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03 May 16:15

8 Techniques Sales Pros Can Borrow From The Helping Professions

by Matt Hayman

Although the titles have changed over the years I've always considered myself to be working in the behaviour change business. Whether it was working in sales fresh out of University, a pivot to work in healthcare, or my return to marketing ten years ago. All involved helping people shift their perceptions.

02 May 18:02

7 Security Tips You Can Learn From the Avengers

by Philip Bates

The Avengers: Earth’s mightiest heroes. You can learn a lot from this team. Iron Man teaches us to recognize the consequences of our actions. The Vision shows that there is great humanity in all of us.

It’s time to consider what else these heroes can teach us—about technology, security, and privacy. (Minor spoilers for Marvel movies follow, but none for Infinity War.)

1. Research Is Important

The film: Steve Rogers has lived a long life, but he’s missed a lot too. At the start of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Sam Wilson advises the Super Soldier to listen to Marvin Gaye’s 1972 Trouble Man soundtrack: “Everything you missed, jammed into one album.”

Cap adds it to the list of things he needs to catch up on. Incidentally, this list is different, depending on which region you’re watching. Americans will see Steve Jobs and the Moon Landings included; UK viewers will be pleased to note the Beatles and the 1966 World Cup Final on there; while Tim Tams and Steve Irwin appear on the Australian version.

The reality: Your first line of defence is research. You need to keep updated with all the latest security and privacy threats.

This means being on-the-ball, for instance, when there’s a massive leak of Gmail credentials. Or about being aware of the ongoing iTunes gift card scam.

However, it’s also important to know the very basic hacks that continue to plague us, albeit in different iterations of the same idea. Take sextortion for example, which is when someone holds NSFW material of you to gain leverage and get you to do something you don’t want to do.

But it’s more life-changing than ever because cybercriminals have combined the technique with another common threat: ransomware. Traditional ransomware holds your device hostage, insisting you pay up or lose all your files. Combined with sextortion software, it further threatens to send your explicit photos or videos to family and friends directly via email or SMS.

2. Create Backups

The film: “Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain.”

When faced by something terrifying, Doctor Strange went in prepared. In the conclusion of his titular 2016 film, he knew the one way to battle evil was by backing himself up.

The reality: We hate to admit it, but Arnim Zola had it right too. A technological genius, he lived on as an intelligent computer programme after his body failed him. We don’t encourage you to Hail HYDRA, but still think you should be like Zola and create a backup.

These have many purposes—most crucial is their ability to render ransomware almost completely pointless. Taking a back up of your whole system on a regular basis means a scammer putting your PC into lockdown is moot. They can threaten your documents all they like because you have them held securely elsewhere. If you are unfortunate enough to encounter ransomware, we advise you seek a professional to transfer all your data back from your backup.

You do need to disconnect the additional storage device after backing up your personal files, though; otherwise, ransomware can infect that too.

This is one reason cybercriminals still use that type of malware. The other reason is merely that comparatively few people actually carry backups on a regular basis!

3. Encryption Isn’t Absolute

The film: The Sokovian Accords divided the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War (2016), but that gap was widened by the work of Helmut Zemo. Daniel Brühl’s character learned the secrets of Bucky Barnes by decrypting the SHIELD files leaked online—in doing so, he drew a wedge between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark.

The reality: Let’s not underestimate encryption. It’s vital. For data to be sent or held securely, it needs some level of encryption. But let’s not overestimate it either.

This is one of the big myths about encryption. Nothing is impregnable. You use encryption all the time; HTTPS is an everyday example. Smartphone passcodes scramble all the data on your device. And so it all hangs on how strong your encryption key (i.e. password) is.

Furthermore, encryption isn’t a defence against all cyberattacks. Ransomware is still 100 percent effective. In fact, it uses encryption against you, by further encrypting your files. It can scramble your data once more, whether you’ve scrambled it before or not.

4. Limit What You Share

The film: Following SHIELD’s downfall in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Black Widow dumped all its secret files on the web. Natasha had formerly hidden behind aliases and fake histories. Now, with all that information readily available, she has to work out who she really is.

The reality: The wealth of personal details we put online has been subject of analysis since the public learned that Facebook data was harvested for political gain by Cambridge Analytica. Everyone seems shocked to find out the social network was gaining from users’ information. But if you’ve been paying attention, this has been happening for years.

If you’re worried about your own privacy, you simply must limit the amount of data you put on the internet. That’s not confined solely to Facebook. It applies to all social media. Without the proper precautions in place, Twitter is a goldmine for fraudsters looking for private details. Instagram also knows a great deal about you. Heck, all free services do!

5. Fight for Personal Freedoms

The film: Freedom lies at the heart of many superhero tales, but none more so than the Captain America films. Check out The Winter Soldier for a prime example of this. HYDRA had infiltrated SHIELD and the helicarriers were primed to eliminate potential threats to mankind.

