13 Jul 15:40

Marketing Automation Part I: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

by Dave Sutton

geralt / Pixabay

When it comes down to it, technology can do almost anything we want it to. From generating responses to customer inquiries on social media to narrowing in on just the right audience in a matter of minutes, MarTech is no exception. One of the biggest benefits that technology offers to businesses today is the implementation of marketing automation. This blog series will dive into what marketing automation is, how you can use it to your advantage, and how to use it to measure your results. This is the first installment, where I will walk you through what marketing automation is and why it’s important.

Let’s start off with a basic definition of marketing automation before we dive too deep into the details. In the broadest sense, marketing automation is exactly what it sounds like: a collection of processes and software you can use to automate marketing. Essentially, technology can pull information from and engage with your audience for you, so you don’t have to do it by hand.

Marketing automation will help you achieve the ultimate goal of gaining more revenue for your business, but only if you use it the right way. According to Hubspot, the best time to use marketing automation is when potential customers are in the conversion and closure stage of the Customer BuyWay. Automation can help you segment customer bases, manage customer data, and guide your marketing campaign through venues you may not have accessed before. It is also an “integral component” of customer relationship management (CRM).

Imagine you are a customer of your business and you have a question: it could be something as simple as how to use a new product, how to find a replacement part or even just feedback about your product or service. Instead of searching for a customer service number where you risk waiting on hold, you turn to the most accessible platform you know you can find. You turn to social media. But this is a moderately sized company with dozens of daily social media interactions. You want them to respond in a timely manner, but how would they be able to?

You type your inquiry and wait…but only for a few moments. Almost immediately, you’re pinged with a response. The message is politely worded, personalized, and has either answered your specific question or points you in the right direction.

This is the power of automation and CRM, the most effective tool in your arsenal. Automation can provide potential customers, current customers, and even previous customers with a personalized experience that nurtures them into making a decision that benefits your company. In the same way that automation can encourage and remind customers to take action, it can also help create loyal, promoting customers and brand advocates.

Of course, all of these benefits are results-driven and might seem hands-off, but the people behind the software are just as important as the software itself; neither can exist without the other. Automation software will do the heavy lifting, but there still needs to be a real person on the other end of it to guide and control the data. Technology is good at what it does, but it still needs the initial input to start directing its attention. For a deeper dive into where humans perform best vs. where machines perform best – watch this webinar we co-hosted with Albert Technologies.

Along these lines, the common misconception about marketing automation (and even technology in general) is that it will take your job or make your work irrelevant. This simply isn’t true. Broadly speaking, marketing processes with high complexity, high predictability, and high repetitiveness are logical targets to be managed by machines. Most marketing execution and marketing analytics processes fit this characterization and we expect that AI will likely replace most human activities in these areas over the next several years. By contrast, marketing processes with low predictability are not seen as good targets for automation. It is challenging for a machine to design and adopt new procedures “on the fly.” Low predictability processes require the marketer to exercise judgment and apply originality and creativity to define alternative solutions and/or redefine processes, thus being an area in which humans excel.

The efficiency and speed that automation software gives your business will generate conversation and ultimately, cared-for, loyal customers. It allows you to expand your customer base and can even create jobs. 80% of businesses that use marketing automation have an increased number of leads and 50% more sales-ready leads at only 33% of the cost.

One such company that experienced greater returns with the implementation of automation-based tactics was Vineyard Vines. Their foray into marketing automation through Artificial Intelligence realized increased revenue and increased opportunities and customer-bases that they wouldn’t have found without software backing their marketing initiatives. They used the software to move from single-channel marketing initiatives (e.g. a different campaign for email, social media, print, etc.) to cross-channel marketing, which led to a 182% increase on ROI. This meant that their marketing campaigns were then functioning as a single-working unit instead of individual ones, which allowed Vineyard Vines to treat their customers as all-encompassing people on multiple platforms, not as entirely different individuals depending on the platform.

Using marketing automation no longer means that you’re ahead of the game, it means that you’re staying current and actively participating in your customer communities. The increasing need for marketing automation grows every day as technology, communication platforms, and customers’ desire for personalized experiences all become priorities that marketing leaders must address. With all of these opportunities available, automation has become the only way to address all concerns in a timely manner to best benefit the customer.

The key component to marketing automation success is to view automation as an opportunity for expansion and greater personalization. Locating all potential audiences, managing CRM in the most effective manner and making data-backed decisions can all contribute to increased revenue, but only when automation is used correctly.

In the next segment of our Marketing Automation series, we will walk you through the marketing automation tools available to you and the benefits of each one.

In the meantime, you can learn more about how businesses have transformed using marketing automation in specific case studies outlined in my new book, Marketing, Interrupted.

13 Jul 15:40

4 Retargeting Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

by Syed Balkhi

Not many users who visit your website will make a purchase the first time. In fact, on average shoppers make 9 visits to a retailer’s site before deciding to buy. You need to get those users to come back to your site repeatedly in order to increase your conversions and that’s where retargeting comes in.

Retargeting is a pixel you add to your site that “follows” users who have previously visited and left without converting and shows them a targeted ad to reel them back in. Users who are retargeted are 70 percent more likely to convert. Retargeting is not just a banner ad on a website, it’s a highly-specific ad targeted to just the right users.

Retargeting is all about the details; if you’ve started retargeting but aren’t seeing any results from it, you might have rushed through the setup and missed some key elements.

Here are four retargeting mistakes you might be making and how to fix them.

1. Bombarding users with ads.

Don’t you think it would be irritating if everywhere you went you were being followed and had the same ad shoved in your face over and over again? That’s how your customers feel if you’re overloading them with too many ads.

You want to entice users to return to your site, you don’t want to annoy them. So while retargeting can be very successful, if you bombard users with too many ads, the effectiveness will be drastically reduced.

To avoid making this mistake and being spammy to your users, use frequency caps to restrict the number of times an ad is displayed to someone online. This will increase user engagement, maintain your brand’s trustworthiness and you won’t risk ticking off your customers and leads.

2. Not segmenting your audience.

Imagine you bought something from a website and then you’re shown a ton of ads for that product you literally just bought, that’s annoying. If you don’t segment your audience by who’s never purchased vs. who has purchased or by people who pay full price vs. people who only buy sale prices, your retargeting efforts will go to waste.

One tactic is to use burn pixels to avoid displaying ads to users who have already purchased from your website. You don’t want to lose a happy customer by showing them too many ads that aren’t relevant to them. On the other hand, if someone has purchased a product from you, you can target them with a specific ad to upsell to them or encourage re-ordering.

You should also segment your ads based on interest and intent. Retargeting allows you to show users ads based on their personal interests and also based on particular pages they’ve viewed on your site. This is especially important if your online shop sells a wide variety of products. A customer who visits your women’s footwear page multiple times should not be retargeted with an ad for men’s ties for example because you’ll miss out on your chance to sell them those shoes they’re clearly interested in.

3. Not switching up your ads.

If you’re showing users the exact same ad constantly, your ads are eventually going to fade into the internet background and your users will become blind to them. Consumers will get bored easily if an ad never changes and over time click-through rates will decrease. So you need to switch up your ads to keep them fresh.

Run a variety of different ads to keep users engaged, even simply switching up the photos you use can really help. It’s also important to use different ads across different platforms to keep users on their toes.

4. No ad or landing page customization.

Not only do you need to segment your audience but you need customized ads for each segment too. Different people respond to different messages so you need ads that will speak to each of your different audiences. You’re missing out on a lot of opportunities to convert if you’re not customizing your ads for different users, occasions and holidays.

Customize ads for moms who want back to school deals, for instance, the point of retargeting is to make it as relevant to your users as possible in order to convince them to return to you and buy.

You need to customize your landing pages as well. It doesn’t make any sense for a user to click on a customized ad promoting a holiday sale, only to have it lead them to a generic landing page. It will confuse customers and lead to loss of sales so make sure to customize your landing page to your retargeting ads.

Many marketers feel that retargeting is one of the most underused marketing strategies and it’s definitely one that you should take advantage of. Now that you know not just what mistakes you’re making but how to fix them too, you’ll be able to recapture the attention of users that you would have lost before.

12 Jul 16:31

7 Ways for Bloggers to Look More Professional

by BloggingPro

Unfortunately, the blogging industry is one that many outsiders still don’t take seriously. How many times have you told someone you’re a blogger and watched them smile and nod condescendingly?

You won’t be able to convince everyone that your profession is legit, but there are things that you can do to encourage people that you’re a voice worth listening to—particularly when it comes to potential readers and collaborators.

Here are 7 simple tools to keep in mind when you want to look more professional as a blogger.

Domain Name

This one should really be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many blogs still have long, complicated URLs that clearly indicate the blog publishing platform (like Blogspot or WordPress). Make sure you choose a domain name that is short, catchy, and simple to remember. It’s best to include words related to the subject matter you write about. Your domain name will, ideally, stay the same for the rest of your blog’s lifespan, so make sure it’s something that will still be relevant years from now.

Related: How to Start a Blog and Make Money: The Definitive Guide

Original Site Design

Nothing says “I don’t know what I’m doing” like a blog made from a pre-designed template. If you want anyone to take you seriously, you’re going to have to set yourself apart from the competition in some way. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to design an entire website from scratch all by yourself, but do what you can to truly make your blog your own. You may want to consult with a professional designer, but if that’s not an option, there are plenty of customizable themes you can make use of.

Professional Portrait

professional blogger

A human face creates a connection with your audience in a way that a name or an illustration doesn’t. There are valid reasons not to include your photo on your blog (depending on how much privacy you want to maintain with your readers), but adding one to your site can be a great way to look more professional. If you do include a photo, however, make sure it’s professional-looking; you don’t want to use something blurry or backlit and shadowy. Consider hiring a pro photographer, or at least spend a little time researching basic photography techniques.

Social Media

There’s a good chance you already maintain some sort of presence on social media, alongside your blog. But are you using it in a way that puts forth a professional image? If all you’re doing is retweeting memes and posting funny cat videos, probably not. Hopefully, you’re at least promoting the articles you post on your blog—but it doesn’t need to stop there. Try holding “office hours” on platforms such as Facebook Live. This allows you to engage directly with readers, answering their questions and solving problems while also demonstrating your expertise.

Branded Stationery

Your work is digital, so why would you need to pay any attention to print? Because if you don’t, you’re missing out on a highly personal means of communication. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to leave the safety of your home office and head out into the world—whether it’s a meeting with a potential collaborator or networking at a blogging conference. When you do meet someone in person and want to provide them with copies of your work or site design, you won’t want to hand them over in a loose stack. It’s a good idea to have physical materials on hand in a personalized ring binder. Make sure all of your printed materials include your blog’s logo and URL as well as your personal contact information (or social media, if that’s how you prefer people get in touch).

Email List

As a blogger seeking to build an audience, your email list is the strongest tool in your toolbox. More personal than social media, email is highly effective at maintaining a relationship with your audience. It’s vital to have one because any social media platform could shut down tomorrow—but your email list is eternal. Moreover, having an email list is an excellent way to show people you’re the real deal, dedicated to staying in contact and growing your brand. And with services like MailChimp, setting up your email list is easier than ever.

Confidence

More than anything else, the thing that really helps people take you seriously is your attitude. If you exude confidence and authority, people will take notice—so long as that confidence is justified. Focus on making your work as valuable and engaging as possible. This will make you more confident in your work, and that, in turn, will help you demonstrate your authority to others. Any time you engage with people (whether you’re commenting on another blog, networking at a conference, or reaching out to a fellow blogger), let that confidence shine through your words.

Your Turn

Do you have more advice for appearing more professional as a blogger? Share your tips in the comments below!

12 Jul 16:01

Why Successful Value Propositions Require a Team Effort

by Stacey Danheiser

Think about this. In your organization, whose job is it to come up with your company’s value proposition?

As a lifelong marketer, I’m aware that value proposition development is widely seen as a marketer’s “thing”. But what really gets to me is that this narrow view forms the crux of the alignment problem that most businesses face. According to IDC, when a B2B company’s sales and marketing teams have differing views — about what to sell and to whom to sell it — it costs them more than 10% of revenue every year. Despite this – Forrester Research recently found that only 24% of organizations collaborate internally to define target segments and accounts.

But, it’s not just about the sales and marketing teams. Every employee across organizational levels and departments is responsible for understanding the company’s value proposition and ensuring that it is delivered to the customer. From your product team to your accounting department to customer service — it’s everyone’s job to stay relevant to the customer, regardless of how big or small your company is.

Some years ago, I found this Harvard Business Review article that drew interesting parallels between innovation and value propositions and discussed why a culture of collaborative innovation is key. Simply put, if your organization, as a whole, isn’t in tune with your customers, you can’t innovate. And if you can’t innovate, you end up becoming obsolete.

So how does your value proposition strike the right chord with your customers?

My co-authors and I define an ideal value proposition in our book, Value-ology, as something that should be MUSICAL:

  • Monetary calculation—of financial benefits minus cost
  • Unique—things that set you apart from competitors
  • Spend—how much the customer is prepared to pay
  • Impact—how it will positively impact the customer
  • Capabilitywhat it is that you can do for the customer to make this impact
  • ALigned—to the key needs of the customer

Your marketing team may help drive the discussion around “what’s our value proposition?” but that’s not enough. The above “formula” shows that various departments must provide input to ensure that the value proposition is tangible and real, and not just marketing fluff.

Let me explain with the help of an example. Imagine that your company provides technology services to mid-size enterprise customers. There are over thousands of other companies that provide the same services. But you’ve learned that there are two things that make your company different:

  1. You only bill your customers for what they use; rather than a typical ‘all or nothing’ package. Your customers love this because they know they can scale their business with you when the time is right and save their precious capital for other investments that impact their growth now.
  2. Your customer onboarding process includes a dedicated program manager and proprietary education platform to help customers get the most out of their engagement with you. Your customers find value in this because they aren’t bombarded with ‘information overload’ right when they sign up. They can find the answers they need, when they need it.

Now, let’s take a look at all of the departments that need to get involved to deliver this value to your customers. Your IT department has to ensure that the data collected from customer usage is accurate before sending it to the accounting team. Your accounting team has to ensure that the billing statement is easily understood, conveniently delivered and easy to pay. Your sales team, customer service and training team have to make sure the onboarding process is cohesive and smooth. And of course, your product has to work perfectly. Finally, a step that often doesn’t happen in organizations, is that someone needs to follow-up with the customer to validate that value was actually delivered.

So you see, creating and delivering your company’s value proposition isn’t just a job for the marketing department. It’s a process of constant reinvention where many different departments have to participate. From what we have seen, typically product, marketing, strategy, service and sales need to join hands when it comes to creating the ideal value proposition.

Creating a good value proposition: Where to start

  1. Gain buy-in across the leadership team.
    We recently released a whitepaper that illustrated how the top 40 global telecom companies are telling the exact same story – using the same words and “why us?” messaging. This lack of differentiation problem isn’t just prevalent in the telecommunications space, it impacts most B2B industries.The first step in creating an impactful value proposition is to recognize that your current message isn’t producing the results you want to see. Then gain buy-in from your leadership team that it’s time to revisit and refresh your message to be more relevant and effective.
  1. Agree upon the definition of “value proposition” in your organization.
    Fornaise Group found that 83% of marketers don’t know how to define or apply the correct definition of a value proposition. In our work, we’ve found that this is a term that has very different meanings to different people. Yet, it is thrown around internally as if everyone has a consistent understanding.
  2. Define and agree upon your ideal customer target.
    In order to build a value proposition that resonates with your customer, you must first define who your ideal customer is. This fundamental work may seem obvious, but a lot of organizations haven’t taken the steps to define this. In fact, nearly 90% of businesses fail because they don’t know their target audience.So if you think “enterprise” is your target customer, it’s time to dig deeper to figure out which companies are most likely to benefit from your product/ solution. Get into the specifics of who they are, which industries they belong to, the challenges they face, their motivations to buy, and so on.
  1. Agree upon a value proposition “framework”.
    If you want your value proposition to stand out, you need to take a comprehensive view. Consider the model we use at SHAKE, which incorporates feedback and information from four sources:
  • What the market says
  • What your competitors say
  • What your customers want and value
  • What your company can provide and measure

    Ultimately, the point is—you need to agree upon the approach your organization will take to create value propositions.