But the Sentinel of Liberty stopped them. He could see the importance of choice, even a choice between good and evil. He could also see the ambiguity between the two. Steve normally views things in black and white, but this time, the gray area was too great to ignore.

The reality: Our personal freedoms are permanently being infringed upon. Look at all the ways the NSA snoops on us.

The sad fact of life is, you can’t always do something about it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try.

It’s like the scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) where Tony asks how Steve and co. plan to defeat a seemingly-unstoppable foe. “Together,” Cap says. Tony cautions, “We’ll lose”. Cap’s reply? “Then we’ll do that together too.”

So make some noise. It’s better than rolling over and blindly accepting what’s coming. Working as a team can achieve great things. Enough uproar can even change government policy. This is the basis for groups like Anonymous, fighting for the privacies of peoples worldwide.

6. Don’t Underestimate the Little Guy

The film: Ant Man (2015) was a surprise hit. Except it wasn’t much of a surprise for long-term Marvel fans who know the character is fantastic. No, it was a surprise for the cinema-going public who thought a movie about a guy who could shrink would be naff. It proved the hero could be just as effective as any other Avenger.

The reality: The message here is not to solely anticipate the big-scale attacks like Thor wielding Mjolnir or Hulk flinging a car at your face. You have to prepare for the smaller threats too by putting into effect basic security measures.

You do this already—at least, we hope you do! If you don’t fall for emails from Nigerian princes with money to give away, you’re on the right step. Confidence in spotting fraudulent activity comes with experience, of course. Some emails scream “fake”, whereas others are increasingly sophisticated.

Again, research will help you in spotting the difference between what’s real and what will compromise your data.

You need to find security software you can trust too. It’s a very basic thing to do; however, some rely solely on Windows Defender or figure installing a virtual private network (VPN) will be just as useful as an anti-virus. But this simply isn’t the case.

7. Share, Share, Share!

The film: For much of Wakanda’s past, its technological advances were kept strictly for the benefit of its own citizens. It was only in Black Panther (2018) that T’Challa, the new King of the African nation, realized that you can’t blindly follow in the footsteps of your ancestors. He decided to help the world, breaking generations of tradition.

Tony Stark eventually decided to share his technology as well. It admittedly took some coercion, but for Iron Man 2 (2010), his friend, James Rhodes became War Machine. Peter Parker got an upgrade ready for Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). Plus, the Avengers regularly benefit from Stark’s advances, namely in their facilities in New York.

The reality: Users should benefit from developers, and the tech-savvy should help fortify other users’ systems.

What does this mean? It’s all about upgrades. This was a major factor in our assessments of the most secure mobile operating systems (OS) and subsequently of the most secure browser. It’s not solely about exploitations; the vital thing is how quickly developers issue patches for vulnerabilities.

For instance, Google Chrome sends out fixes in good time once a problem is discovered. Sadly 50 percent of users don’t update, but it’s easy: click on the vertical ellipsis, then Help > About Google Chrome. Finishing the process just requires a relaunch.

As for how users can help each other: spread the news about an exploitation and tell others when it’s important to accept an update. We all get lazy when iOS informs us a new version is available. Sometimes, it’s needed.

Then of course, there’s open-source software, notably Linux. The code is accessible, so you can check there’s nothing malicious going on. It also means individuals can contribute to the whole. It’s that sort of admirable teamwork that’s the foundation of the Avengers.

Assemble!

We can’t all save the universe from a major threat like Thanos. But there remains plenty of good we can do for each other—even if that’s ensuring the internet is a safe environment.

Just because you’ve not been bitten by a radioactive spider or can summon the power of Odin, that doesn’t mean you can’t fashion yourself into something Marvellous.

02 May 18:01

Mistakes Small Business Owners Make When Scaling Their Services

by Guest Post

Mistakes Small Business Owners Make When Scaling Their Services written by Guest Post read more at Duct Tape Marketing

An increasingly global world means there is more competition than ever, and commoditization is a growing threat.

Businesses that scale the right way, are going to be positioned to increase market share as weaker players are sifted out.

Whether you’re growing to your first million in revenue, are well past that and are looking to make your business more automated so that you can profitably scale up, or have hopes of an exit in the near future, it’s imperative that you avoid the mistakes that I’ll be discussing in this post.

Doing so will help you scale with more profit, more ease, and less stress.

Curious as to what these mistakes are? Let’s dive in.

1. You’re too busy to grow

Being stuck in day-to-day tasks is a huge problem because you can’t actually grow the business. Your main job as the CEO is to think and come up with better ways to do things. You need to generate ideas to increase profits, enter new markets, and so on.

You can’t do this if you are married to your routine. You’ll be wearing blinders. And you’ll miss out on the numerous opportunities sitting right in front of you.