  1. Agree on the process and ownership.
    Who will be responsible for collecting customer input? What about conducting competitor intelligence or market research? All of these areas need to be defined.Today’s increasingly complex business landscape demands organizations to break the silos within and adopt a unified approach. But this can only be achieved when different organizational departments—that are involved in the creation of value propositions—are in clear agreement on key foundational aspects such as the target audience and the value offered to them.

To this end, I’d love to invite you to learn more about how our Value-ology approach can help your organization work together to stand out from the competition.

Download this free e-book for a step-by-step guide to creating musicAL value propositions: Rock your customer’s world

12 Jul 15:56

How to Deliver Excellent Customer Service, Every Time

by Andrew Gazdecki

Free-Photos / Pixabay

If you compare a business to the human body, there’s no doubt customer service is at the heart. It’s more than just a conversation answering a client’s question, it’s the accumulation of every interaction the client has with your business – it’s the pilot smiling from the cockpit as you board the plane, the barista handing you a straw with your coffee, the receptionist making sure your forms have been updated correctly. From the first conversation you have with a potential client, to each email follow up, you are providing customer service at every stop. And with so many opportunities to interact with your customers, it’s important to deliver consistent and exceptional service, every time.

“Customer service is not a department. It’s a philosophy to be embraced by everyone in an organization. Everyone plays their part in contributing to the customer’s experience.” Shep Hyken

When communicating with customers daily, providing excellent customer service every time may seem futile or tediously repetitive. Whether you have long-standing clients that have been around for some time or just starting your book of business, it’s important to remember each interaction you have with your client is just as important as the first time you spoke with them. If possible, why not exceed their expectations in every exchange- after all, they are YOUR client! As a mobile marketing advisor and customer support rep, here are some of my tools I’ve found to help deliver excellent support, consistently.

Listen

This may sound obvious, but it can be so easy to just hear clients rather than really listen to what they are saying, or, not saying. Is your typically upbeat client a little sharper than normal? Is your client “all over the place” when describing an issue? They may just be extremely frustrated and inconvenienced they needed to reach out, causing them to be tense, or they may be utterly confused with the issue they’re seeing and having a difficult time explaining it. You know your client, so if something is out of character, take it into consideration and tailor your exchange accordingly.

Also, take note of how you are listening! It’s frustrating to feel like you’re not being heard, and it can be time-consuming too. Being a good listener will save your client the trouble and you both the time. Don’t start thinking of a response while your client is still explaining, really listen to them, instead of simply hearing them. By setting your intentions when listening to learn, rather than respond, you and the client will be able to achieve an understanding with much less frustration and back and forth.

Be Prompt

“Time is money.” “Time isn’t the main thing, it’s the only thing” “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” Well, maybe not the last one, but there are a seemingly endless amount of quotes regarding the importance of time. So, be prompt. Don’t let an email or voicemail sit around for hours, respond! Even if the solution or answer will take more time, just let your client know you are working on it and will follow up with a resolution in due time.

“No man can achieve success if he didn’t first know the value of time.”Sunday Adelaja

Follow Through

Nothing feels worse than being let down, except being let down and it potentially affecting your business. It’s important to take ownership over your interactions, and always follow through until any issue/communication/what have you is thoroughly and completely resolved. It is our duty to our clients to match their expectations with realistic outcomes, and our responsibility to follow through.

It’s easy to want to please the client and only deliver good news. But bad news can happen, delays can happen, so be honest from the start and allow your client the opportunity to plan accordingly.

Take a breath

Throughout your work experience, how many times have you heard “the customer is always right”? I’m guessing for you, like many of us, this old adage has become so ingrained it’s inherent in how we view business interactions. But what does this mean for you, on the business side, when the customer may, actually, be wrong? Really, really wrong? Take a breath. Maybe it’s a hard conversation, maybe it’s a information that was incorrectly received. Maybe it’s just a bad day! Take a breath. I’ve found by allowing myself a moment before responding, it’s much easier to remove erroneous emotions and be tactful.

Wrap Up

There are endless ways to interact with your clients and provide support, have exchanges, and leave them happy. Find a process and rhythm that works for you and your client that keeps you both happy, and it will pave the way towards success.

“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” – Michael LeBoeuf

12 Jul 15:55

Money Does Not Drive Bad Sales Behaviors

by Anthony Iannarino

It seems that everything that is older than the internet is outdated, has outlived its time, and is the root cause of all the challenges one might have in sales. For the last few years, commission structures and things like quotas and goals have come under attack by pseudo-experts. Money is now, as the saying goes, the root of all evil. This is evidence of something more than a misunderstanding of money, it is a misunderstanding of human motivation and human development.

Bernie Madoff lied to people to deceive them of their wealth in order to increase his own. His actions hurt people, and he is paying the penalty for his misdeeds. Warren Buffet would tell you that the most important lesson he learned from his father is that is takes 20 years to build a reputation and 20 minutes to lose it. He is one of the wealthiest people on Earth, and he spends a good bit of his time and energy in pursuit of money.

What is the difference between these two starkly opposed men? They both care deeply about money, one of them is willing to do things that are both illegal and immoral, and the other wouldn’t do anything that hinted of impropriety (and surrounds himself only with people who share those values).

The difference is moral intelligence. Morality and values is a line of human development, just like IQ and EQ and kinesthetic intelligence. Some people have underdeveloped mortal intelligence, lacking a value system that prevents them from doing “whatever it takes” to have what they want—even if it is immoral and illegal. Those who believe that commission structures and bonuses are to blame mistakenly look to money as the motivating factor—when it is the individual’s lack of moral intelligence and values that the root cause. Were it money alone, the behaviors that one might condemn would be more widespread(in many cases, those who complain accuse the salesperson of high crime of trying to schedule a meeting or sell something).

Most salespeople, like people in most other human endeavors, are not devoid of a level or moral intelligence or a value system that prevents them from working on behalf of their clients. More still, the very behaviors that one might find abhorrent, like high pressure, and hard sell tactics work against the goal of making more money.

Outside of the few people with a low moral intelligence, money doesn’t drive bad sales behaviors.

The post Money Does Not Drive Bad Sales Behaviors appeared first on The Sales Blog.

12 Jul 15:55

GOLDMAN SACHS: Here's where to put your money as trade tensions worsen

by Akin Oyedele

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

  • Trade disputes between the US and its partners pose a risk to the stock market. 
  • Goldman Sachs has reiterated four strategies that should keep investors on track for healthy returns.

Trade-related headlines put the stock market at risk of more volatility. 

To help its clients navigate these swings, Goldman Sachs has reiterated four of its top strategies that should keep investors on track for strong returns this year.  

The recommendations are not hedges against specific risks that trade disputes create for certain companies and industries. Instead, David Kostin, the chief US equity strategist, is reiterating some of his top ideas at a time when markets are vulnerable to swings based on trade-related headlines. 

These strategies are supported by an expectation that earnings growth will extend the nine-year-old bull market's lifespan. Goldman forecasts that the S&P 500 will rise 5% to 2850 by the end of this year.

The four strategies are: 

High sales growth

"Stocks with the fastest revenue growth will outperform in a decelerating economy and also offer value relative to history," Kostin said. He anticipates that sales will drive profits, which would then drive stocks.