Does your alertness follow this curve? When are you most focused and productive?

How to fix it:

peak-time-no-drop-shaddow

  • Carve out at least 5-10 hours per week for growth
  • Start your day with crystal clear intention. Always create a plan for your day with the top 3 most important things you need to accomplish that day.
  • Work within the human natural alertness cycle by using your first “Power Hours” of each day on growth tasks.
  • Schedule email so that you aren’t living in your inbox. Do not check email until at least 11am if at all possible.

2. You’re trying to scale too soon

Many business owners try to scale too soon. Instead, they should first focus on making the business sustainable and bake in as much profit as possible.

Leverage first, then scale.

I often see business owners reach a hump that they can’t quite get over and it’s usually because their pricing structure cannot sustain profitable growth. They know they should increase prices, but fear creeps in.

Many experts may say “Just raise your rates,” but if it were that easy, everyone would have more profitable businesses.

The harsh reality is that clients might not be willing to pay you more.

Why? The answer is risk vs. reward. The risk is too high, and the reward is too low.

Clients are willing to pay much more if:

  • You offer a solution they truly want
  • Your client has access to funds
  • You can sufficiently lower the risk for them to make it a no-brainer

How to fix it:

leverage then scale your business

  • Leverage first, then Scale.
  • Work out that formula to be able to increase fees so you’ll have the resources to grow.
    1. Evaluate the kinds of problems your business can solve
    2. Evaluate your sweet spot by looking at what you enjoy, and evaluating unfair advantages.
    3. Evaluate client type that you can add the most value to
    4. Evaluate ways to better utilize your unfair advantage
  • Only after you’ve increased value, and fees should you scale. Look for cost advantages and ways to decrease the cost of delivery (I’ll dive into that further below).

I’ve seen those who leverage first and are able to double their revenue per client, with little or no growth to their team. It’s pure profit. It works. I’ve seen it work both in my own business and for others that I have worked with.

3. It’s all about you

Everything is about your process and the steps you take, instead of your client’s pain points, and what they want.

If you want to get lost in a sea of downward spiraling mediocrity, then keep focusing your website on the “me show” and only discuss your services, tools, credentials, and so on.

Instead, you should be discussing the problems your ideal prospects want solved. Make everything about them, and the solutions they want. They want their problem solved. End of story.

increase your fees

How to fix it:

  • Choose one painful $100k+ problem to solve, one client type, and one customized (not custom) outcome.
  • Guarantee it, and jack up your fees to price based on the value of the outcome.

4. You’re not solving a big enough problem

Going back to the last two mistakes, if the problem is too small, you cannot charge enough. The problem is rooted in the industry dogma of refusing responsibility for lackluster results.

It’s nearly impossible to sell results and offer some guarantee… if you are selling everything to everyone.

Ask yourself “how can this work for this business?”

Back to the actions in the last step, it’s by solving one painful problem, for one type of client, with one customized solution.

What outcome could you provide? And what needs to be in place to ensure success?

build value for your clients

An agency owner I know realized that for just one niche that they work with, they could consistently add an extra $1M per year to their business.

With this knowledge, the selling conversation shifted from “we are the best Facebook ad provider, we have great results, happy clients, books and awards…” to “we’re partnering with 10 [special niche] businesses that want to add an additional $1M this year without [thing they don’t want]. Is that something that interests you?”

It’s now a qualification process and the business is now able to more than double their fees.

Do you solve $10k problems, or $100k problems? $100k problems, or $1M problems?

Who could you work with where your service provides the highest dollar value?

Given a bigger outcome, and low enough risk, clients will happily invest more. Throw the hourly thinking out the window where either clients leave empty-handed or you leave tens of thousands of dollars on the table.

How to fix it:

  • Create a list of characteristics of past ideal clients you’ve gotten the best results for. What do these clients have in common?
  • Looking ahead, what do new clients need to have in place to be able to guarantee success?
  • Craft an irresistible offer and promise (it should scare you a bit).
  • Create your hit list, and sell!

Clients are demanding better. Are you ready to be part of the change that elevates the industry?

5. You’re too people focused

What do I mean by that?

Most business owners are too focused on finding the perfect staff, and not focused enough on developing their own perfect client solution and then plugging staff into defined roles as they scale their own methodology.

When your business is built around an employee’s skill sets, what happens when they leave? You need to start all over again recruiting, training, and developing this next ‘perfect’ person.

Instead, focus on how to scale a proven methodology and put the right people in place within your framework.

The services you scale are determined by your 80/20 framework. It can be divided into ‘brain skills’, and ‘hand skills’. Brains are more expensive, and in higher demand.

Are you as the owner doing ‘Brain’ work, ‘Hands’ work?

brains-and-hands

Optimize your best skills. Free up capacity for the Brain people to do their best work. Raise profit per project by having the Hands do the rest.