Goldman's basket of stocks with high sales growth has outperformed the S&P 500 by six percentage points this year. Companies with the highest estimates for sales growth next year include Netflix, Amazon, Campbell Soup, and Salesforce.com

Screen Shot 2018 07 12 at 8.55.16 AM

Financials 

As interest rates rise, banks should earn the difference between the lower rates at which they borrow and the higher rates at which they lend. Goldman also expects bank stocks to benefit as they repurchase more shares after passing the Federal Reserve's stress tests

Screen Shot 2018 07 12 at 9.05.12 AM

Companies with strong balance sheets

They are another play on rising interest rates: as borrowing costs increase, firms with the most cash and minimal debt are best positioned.

Goldman's basket of such stocks has gained 7% this year, topping the S&P 500's 3% increase. They include Chipotle, Monster Beverage, Facebook, and Nvidia

Kostin has previously cautioned that many companies with strong balance sheets are also growth stocks. This overlap is historically unusual, he said, and could pose a risk if investors rotate into more defensive stocks. 

Companies with low labor costs

While workers always welcome raises, they translate to higher costs for the companies paying them. 

And so in an environment of faster wage inflation, Goldman recommends finding companies with low labor cost exposure, which have a lower risk of shrinking margins. 

The low labor cost basket includes Under Armour, Gap, Western Union, and Alphabet. The median stock in this basket has an implied labor cost of 5% of revenues, versus 13% for the S&P 500.   

SEE ALSO: 'A big head fake': Several investors are calling bluff on a major stock-market rotation that could be warning of doom

Join the conversation about this story »

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12 Jul 15:55

How to Spend Less Time Getting More Value From Your Marketing Communication Channels

Keeping up with your emails, chats, and other internal communications can pull you away from doing your actual job. But there are efficiency tools that can help you spend less time communicating and more time marketing. Read the full article at MarketingProfs
12 Jul 15:54

When Cost-Plus Pricing Is a Good Idea

by Utpal M. Dholakia
JUL18_12_154768966
HBR Staff/Image Source/Getty Images

Cost-plus pricing is a lot like the romance novel genre, in that it’s widely ridiculed yet tremendously popular. Almost every manager I know will claim they hate pricing based only on costs. Yet cost-plus pricing remains the most widespread pricing method, used to price everything from a bottle of beer in a bar to multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects.

The idea behind cost-plus pricing is straightforward. The seller calculates all costs, fixed and variable, that have been or will be incurred in manufacturing the product, and then applies a markup percentage to these costs to estimate the asking price. The markup is stipulated by the buyer, as is often the case with government contracts, or it can be chosen by the manager. (I have seen companies use markups ranging from 5% to 800%.)

Cost-Plus Pricing Has Justifiable Drawbacks

Among pricing experts, cost-plus pricing is reviled for some legitimate reasons. For stand-alone projects in particular, cost-plus pricing discourages efficiency and cost containment. When lower costs are quoted, the company earns lower revenue and total profit. A bloated cost structure, on the other hand, will raise prices and boost profit.

A second important deficiency arises from the fallacy that a cost-plus price is guaranteed to cover costs. This notion can make managers falsely complacent. In reality, because sales volume often has to be guesstimated beforehand, and fixed costs allocated to each unit based on that forecast, the cost-plus price can easily be too high or too low, resulting in a devastating miscalculation. Cost-plus prices provide no guarantee of covering costs or earning a profit.

Third, the cost-plus pricing calculation ignores both the customer’s willingness to pay and the competitors’ prices. When these factors are ignored, a pricing decision can be completely off base. For example, a competitor may enjoy a formidable cost advantage, in which case the company’s cost-plus price will be too high to be effective. In another case, a customer may be willing to pay far more, in which case the cost-plus price will be too low, letting profit go uncaptured. Value-based pricing, which explicitly accounts for these factors, is in vogue and is esteemed by many managers.

The Strategic and Tactical Benefits of Cost-Plus Pricing

Despite these limitations, there are sometimes strategic and tactical reasons to use cost-plus pricing. When implemented with forethought and prudence, cost-plus pricing can lead to powerful differentiation, greater customer trust, reduced risk of price wars, and steady, predictable profits for the company.

No pricing method is easier to communicate or to justify. Cost-plus pricing is inherently fair and nondiscriminatory to customers. What can be a more reasonable explanation for a price increase than to state, “Our input costs went up by 8% this year, so we are raising our prices by 8%”? Clothing retailer Everlane goes even further, using cost-plus pricing to make its value proposition of “radical transparency” come alive. For every garment it sells, Everlane provides a detailed breakdown of costs for materials, labor, duties, and transport, along with its markup. This way, customers can easily verify Everlane’s emphasis on paying fair wages to workers manufacturing its garments and actively endorse this company value by buying its products.

Cost-plus pricing is the very antithesis of value-based pricing, which seeks to discover differences between customers’ economic valuations and to exploit them by customizing prices. Just consider the consumer outrage generated by Uber’s surge pricing, Coca-Cola’s dynamic vending machine pricing based on outside temperature, or the variable rate pricing of electric utilities. In all these cases, many customers saw the seller’s value-based pricing moves as nothing more than gouging. Cost-plus pricers don’t face this risk. Sure, they may underprice their products for some customers, but they will sleep peacefully at night knowing customers consider their prices to be fair.

Another pragmatic benefit of cost-plus pricing is that it is simple to implement. Every frontline retail employee or bartender with a calculator can apply a markup percentage to wholesale costs and calculate the asking price, something that many mom-and-pop stores and bars appreciate.

If the major competitors in a market use cost-plus pricing, it stabilizes price levels. The amount of risk associated with pricing decisions is lowered for all players. Prices remain relatively stable, particularly when the higher-cost suppliers in the market offer higher-quality products and when lower-cost sellers offer lower-quality products. Companies are less likely to engage in price wars if they base their prices mainly on costs instead of competitors’ prices.

Cost-plus pricing can encourage shoppers to use factors other than price in buying decisions. When most of us walk into a discount mega-store, we expect to find low prices with lower service quality to match. By contrast, we expect higher service quality and more upscale and expensive products in high-end stores. When consumers believe prices reflect cost, they are more likely to factor quality into their decision, instead of just buying whatever’s cheapest.

A final and significant virtue of cost-plus pricing lies in executing a cost leadership strategy. When the company has unique competencies that allow for an advantageous cost structure relative to competitors, it can use cost-plus pricing to create and deliver the most enticing value proposition of all. It becomes a cost leader, and its low costs, the resultant low prices, and superior customer value become an integral part of its brand identity. Costco has maintained market leadership for decades by using this principle. The company mandates that nothing in its stores will be marked up by more than 14% (15% for its private-label products). It widely publicizes this pricing policy. When coupled with other cues such as a spartan store environment, limited assortments, and bulk buying, its cost-plus pricing creates a powerful image that the customer is going to get great deals at Costco.

Despite the ridicule heaped on it by managers, there is a gritty common sense and logic associated with cost-plus pricing that is difficult to dispute. For companies with a cost advantage or an interest in using price transparency as a differentiator, cost-plus pricing is a powerful strategic tool. For sellers interested in conveying that their prices are fair and building customer trust, cost-plus pricing is an effective tactic. In the herd-driven frenzy to adopt value-based pricing, managers shouldn’t throw out the cost-plus baby with the bathwater.

12 Jul 15:52

The Ideal Length of a Sales Email, Based on 40 Million Emails

by mrenahan@hubspot.com (Mike Renahan)

Ideal Email Length

Data suggests the ideal length of an email is between 50 and 125 words. Emails this length had a response rate above 50%. A similar study found emails with approximately 20 lines of text, or about 200 words, had the highest clickthrough rates. When in doubt, keep emails short and under 200 words.

According to TOPO, prospects open less than 24% of sales emails. That means three out of four emails you’ve agonized over and sent to buyers in the past month were likely not worth writing at all.

Salespeople today rely on email more and more in their prospecting efforts. And this makes learning how to write a sales email people want to respond to more important than ever. But what’s the point of sending emails if the recipients aren't reading them? With this in mind, sales reps would be smart to look into the factors influencing the open and response rates of the messages they write and send.

If you’ve ever wondered why you aren’t hearing back from the prospects you’ve emailed, I have some good news for you. A study from Boomerang reveals the factors behind why some emails are opened and others are sent straight to trash.

New Call-to-action

The data, based on a collection of more than 40 million emails, showed messages that expressed either moderate positivity or negativity evoked 10 to 15% more responses than completely neutral emails.

But, reps should know, the research discovered too much emotion in messages resulted in similar response rates as neutral emails. “Flattery works, but excessive flattery doesn't,” Alex Moore wrote in the report.

The Ideal Length of a Sales Email

The optimal length of an email has been much debated. But according to Boomerang’s data, emails between 50 and 125 words had the best response rates at just above 50%.

Don't go over the maximum email length

Boomerang's data is supported by a recent study from Constant Contact. In a study of over 2.1 million customers, they found emails with approximately 20 lines of text had the highest click-through rates.

This translates to about 200 words, which is higher than Boomerang's data, but still provides a helpful range.

When in doubt, shorter is generally better, so always err on the side of "less is more," and keep your emails below 200 words.

Avoid making your emails too short

Boomerang also found short and direct emails resonated best with prospects and earned a response. (That's why HubSpot account executive Dan Muscatello writes short prospecting emails -- two sentences long at most.)

However, the numbers revealed a fine line: Emails that were 10 words or shorter got a response just 36% of the time.

Head back to the third grade

Next, the study showed emails written at a third-grade reading level had the highest response rate. These emails performed 36% better in terms of open rate than those written at a college reading level and boasted a 17% higher response rate than emails composed at a high school reading level.

Further, the data suggests that free-flowing, informal emails are best for eliciting a response from recipients.

Always include an ask

Finally, it’s a best practice to include an “ask” in every sales email you send, and reps often probe prospects for information in their messages. But how many questions are too many in an email?

The study discovered when reps asked one to three questions, recipients were 50% more likely to respond compared to emails containing no questions.

Shorten your subject line

And if no one opens your emails, it doesn't matter how long they are. Boomerang found email subject lines with only three to four words received the most responses.

Don't expect images to fix all your problems

While we're hearing a lot about how much images can increase user engagement, there's a fine line between attention-grabbing and attention-hogging.

HubSpot research suggests as the number of images in an email increases, your clickthrough rate will decrease. Use the same level of restraint with images as you do with text.

Do your research

HubSpot research also suggests emails in which the recipient's name is included in the subject line have higher clickthrough rates than those without personalization. 

If you don't put in the time to research your prospect and craft a valuable email, it doesn't matter if you achieve the perfect email length.

Your prospect won't be interested in what you have to say because you haven't taken the time to say something that matters to them.

Email Length Best Practices

If shorter emails with simple language and clear asks are better -- how do you ensure your emails are measuring up? Here are a few tips:

1. Use the free Hemingway App

Copy and paste your email message into this app and lead what grade the readability tracks to, which phrases have simpler alternatives, and how many "hard to read" and "very hard to read" sentences your message contains.

2. Always add a close

Sales expert Jeff Hoffman advocates that every conversation or email you exchange with a prospect should include a close. Whether you're asking for more time, contact information, or their business -- always make sure you're asking for something.

Before writing your email, consider what your goal is for this communication and tailor your close accordingly. For example, if I want this email to yield a discovery call, I'll include that ask as the end, and build the rest of the email around it to support and encourage that close.

3. Don't waste important real estate

Your email opening line and greeting is incredibly important, so don't waste it on "Hi, my name is." Instead, try, "How can I make your life easier," or "I noticed your company recently ...".

Similarly, make your email closing lines powerful and intriguing with statements like, "I love ramen as well. Have you tried [restaurant name]?" or "Did the ebook you downloaded change the way you think about [topic]?"

4. Remove excess language

We tend to add extra words to our writing to soften our message. This is a tendency especially when we're asking for something or providing constructive feedback. Before sending your email, review for unnecessary language like. For example, here's a sentence before and after removing filler words:

  • Before: "I think it might be a good idea for us to come up with a few ideas that will help us present several scenarios to your executive team when we meet."
  • After: "Let's brainstorm several scenarios to present to your executive team next week."

Often, being successful in sales isn’t about doing more -- it’s about being more effective. Use the data here to sharpen your skills and improve your email strategy.

Free Sales Training from HubSpot Academy

12 Jul 15:52

Startup Baraja Promises Cheap, Reliable Lidar for Self-Driving Cars

by Katherine Bourzac
The Australian company hopes to sell lidar systems with no moving parts for a few hundred dollars

If you’ve walked around a major city like San Francisco in the past couple years, you’ve probably noticed cars topped with bulky, spinning discs—the mark of self-driving vehicles in training.

Inside those flying-saucer-like rigs are upwards of tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of lasers used for light radar (lidar). Lidar detects objects like cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists by scanning them with laser light, then measuring the light that gets reflected back. It’s a key enabling technology for self-driving cars. But those cars are going to stay in testing mode forever if lidar costs don’t go down.

Sydney-based startup Baraja, which came out of stealth mode today, plans to provide a less expensive solution by repurposing key technologies from the telecom industry, says CEO and cofounder Federico Collarte. Instead of using moving parts and multiple lasers, the Baraja design uses a single multicolor laser and prismlike optics to split and scan its beam over a field ranging 30 degrees in the vertical and 92 in the horizontal. To get a 360-degree view, the company places four of these sensor sets on the roof of a car.

Baraja's compact lidar system
Photo: Baraja

Baraja’s design places the laser in a small box inside the car, ideally by the onboard computer, well away from the elements. Light from the laser travels to the roof over fiber-optic cables. Each of the rooftop sensor heads contains prismlike optics that split the beam into an infrared rainbow, with hundreds or thousands of different colors each emerging at a slightly different angle. To sweep a particular part of the field, just change the color of the laser to the right band of the spectrum, and the prisms will send beams to the desired place. This takes less than a millisecond—no moving parts required. The sensor heads are resilient, and can be submerged in water or blasted with a hose, says Collarte.

The system can rapidly adapt to the circumstances, changing the visual field or providing more detail in a particular region by changing the color of the laser, says Collarte. The onboard computer might decide to use the lidar to get a more detailed look at who or what is in the crosswalk a couple feet away, or focus farther ahead—up to about 250 meters—when driving at freeway speeds.

Lidar images are made up of matrices of dots, each of which represents a beam of laser light that reflected off a person or thing in range of the system. The resolution depends on how many of these dots are packed into each image, as well as the size of the light beam. Collarte says their images have up to millions of dots and a resolution of about 10 centimeters at 100 meters.

Riding in a van equipped with one of the sensor heads and a display in the back seat, Collarte explains what we’re seeing on a real-time lidar video of the streets of San Francisco.

Compact lidar system
Photo: Katherine Bourzac
Baraja’s compact lidar system assembles dots of reflected laser light into an image of its surroundings.

We’re in the booming Dogpatch neighborhood, so the environment provides plenty of pedestrians, trams, construction cranes, and cars. We start out looking at the world through 64 lines of lidar dots. Each line represents a different color of reflected light. At the touch of a button, Collarte doubles the resolution to 128 lines. The system can distinguish between more or less intense reflected beams, and displays them as yellow or blue dots. That means the bright, close crosswalk shows through bright yellow, while the road ahead looks a more vague, pointillistic blue. Collarte shows how the system can rapidly adjust the field of view to keep on focusing straight ahead when we go up and down a hill, or shift the focus to see a couple hundred meters ahead, which would be important during highway driving.

Collarte and cofounder and CTO Cibby Pulikkaseril met while developing multicolor lasers at optics company Finisar. These lasers are used for wavelength-division multiplexing, which enables telecommunications companies to send or receive multiple colors of light on a single fiber-optic cable—the more bandwidth the better.