How to Fix:

  • Build your proven methodology by focusing first on the end outcome. Then reverse engineer the stages to where you start the engagement.
  • Breakdown the stages into smaller steps and tasks.
  • Delegate by needed skill level only for each task to optimize staffing budget (save time with my Rapid Delegation Script).

6. You’re not consistently marketing and selling every day

“I’m too busy to do marketing.” I hear this all the time.

This thinking keeps you stuck working with less profitable clients just to meet payroll. You may even have a couple of demanding clients who bring in too much of your income (and most of your problems). You’re afraid to rock the boat because the pipeline to replace the income is near empty.

There is a magical shift that happens in your business as you consistently, and proactively attract excess ideal clients. You become in control. You set your fees. You decide who you will, and who you will not work with.

Organic growth will happen if you are any good at what you do. But do you want to be like the little bird with its beak open waiting for the worm saying “Feed me, feed me?”

Or, are you attracting your best, most profitable, and enjoyable clients?

How to Fix:

  • Build a daily habit to block out time every day on your calendar and each out to 5 ideal prospects. Have one live conversation with someone who might be a prospective client. Every day.

7. You’re being reactive rather than being proactive

Most business owners are reactive. They fight fires, rather than prevent them. They tread water hoping to stay afloat when the next wave hits.

Being proactive is looking for ways to innovate within your company and increase profits. It’s staying ahead of the industry trends. It’s being intentional about the staff you want in your company and developing the kind of culture you want to create.

It’s about actually having a plan and working that plan every day.

growth plan

This seems basic, but most service business owners lack a clear plan to scale their business, so they spend years reaching their goals (that’s if they don’t burn out first).

Do you drive your business, or does your business drive you? This is one tiny hinge that moves a pretty big door.

If you are not clear and proactive about top things you need to accomplish every day to really move your business forward, you’re not in the driver’s seat.

If you are making any of these seven mistakes as you’re trying to scale your services, you’re making it much harder than it needs to be.

Avoiding these mistakes will help you:

  • Build a team that really supports you
  • Work with more ideal clients
  • Consistently and predictably deliver on your company’s promises
  • Increase revenue and get your life back

What mistakes are you making? What will you do this week to take the path to increased profitability and freedom in your business?


About the Author

Mandi Ellefson

Mandi Ellefson is the founder of the Hands-Off CEO. She helps service businesses and agencies achieve life balance, and productivity by freeing up to 20-50% of their work week and achieving cost savings gains of up to 67%. For a proven 5-step plan to scale your service the right way, download her Scalable Growth Roadmap.

02 May 18:01

Should You Buy an Email List?

by Tobin Lehman

This is one of those questions we get asked from time to time, and honestly, my answer to this has changed in recent times. Here’s our view after avoiding it for years and then trying lists for a few clients.

It’s Not Ideal.

I want to make sure we make it very clear buying email should be on the “no-no” list. This is not a go-to-market strategy that reaps great results in the B2B space. We’ll get into the reasons why it does not make “cents” but maybe sense, but also it defies a pretty common practice known as permission marketing.

Permission marketing is this idea, coined by marketing expert Seth Godin, that being able to market to your customers works really when they have given you permission to do so because of the value you bring.

Buying lists flies right in the face of this very philosophy.

So, from the outset, buying emails violates this concept and steps on the very privacy that everyone hates and is really at the center of the CAN-SPAM act. No one really likes getting junk email. But liking it does not mean that it does not work. Junk is in the eye of the beholder…

So, let’s make sure we all know – say it together with me – Buying email lists is not a good plan. But…

There is Always a But…

That is the problem with hard rules, that there is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. You should not buy email lists if you are not thinking about how it fits into your overall strategy, or if you think its going to be a shortcut to success.

Yet, buying lists is a viable experiment in marketing strategy as you push into trying to grow your universe.

The key is to treat it like a gamble. If you are sinking your last marketing pennies into this strategy, I’d rather you buy your current clients a Starbucks gift card. You’d get more in return. But if you are using this as an experiment and well aware this might be a loss, you’re good to go.

When To Buy Lists

This is the big question. Buying email lists has a lot to do with your goals for the campaign. The most common use of this is to enter new markets where you have lots of volume to explore and a PROVEN MESSAGE. No that is not a typo, that was all caps for emphasis.

You need to have significant volume of prospects because buying email lists and sending has very low return. There is a high likelihood that a 1% return could be a high five moment for your team. So you need to be thinking of buying thousands of names, not hundreds, to increase that return chance.

Second, you need to have a proven message. You need to be working with some messaging, or an offer that you know works. You don’t want to go bat on an experimental campaign with unproven messaging. If you don’t know if you have proven messaging, you don’t. The pain of proving your messaging results in an unforgettable experience and knowledge of such a process.