The Baraja system has adopted a telecom laser that can emit a spectrum of wavelengths centered around 1,500 nanometers, well into the infrared. Pulikkaseril says these telecom optics have several advantages. This wavelength is invisible to the human eye. And the sun doesn’t emit much of this wavelength either, so that eliminates a potential source of interference. Pulikkaseril says he’s thinking ahead to a future when there might be hundreds of lidar-equipped self-driving cars on the road. “If you have hundreds of cars pulsing all this light out, you will get interference,” he says. Their system eliminates this possibility because the light has to come back at a certain angle, time, and wavelength, or it won’t couple back into the prismlike optics.

Collarte says the company has been in talks with potential buyers while developing its designs but is not currently announcing any customers.

12 Jul 15:51

How to Cold Call the CEO (Not the Minions)

by Steve Hall

Marketing experts, particularly those with a vested interest in selling digital marketing products, have been predicting the death of cold calling for a long time.

They are wrong!

Not only is cold calling alive and kicking, it’s more effective and easier than ever — if you do it right. In fact it’s one of the very best ways to get in front of the CEO of a company you’d like to do business with.

Let me put that in context. By cold calling I don’t mean making 100 calls a day reciting a script by rote.

I mean directly approaching the CEO of a company you’re targeting — or another senior “C” level executive, but ideally the CEO (you’ll discover why later) — to schedule a meeting and to discuss how you can help him or her solve a pressing issue his (or her) company faces.

Thanks to LinkedIn and the internet it’s now easy to plan such calls (or to be more exact communications) and to achieve your objective — so I guess it’s really warm calling, not cold calling. But we’re still talking about directly approaching a CEO or senior executive who doesn’t know you and who — right now — doesn’t care about you or your company.

(I covered how to prepare for and manage the meeting in an earlier post)

There are several things to consider when you’re scheduling a meeting with a CEO. They include;

  • Why go to them?
  • Why start at the top?
  • Standing out from the crowd.
  • Prerequisites for talking to the CEO.
  • What if the CEO isn’t your normal target?
  • Handling fear.
  • Which companies to call.
  • Who should make the call?
  • What exactly are you trying to achieve?
  • Getting your ducks in line.
  • Doing your research.
  • Crafting your message.
  • Choosing your channels.
  • The pros and cons of referrals.
  • Handling the gatekeeper.
  • Plan B.

Why go to them?

I debunked the “buyers complete 67% of the buyer’s journey before contacting a sales rep” myth in an earlier post but there is still a belief among many people (incorrect in my opinion) that digital marketing, social selling and content marketing is the only way to go.

Just make sure your content is first class, track the digital buyer’s journey and they will come to you — or so the theory goes. But there are some blindingly obvious problems with this;

  • If they don’t come to you you’ll never even know it.

There are many reasons they might not come to you. For example, your competitor’s digital marketing, content, etc might simply be better than yours.

They may never have heard of you and there are, after all, billions of web sites and an awful lot of digital chatter filling the ether. Or they may have heard of you and have a preconceived notion, or they might not realise your capabilities.

Or a sales development representative (SDR) from another company might have approached them directly 23% (or whatever) into the buyer’s journey.

Or, perish the thought, an SDR from a competitor might have helped initiate the buyer’s journey.

Whatever the reason, until you hear from them you don’t know they are in the market — and if they don’t come to you, you’ll never know.

  • If you wait for them they may choose an entirely different approach to solve their problem — and again you’ll never know.

For example, if the company isn’t making enough profit — a typical CEO issue — there are a thousand ways to approach the problem. They could cut expenses, reduce staff, increase prices, drop low performing product lines and so on.

Suppose they decide they need to sell more to solve the problem. If you can help them sell more — for example by implementing a Big Data analytics solution — you have something they need. But at the early stages you aren’t just competing with direct competitors, you’re competing with any other approach to solving the core business problem.

If you’re talking to them early you can show how your approach gives more bang for their buck with less risk. But not if you’re sitting waiting for them to download a white paper or tot up enough points in your marketing automation system for you to give them a call.

  • If they do come to you they will have preconceived ideas — and they will often be wrong and hard to change

No matter how easy to understand your content is, no matter how clear you think you’ve been, people will get things wrong. They won’t always read the “right” collateral, they’ll read what other people say about you, they will make assumptions.

And let’s face it, a lot of online marketing collateral isn’t particularly easy to understand, even for people who know what it’s about.

I’ve read lots of online content that I’ve had to struggle to understand — and most prospects won’t struggle, they’ll just give up — or they will get things wrong.

So if they do come to you 67% of the way through the buyer’s journey you may have a lot of mind changing to do — and that’s never easy.

  • Someone else will probably have influenced them

If you haven’t been talking to them — and helping them — during the early part of their buyer’s journey the chances are that someone else will have been.

One of your competitors may have influenced the requirements and positioned themselves as trusted advisors and you’re just there for comparison purposes or to provide a second quote.

  • You haven’t added value

If they have done research and made many decisions before they call you, then you won’t have added any value. Prospects buy from the companies and sales people who are seen to add value and act as consultants and advisors, not people who respond to queries well into the buying journey.

You can’t add value if you’re sitting back waiting for them to come to you.

  • You’re dealing at the wrong level

Whoever it is that calls you, you can be sure they aren’t the ultimate decision maker. They will be the person tasked with the job of doing research and making inquiries — and that will be some minion, not the CEO.

And if someone does enough research to trigger your marketing automation system and spit them out as a lead — they’ll probably be a minion as well. And even a nice minion like Kevin isn’t a decision maker.

Minions

When you’re stuck at the wrong level you can waste an awful lot of time and money jumping through hoops on a deal you never have a realistic chance of winning.

Which brings us to the next point;

Why start at the top?

Everyone wants to talk to the “decision maker”. But who is a decision maker? The ultimate decision maker is almost always the CEO.

Many salespeople are reluctant to start with the CEO for reasons (some good, some not) that I’ll cover later. But there are some very good reasons why you should start at the top.

  • Gravity

It’s easier to walk down a hill than it is to climb up it. In business, it can be extremely difficult to move up a level of seniority when you’re dealing at a lower level and it’s close to impossible to climb to the summit.

(It can be done. I once started with the IT Manager of a small subsidiary of the world’s largest publisher and slowly climbed to the CFO, then the MD, then the CIO of the Australian parent, the COO and then the local MD. From there I met with the Regional VP, on to the CIO of the “International” division (i.e. everywhere but the USA and UK), then her boss, the International COO, then on to various country managers, then the global CIO.

I finally got as far as the COO and the second in command of the $8 billion, 50,000 employee PLC company listed on the FTSE.

Not bad, eh? But it took me seven years — and they were already a customer!)

On the other hand, if you start at the very top and get referred down, you don’t get referred to the bottom of the pile. The CEO doesn’t know the people at the bottom of the pile. Usually you get referred down one level, or two if you’re unlucky (or if you fluff your lines).

When I called the CEO of one of Australia’s top five companies in 2012, I was referred down — to the second in command, the CTO and several general managers. If I’d tried to come up through the ranks I’d still be stuck about five or six levels from the top four years later.

Even if you really want to get two or three levels down, start at the top. It’s closer.

  • You’re known by the company you keep

When you first engage with a new prospect you’re forever stamped as belonging at a certain level.

If you know someone who knows someone who is a middle manager and you’re referred through them you’ll always be seen as operating at that level.You may get introductions higher up the food chain but you’ll probably get stuck trying to climb the corporate chain of command.

And you’ll always be that guy (or girl) who was referred through Bill the sales manager.

If you are referred to the CFO or CSO by the CEO you’ll be seen as operating at that level. The mere act of being able to communicate with the CEO and his or her direct reports as an equal will give you clout.

I wrote a Slideshare presentation on how to schedule meetings with senior executives. I just realised it’s the perfect companion to “How to Cold Call the CEO (not the minions)”.

Sadly the Slideshare presentation is minion free (although really that’s a good thing if you’re after meetings with senior executives) so I’ve tried to make up for it in the picture above.