Conversely, using purchased email lists could be a great way to test a messaging strategy in the macro sense, but maybe not to drive revenue from the gate.

What to Expect and Pay

So the next question is how much should you pay and what to expect in the process.

There are some good and bad list houses. You’ll have to contact me of you want my opinion I can’t publish that here. But you’ll want to explore different houses to see what deals you can get. Your negotiation skills could really make a difference here. I’d budget around .02 to .10 per email address depending on the details of the query.

I’d always go a bit broader on the query than you’d expect. If you are going to target a city like Chicago, I’d grab a 50 mile radius, rather than the downtown zip codes only.

But work with your rep, you’ll get a rep and plenty of attention when you start knocking around the doors of list houses. They have great ideas and they are vested in your success.

Leasing is a good option if you don’t have your own system, or don’t want to buy the list. It can be a bit cheaper and you’ll have more bandwidth for other tactics.

How the Numbers Work Out

The expectations are low on this type of campaign. You are looking at this as much as a branding campaign as a direct response campaign. This means make sure you build brand value in the email, but also look for a very clear call-to-action so the recipient has a logical next step.

As I mentioned previously, you might see a 1% return on a campaign like this. So if you are looking to build some awareness in a new market, that might be enough of a return on a CPM type cost basis. I’ve yet to hear of a email service that would do a cost per click pricing, but that would be amazing.

So if you buy 10,000 names, you might see 100 people click and view your landing page or offer. If you know your funnel metrics, you can run the value from there. So you need to see what makes sense in terms of a cost. If that 10K names cost you, .02/per, or 200 dollars and you can achieve that value in your funnel with your current conversion rates, then it make sense.

Are You Game?

So what do you think? Can you run the numbers to make email buying work for you? It’s a risky strategy , but contains some upsides if its played correctly. Like any investment, its all about leveraging risk and making sure that we understand the risk that we have.

02 May 18:01

JPMorgan's quant guru explains how the 'Uberization' of markets poses an enormous risk

by Joe Ciolli

marko kolanovic half-man half-god

  • JPMorgan's global head of quantitative and derivatives strategy, Marko Kolanovic, has long warned against unstable market liquidity conditions.
  • He recently made an extended analogy comparing the current market environment to Uber's pricing model, all while warning of further liquidity issues.

JPMorgan's quant guru, Marko Kolanovic — a man whose opinion is valued so highly that it can move markets — doesn't think investors have learned their lesson from the meltdown that rocked stocks in early February.

That's because they've become used to a low-volatility environment — one that hasn't been conditioned to withstand sharp fluctuations. As a result, outsized price swings can hamper liquidity, making it difficult for markets to function properly when it's most crucial, says Kolanovic, JPMorgan's global head of quantitative and derivatives strategy.

At the root of the issue are so-called systematic investors, which are forced to reduced positions during times of turbulence and frequently trade in price-insensitive fashion. For evidence of their impact, Kolanovic notes that futures-market depth plummeted more than 90% during the chaotic February period.

If this dynamic still isn't clicking for you, Kolanovic offers a handy analogy, comparing market liquidity to Uber.

When the market is functioning normally, there's ample liquidity, and transaction costs are low, benefitting participants. It's similar to how Uber fares are competitively priced in a normal environment.

But when there's a volatility shock, liquidity vanishes from the market. That's akin to Uber's surge-pricing model, which charges customers more amid external impediments like traffic and weather.

According to Kolanovic, the major difference between markets and Uber is that when the going gets tough for a traveler, they can elect not to accept a ride. In markets, however, there are investors forced to transact — a group that includes the systematic strategies, among others.

"This results in significant intraday volatility and causes damage to investors' confidence in the market," Kolanovic wrote in a note to clients. "Given that financial markets are a critical part of the economy's infrastructure, perhaps more attention should be paid to the risks posed by the Uberization of financial markets."

It's not the first time Kolanovic has warned against the perils of inflexible market liquidity. For months before February's market reckoning, he stressed investor caution. Then during an interview with Bloomberg Television early last month, he downplayed a series of market headwinds, saying that "the only real problem now is low liquidity and market volatility."

Sound familiar? That's because little has been done to remedy the situation.

But fear not — Kolanovic will continue beating the drum as long as there's an issue. And based on his track record, market participants would be foolish not to listen.

SEE ALSO: 'They're changing the whole way that commerce works' — BlackRock's $1.8 trillion bond chief explains how millennials are spearheading an economic revolution

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Why Apple makes it so hard to get a new iPhone battery

02 May 17:59

Creating the Path of Least [Sales] Resistance

by Kyle Taylor

What do water, electricity, and humans all have in common?

Besides not being a good combination, they all take the path of least resistance.

There isn’t one simple solution that makes sales easier. It’s hard. Hearing “no” is hard. Not coincidentally, being a buyer facing a change can be equally as hard.

However, there are ways a seller can make the buying journey as smooth and easy as possible. After all, it’s the seller’s job to create the path of least resistance, not the buyer’s.  If you can do this, you’ll have created a path to sales success!

We’re Not Selling; We’re Educating

Humans like to say “no” when they think someone is selling to them. It’s our default response when someone interrupts our daily routine.

When a salesperson reaches out to a potential customer, we’re taking them out of their normal cadence. The initial “no” could just mean they don’t know who you are, or what you can offer to make their jobs easier.

Here is where educating comes in.

Take the time to provide content tailored specifically towards how your product can impact their day-to-day. This consultative approach benefits both you and the buyer. Studies support this assertion; finding that 95% of buyers choose a solution for which sellers provided ample relevant information early in the buying process. 95% of buyers choose a solution for which sellers provided ample relevant information early in the buying process.

Even more so, 80% of respondents to a 2016 study indicated that personalized content is more effective than “unpersonalized” content.

Use the discovery process to uncover the value your solution can offer a prospect. When a buyer sees that you are trying to help them solve a problem they’re facing, it makes the entire selling experience more comfortable and rewarding. This step builds a relationship of trust and positions you as a business partner.

With the content delivered, maintaining focus on a personalized buyer’s journey is the crucial next step.

Secure Commitments

How do you move the relationship further after you’ve established a partnership? The next step is to secure a more firm commitment.

Don’t end the initial conversation with a vague promise to reconnect at a later date; establish a date and time for the next meeting before hanging up the phone. This way, the customer knows exactly when you will be reaching out next and can be expecting you. Suggest a few specific times; this makes it easier for the buyer to say yes. The end goal is always to make the buyer’s journey as seamless and easy as possible, almost as if everything is on autopilot until the inevitable conclusion of closing the deal.

The Power of the Reminder Email

A simple reminder email can go a long way. We all get busy throughout the week and forget about meetings. It happens, but the best way to prevent this from occurring and avoid rescheduling a meeting is to send a reminder email. Best practice would be sending the reminder at least 2 hours before the meeting. With roughly 36 million meetings occurring daily across the U.S., it’s important to make yours stand out.

The reminder email has a few of advantages. First, it lets the buyer know that you are engaged and interested in speaking with them. Second, it shifts their focus on the meeting ahead. Lastly, it avoids the frustration that can result from missing a meeting. The negative emotion can put a dent in the relationship between a buyer and seller.

Understand That Change is Difficult

Whether it’s changing jobs, changing lanes (for some people *cough*), or changing technology, we all fear change.

Providing the information a buyer needs to see the intricate value of your product is crucial to making the deal go as smoothly as possible. Demonstrating the ROI on the other end of a change is key to moving the buyer through their journey. It also helps to avoid buyer’s remorse.

Any change requires patience. It can sometimes take months for a deal to close. A seller who is patient and not pushy, one who empathizes with the process of implementing new technology, will win in the end.

Providing a Smooth Customer Journey

All of the above tips serve one simple purpose: to create a better buying experience.

Getting around the initial “no” is a task in itself (we have a post on that topic). The most important thing is to make the buying process painless. The roadmap we’ve laid out today can help you provide a smooth customer journey and achieve sales success.

The post Creating the Path of Least [Sales] Resistance appeared first on SalesLoft.

02 May 17:49

PR Pros: Do You Have These Tools in Your Tech Stack?

by Jenna Cason

freephotocc / Pixabay

While the relationship-based world of public relations still relies heavily on human interaction, there are plenty of technology advancements that can help PR professionals become quicker and better at their jobs. These tools can save hours of Googling, add context to client accounts, assist in staying up-to-date on industry topics, and even help PR pros better measure the impact of their work.

Do you have these valuable tools in your tech stack?

Anewstip

This product allows you to go a step beyond building a standard media list by taking a look at what media influencers are talking about and how often. Anewstip makes it easy to search for media based on their tweets or news articles, filter by various constraints, and add the relevant results to a media list. This is also a great tool to easily check out what’s being said about your brand and its competitors.

Boomerang

Boomerang is a Gmail plugin that allows you to schedule emails and sets a reminder to follow up if you don’t hear back after sending a message—two useful functionalities when it comes to dealing with reporters. Schedule a pitch to hit a reporter’s inbox when he or she is most likely to read your message, like early in the morning or just after lunch. And get an automated reminder to send a follow-up pitch if your contact didn’t bite on the initial outreach.

Cision

Perhaps the most-utilized tool of communications professionals, Cision is best known for its vast media database. While the product is great in its basic media-list-building capability, Cision also offers services in distributing, monitoring, and tracking brand mentions.