Cover illustration by Udhaya Chandran

12 Jul 15:48

Is Your Lead Really Sales Qualified? Here’s How To Tell

by kniemisto

Marketing and sales team are active players in the blame game. While the sales team thinks the marketing team shared only contacts (read, unqualified leads), the marketing team blames the sales team for not being able to convert all the excellent qualified leads they hand off.

Sound familiar?

According to MarketingSherpa, 61% of B2B marketers send all of their leads to sales even though only 27% are actually qualified. Not only this, sales reps ignore 50% of the marketing leads according to a study by the TAS Group.

Wondering why the percentages are so high?

Because there is a lack of shared understanding of what a qualified lead is. Each team works on their own definitions which not only creates confusion but results in frustration and lost revenue.

In this blog, I’ll cover what makes a lead sales qualified, how these leads fit into the buyer’s journey, how to score your leads, and more. 

Customer Qualification Cycle: MQL vs. SQL

All Visitors MQL SQL Customer

Not understanding the difference is one of the main reasons marketers end up spending time on unqualified leads who don’t want to be sold.

MQLs show repeated interest in your website content (not necessarily your product or services) and are likely to become your customer.  Simply put, they have become the hand-raisers from your potential customer pool. However, remember that MQLs are not ready to buy, but they will respond to strategic nurturing.

SQLs, on the other hand, are further along in their buyer journey and are sales-ready. They fit perfectly into your buyer persona profiles and are likely to talk with a sales rep.

One of the defining differences amongst these two is the readiness to buy. An MQL is most likely NOT ready to buy your product today, but an SQL is a qualified lead which can be approached by your sales team immediately.

If we had to sum this up in one line, we would say:

The primary difference between MQL and SQL is that an MQL is a visitor who is aware of their problem while an SQL is a lead who knows that your product may be the solution to their problem.

Remember:  

Moving from MQL to SQL is time-sensitive, and as a marketer, you do not want to miss that window. By having a good understanding of the buyer’s journey and qualification cycle, you can determine where leads are at and pass it on to the sales team accordingly

How Does it Fit Into Your Buyer’s Journey

The buyer’s journey is typically made up of 3 stages: awareness, consideration, and decision.

Awareness Consideration Decision Stages

Each of this stage also represents qualification of leads.

At the awareness stage, you are dealing with a lead. When the lead starts considering your product, your potential buyers have transitioned to MQLs. Finally, when the leads start looking at your product/service as a solution to their pain points, they have become a sales qualified lead and are ready to be approached by your sales team.

So, what is your first step towards knowing when to tell your salesperson if the lead is sales qualified?

Align Sales and Marketing Teams

Sales and marketing teams in sync

To analyze conversion from MQL to SQL correctly, you need a strong relationship between the two teams. Knowledge about target markets, customer profiles, and behavior shared between sales and marketing will help you in pinpointing which leads are still to be nurtured and which are ready to go through your sales process.

You are looking out for answers to:

  • What does the ideal lead look like?
  • Why are some leads disqualified at the end?
  • Which content pieces or how many of these pieces have successful leads consumed?
  • Which referral source has the highest closing rate?

This logically brings us to the next question: how do you combine this knowledge to skyrocket conversion rates to ensure you maximize resources?

Lead Scoring Metrics

Let’s get one thing straight. Not every lead is sales-ready. But, leads can be nurtured.

If your marketing team starts sending every inquiry to the sales team, you will only waste your sales team’s time which makes for a not-so-great customer experience. Sometimes, those leads are just students who want to read your ebook for an assignment or to study for a test. Sometimes they can be job seekers who are frantically looking to gather as much information as they can.

Hence, it is essential to analyze the intent of each lead carefully. And, to interpret this intent, you need to have an effective behavioral yardstick—you need detailed lead scoring metrics.

As discussed before, MQLs are the hand-raisers amongst the leads. Meaning, they are more engaged but not ready to buy or talk to a salesperson yet. Hence, you should be careful in choosing the basis, and only high-interest activities should trigger a transition from lead to MQLs. For example: revisiting product/services spec page, the pricing page, reading most of your emails, leaving items in the cart, etc.

While most of your time will be spent creating accurate metrics around MQLs, the transition from MQL to SQL is simpler to identify. It might look like signing up for free trials or setting up a discovery call with the sales personnel, or a similar activity.

You need to sit down with both the teams and draw the lead scoring metrics to eliminate all the “guesswork” from the cycle. You can make use of your marketing automation software to set up a lead scoring system which assigns a value to each action. These actions might involve website activity, the number of downloads, email activity, or social media interactions.

Take a look at the SnapApp’s example of a lead scoring system: 

SnapApps Lead Scoring System

Once a lead reaches a decided threshold, they should be automatically assigned to the sales team.

While deciding a threshold seems so obvious, 46% of B2B marketers have NOT set up a lead scoring threshold that will automatically alert or route leads to sales. Strange, right?

While your lead scoring system generally will consist of adding up scores, you will benefit immensely if you include negative scoring for specific actions (refer to the graphic above). For example, if a qualified lead has suddenly stopped interacting with your product after signing up for a trial and does not respond to any emails.

When qualifying leads, here are the things to think about at each level:

Organization level: At this level, you are asking fundamental questions like whether or not the lead fits into the buyer personas you have set up.  

Opportunity level: This is a critical level to qualify leads accurately.

At this stage, you are asking:

  • If the potential lead has a need for your product/services
  • Whether the lead can actually purchase and use
  • Whether your product can solve your leads pain point

Stakeholder level: At this level, you are asking BANT (budget, authority, need, and time) related questions.

If your lead:

  • Has the authority to make the purchase
  • Has the budget to buy your solution
  • Requires your solution immediately or they have the time to shop around

There you go!

MQL Chart

By now, you know when to tell your salesperson if the lead is sales qualified.

When the leads are qualified properly, and strategically, everyone is happy. Customers feel you understand them, marketing teams feel appreciated that their qualified leads were approached correctly and the sales team is happy with lead quality because they sealed the deal.

Lastly, it keeps you away from selling to people who don’t want to buy.

When do you tell your salesperson that the lead is sales qualified? Which is one of the most important lead metrics? Let’s talk about it in the comments section.

The post Is Your Lead Really Sales Qualified? Here’s How To Tell appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

12 Jul 15:48

Read Me If You Want to Build Valuable Relationships on LinkedIn

by Alex Rynne
Read Me If You Want to Build Valuable Relationships on LinkedIn

Strong relationships are at the heart of every modern sales success story. But if you think prospects are the only ones you need to connect with, think again.

Sales professionals who focus their energy solely on engaging prospects aren’t seeing the big picture. Those who develop bonds with their peers, the marketing team, existing customers, and the entire buying committee are seeing real value.

In our latest how-to guide for digital B2B sellers, Read Me If You Want to Build Valuable Relationships on LinkedIn, you’ll find extensive tips and best practices for networking success on the platform. But first, here’s a quick overview of the seven vital steps covered within:

1. Attend to All Decision Makers

The average B2B purchase now involves 6.8 decision makers. But 78% of sales professionals are connected to either only one person or not connected at all into accounts they’re trying to close. A mere 7% are connected to six or more people in these accounts.

Since it takes more than one person to make a deal happen in a complex purchase, you’re wise to map the entire buying committee, staying in tune with their activities and most pressing issues. You can do this with by searching through an organization’s ranks on LinkedIn and saving these with potential influence as leads in Sales Navigator. Develop these relationships by engaging with relevance when you have pertinent information or insights to share.

2. Establish Credibility Through Thought Leadership

You deepen relationships with the buying committee by making yourself a valuable, credible resource throughout the purchase process. Thought leadership is a proven way to position yourself as a trusted advisor. Consistently post information, content, and commentary on LinkedIn covering important issues that concern pros within your niche. Comment on updates or even send over an InMail when you have something substantial to add.

Why is this worth your while? Compelling thought leadership content influences 76% of executives in their purchasing decisions and 83% in their choice of a potential business partner.

3. Make Inroads with Up-and-Coming Influencers

Don’t limit your horizons by focusing only on today’s deals. Instead, start establishing connections with the young professionals on LinkedIn who will direct future purchases. Thirty-four percent of young millennials (19-25) and 41% of older ones (26-35) hold decision-making responsibilities at their companies. Plus, these cohorts gravitate toward digital channels like social media during their research.

4. Connect with Colleagues

Your first step to building relationships with decision makers is finding a pathway to connect. Think of your colleagues as conduits, offering pathways to extend your network, and consider LinkedIn as the platform to unlock those connection channels. Once you’re connected with all your co-workers on LinkedIn, use the TeamLink feature in Sales Navigator to determine which ones are acquainted with your prospects and targets. These colleagues can be valuable sources of information and introductions.

5. Invest in Customers

Don’t make the mistake of neglecting key contacts once they become customers. Not only is continued engagement helpful for retention and upselling, but these connections can provide referrals and testimonials – both of which hold major weight. Prospective buyers welcome recommendations from their peers, viewing them as credible sources for advice and suggestions.

Our research shows that buyers are 5x more likely to engage with a sales professional when introduced through a mutual connection. Just remember that you need to give to get – continually offer value and support to your existing customers so they will be happy to repay the favor.

6. Align with Marketing

Your buyers want a smooth and consistent purchase process. Partnering with your marketing team to make that happen is in your best interest since they are heavily involved in attracting, engaging, and nurturing prospects.

In addition to co-creating a business development strategy and tailoring sales content, you and your marketing colleagues can build a synergistic relationship. By sharing your LinkedIn connections with marketing, you position them to better engage your target accounts. This paves the way for meaningful interactions via LinkedIn InMail and new connections via LinkedIn Sales Navigator. LinkedIn members who have been nurtured by a company’s marketing are 10.7% more likely to accept a connection request from that company’s LinkedIn Sales Navigator users.

7. Leverage Your Sales Manager

Think of your sales manager as your personal trainer – the one invested in seeing you perform to the best of your capabilities. Take advantage of your manager’s objectivity to confirm you’re being realistic about your pipeline health. This confidant can help you prioritize your prospecting activities on LinkedIn, and measure how effectively you’re finding ways to engage. Given their experience and networks, they might also be well equipped to make intros and open prospecting doors.

For a deeper dive into these seven ways to establish connections that pave the way for sales, download our guide: Read Me If You Want to Build Valuable Relationships on LinkedIn.

12 Jul 15:48

7 Compensation Strategies for Cash-Strapped Startups

by Amelia Friedman
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HBR Staff/Phatharapol Nopharat/EyeEm/Getty Images

As a startup founder, I’m constantly struggling to recruit top talent without breaking the bank. We can’t always match market salaries, but we need exceptional (read: expensive) talent in order to build from scratch. How do you recruit a developer making well into six figures, or an experienced salesperson with four kids in private school? At our company, Hatch Apps, we’ve learned to get creative.

Here are some of the strategies that we’ve used, which are hopefully helpful for your business whether it’s an early-stage startup with limited funding or a more mature organization that has a restricted budget. Many of the tips below aren’t free, but they’ll help you squeeze more value out of each dollar you spend on compensation and minimize the cash at risk if your hires don’t quite work out.

Pay for performance. When we’re hiring someone who has a hard-to-match base salary at their current employer, we cushion our offer with a lucrative bonus structure, commission pay, or other performance incentives. That way, they get paid for the value they add, up to or beyond their current base salary. And it shrinks the gap between cash going out and coming in for the company since you’re often not paying out the money until the additional revenue is banked.

Performance pay isn’t just for your sales team — you can bump your marketing person’s bonus if he doubles his qualified leads, or an engineer’s salary if the product she builds goes live for customers on time. When negotiating an offer, you can discuss what’s achievable and agree on what the prospective hire should end up making if they’re as excellent as you think they are. A caveat here: Make sure incentives align with metrics over which the employee has control. Otherwise you’re setting them up for a disappointment that could lead to their resignation.

Exceptional hires are often energized by performance-based pay, especially if it means they could end up making more over time. Another benefit? Performance-based pay often scares away less competent employees who know they’re unable to deliver on what they’re promising. 

Cover expenses before taxes. Parking, metro passes, gym memberships, hardware, snacks, the occasional lunch — over the course of a year, these costs add up for an employee. In our building, for example, parking alone can easily exceed $300 per month. By paying these expenses out of your corporate account (or even out of pre-tax earnings if you’re in the U.S.) you can stretch limited dollars. At Hatch Apps, we’ve covered laptops, metro passes, parking spaces — even grocery store gift cards.

In the U.S. you can often make this easy for yourself by going through your payroll provider or professional employer organization, both of which are often plugged into local transit administrations or other benefits providers. They can also help you avoid making costly mistakes on taxation of fringe benefits; you don’t want your employees to be hit with unexpected phantom income taxes for free perks.

Reduce risk in case of turnover. You can cushion or reduce your risk with a signing bonus or quarterly retention bonuses, both of which are swiped if an employee leaves the company too soon. A signing bonus can also be used to poach an executive from her current company prior to an annual bonus or ahead of a stock vesting schedule — the cash up front is a form of reimbursement for what she’ll be leaving behind. The initial outlay for you can be worth the cost savings of retaining good talent.

Invest in training and professional development. Pitch a prospective hire on the opportunities they’ll have to grow and advance in their career at your company. Successful professionals have invested in their career and want to continue to do so. We encourage our team to take time during work to develop new skills or to speak at conferences. And even though we’re a small company, we ask employees to set goals and report on professional growth during our quarterly reviews. It may cost us a few hours of productivity per month, but we’ll earn that time back as our employees leverage new skills or networks to be more efficient at their jobs.

We’ve seen other startups create a formal mentorship program where they match junior employees with senior ones, and pair senior executives with external advisers or investors. At our company we’ve connected employees to experts in their field for one-on-one coffees and instituted weekly lunch and learns where we bring in interesting people from our industry to share their experiences with the full team or teach us something new. These programs don’t have to be expensive, especially if you’re a small company, but showing that you’re invested in helping people grow can be a big draw during the recruitment process.

Leverage equity compensation or profit sharing. At startups like ours, stock options are often a major component of compensation packages. We give each incoming employee an equity grant that vests over four years with a one-year cliff, so if a new hire leaves within the first year, she’s also leaving behind her shares. When we grant these options, we explain what they might translate to in cash as the company grows, and we discuss how that employee can contribute toward increasing the stock price. Some companies instead leverage profit sharing, whereby all eligible employees take home a set proportion of cash proceeds at the end of each quarter. In both scenarios, your team does well when the company does well, thereby aligning incentives for performance.

Promote balance and flexibility. You can adopt other noncash incentives such as generous vacation and leave policies, flex time, remote days, half-day Fridays in the summer, or sabbaticals for veteran employees. At Hatch Apps, we have an unlimited vacation policy with a requirement that our team members take at least three weeks off over the course of the year. We also allow folks to work from home, and we don’t mandate set work hours. Many of these perks are especially attractive to those of us with family obligations — being able to work remotely when your kid is sick at home can dramatically simplify your life.

Reward with a job title. Some hires can be compensated with a title that’s a step up from their last gig (as long as you’re not messing with your organizational structure, or breeding jealousy among other employees). A lofty title doesn’t dent your wallet, but it’ll make a big difference for that employee when they think about next steps in their career. That said, it’s important that his job description match the moniker, or he’ll likely start looking for a role at another company with that same title and more responsibility.

Above all, what’s most important is giving your employees meaningful work and then providing them with the resources they need to be successful. A thoughtful compensation plan makes your team feel valued, and that can be done with pay, noncash incentives, and many other contributors to workplace happiness. Just remember that good pay with a couple of perks won’t stop folks from leaving an otherwise miserable job. Compensation goes hand-in-hand with corporate culture. Build a great one, and employees will be eager to join your team — and stay.