Coverage Book

This tool saves vast amounts of time, as it pulls together screenshots and metrics in a single visual report that clients can easily understand. Reports are stored in one searchable location and can be viewed, edited, or shared from any connected device.

Critical Mention

This media-monitoring service is especially useful when searching for broadcast and radio mentions. Critical Mention allows you to clip and share coverage and provides helpful metrics on audience and reach.

Google Alerts

This free and easy resource sends media mentions straight to your inbox. Set up keyword searches of specific brands, spokespeople, or industry terms and be the first to know when an article is published. This tool is also helpful for PR pros to keep track of when a pitched opportunity has been published.

Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

HARO is a tool used to connect journalists and expert sources. Simply sign up for a free account and list your industry expertise, and HARO notifications will start arriving in your inbox. Reporters often fill out queries looking for experts on a given topic, which can lead to great rapid-response opportunities.

Hubspot

Primarily used as an inbound marketing and sales platform, Hubspot is a good resource for PR practitioners who take an integrated approach to communications and marketing. The tool helps connect the dots between media mentions and upticks in leads or inquiries—valuable for PR pros who are trying to prove return on investment.

Meltwater

A media intelligence company, Meltwater is useful for media monitoring and social media monitoring. The product pulls metrics on items such as website traffic, share of voice, top sources, and trending themes, and it displays data in easy-to-understand dashboards and one-click reports. The product also features a media database and distribution tool.

Trendkite

Trendkite’s software allows you to pick and choose which metrics you want to monitor and displays everything in one intuitive dashboard. The tool helps you easily assess areas of strength and areas that have opportunities for growth. Trendkite also offers monitoring capabilities, so you can easily track brand and competitor mentions.

02 May 17:49

3 Sales Email Templates to Use When Prospects Aren’t Ready to Buy

by pcaputa@hubspot.com (Pete Caputa)

Regular readers of the HubSpot Sales Blog know they should "Always Be Helping." When a prospect has a challenge or goal you can help with, you know what to do -- you take them through your sales process. That’s the best way to help them. 


But what if they are busy with another priority, yours is not the most obvious service to help them, or they just won’t admit they are a good fit yet? How do you help them in a way that makes them likely to come back to you if and when they do need or want your help?

What should you do in these scenarios? How do you nurture these prospects so that they’ll come back to you?

It might sound counterintuitive, but the best way to get them to come back to you is to send them away.

Here are three ways you can help your not-quite-ready-to-buy prospects by sending them away. I've even included a few email templates that you can easily modify and apply to your own situations -- which should make it even quicker.

While it makes sense to prioritize your hottest, best-fit prospects, it's also important to develop your pipeline for the future. These three approaches will help you nurture your relationships and make it easy to stay in touch, while ensuring prospects who aren’t ready to buy today will eventually come back to you for help.

1) Send Helpful Content

One of the easiest ways to help prospects who aren’t ready to buy is to send content.

While any prospect can search and browse online, the volume of content can be overwhelming. Figuring out what's accurate and trustworthy is hard too.

You, on the other hand, talk to people in their situation all day, every day. You're uniquely equipped to point them to the right content for their situation. When you connect with a prospect who is looking for help, but not a good fit customer for you right now, offer to send articles that address their unique needs and circumstances.

Try this template:

 

Hey [Prospect],

Per our conversation, here is the link to the article I suggested you read. Based on the current challenge you're dealing with around X, I believe this will be helpful.

[Link]

While I think it may make sense for you to look at our service eventually, this article should allow you to fix this current challenge quickly and on your own.

Regards,
[Your name]


At HubSpot, we maintain a simple list of content and corresponding links so that our team can quickly send out content. Here's an example of what it looks like:

Challenge

Resource

Lack of marketing and sales focus   

Buyer Persona Template 

No results from blogging

Blogging Strategy Guide

Not generating qualified leads

Marketing Automation Guide

Ineffective prospecting emails

Sales Follow-Up Email Templates

The best part about being immediately helpful is that you leave the door open for future calls. Assuming you listened effectively to their current challenge and your content is helpful given their specific situation, they'll remember that you were the one who pointed them in the right direction. They’ll be much less likely to ignore your future attempts at connecting.

Another benefit of sending content by email is that you can track when they open the message and when they click the link(s). If you really think they will be a good prospect for you eventually -- just not right now -- make sure you're using a tool like HubSpot Sales to track their actions.

2) Refer Someone Else

Another way to help a prospect is to refer them to someone else who can help them with their immediate issue. Not only do you help your prospect by doing this, but the person you recommend will most likely be grateful for the referral too.

This tactic works particularly well if you have trusting relationships with people who sell to the same buyer, type of company, or industry as you. For example, at HubSpot, I've sold to marketers, agencies, and sales leaders. Over the years, I've referred a bunch of business to complementary providers. The companies I have referred help our mutual prospects and make us both look good -- and they refer me in turn.

Here's a template for this scenario:

 

[Prospect], meet [Referral]
[Referral], meet [Prospect]

I was speaking with [Prospect] this morning and they mentioned they were struggling with X.

I immediately thought of you because of how you helped Y Company with the same challenge.

Will let you two take it from here.

Regards,
[Your name]

Like the content list above, I keep a running list of people I trust with a description of what they do. Here's an excerpt so you can see:

Challenge

Referral

Individual salespeople who need coaching

Carole Mahoney    

Sales leaders struggling to hire effectively

Dave Kurlan

Sales leaders struggling to find inside sales talent in Boston/New York

Gina Oliveri

3) Suggest an Alternative Service

Sometimes, your product or service just isn't a fit for a customer. For instance, they might need something that's more or less sophisticated than your service.

Here's a template you can use to suggest an alternative to your product or service.

 

Hey [Prospect],

Per our conversation, I do not think you are a fit for our services at this time. We are more focused on customers who are looking to achieve X goals and ready to invest more aggressively.

However, I would strongly recommend you invest in implementing a Y plan. Here is a link to the service I recommend: [link].

Let me know if you invest in that service and whether it helps you, or if you do something else. The feedback helps me make the best recommendations in the future.

Also, let me know if I can ever help in the future. If you do know any Z organizations that might be a better fit for our service, please don't hesitate to refer them. I'll do my best to help them too.

Regards,
[Your name]

You might worry that you're sending a prospect to a competitor, but I'd challenge you to make a list of companies that offer similar services to yours but don't really compete with you for the same type of customer.

For example, at HubSpot, our marketing attracts a ton of small nonprofit organizations that aren't staffed to do inbound marketing effectively. For these organizations, I usually recommend they get a newsletter started with Constant Contact.

On the other end of the spectrum, I talk to agencies who have built sophisticated websites with thousands of pages of content, plus custom applications they need to update and maintain. In these cases, I often recommend Pantheon, a Drupal and WordPress development and hosting platform. (Disclaimer: I'm on Pantheon's advisory board.)

Even though there is a small amount of overlap in our product functionality, neither Constant Contact nor Pantheon are actual competitors, since our ideal customers are significantly different.

Just like the other scenarios above, I also maintain a table of alternative services:

Challenge

Service

Small nonprofits with little to no resources for marketing

Constant Contact

Agencies struggling to manage devops for large websites with custom applications

Pantheon

Companies that sell complex, long sale cycle deals, but struggle to stay top of mind

SnapApp Interactive Content

By referring other services besides your own, your prospect will remember you as a helpful person who had their best interest in mind. This improves the chances of them coming back to you if and when they might become a better fit for your services.

Bonus Email Template for Following Up

Now that you’ve sent your prospects to get help somewhere else, how can you stay in touch with them (if they don’t immediately come back to you)? Simply check in to see if your recommendation helped them solve their immediate challenge.

 

Hey [Prospect], 

A few weeks ago, we spoke about a challenge you were having with X.

I recommended you connect with [Referral] to talk to them about their Y service.

My past experiences working with [Referral] made me think that would help you.

How did it turn out? Did you connect? Did you end up moving forward?

I appreciate any feedback so that I can know whether to continue referring people to this service.

Regards,
[Your name]

Buying Processes Are Rarely Straight Lines

In the very beginning of a sales pursuit, you should be generous with your time. It takes time to build rapport and credibility and get prospects to share what’s going on in their world. Once you figure out that someone is qualified, you'll spend more time with them. But once you figure out they are disqualified for your service (or just not ready), use one of these three approaches to quickly help them with their immediate needs.

In other words, even when a buyer isn’t a fit for me to help directly, I try to help them. I refer them to content or other service providers -- both complementary and somewhat competitive. I've probably helped as many people this way as I have by directly by selling my services. But, nothing has helped me nurture prospects and get referrals more than these three networking approaches.

It took me a few years to realize how beneficial it is to develop trusting relationships. It’s a fairly regular occurrence for me to have old prospects come back, and I get referrals whenever I ask for them. Once I zeroed in on these benefits, I made it a goal to never leave a dead end for someone who needs help, to never lose a chance to build or strengthen a relationship.

To leverage these three approaches effectively, you must do a few things, however. First, you must be great at active listening -- not just listening for clues that you can help them directly. Second, you need to get organized around this process. Make a list of content that addresses different challenges and a list of providers that address challenges outside of your scope. Lastly, practice offering helpful advice even when prospects aren't ready to buy.

These things might not be the next step you want to take in your sales pursuit, but they will help you establish a more open line of communication with your prospect. You may get them to drop their guard so you can eventually figure out how you can help directly, or simply keep yourself top of mind when their priorities shift in your direction. When you get good at this, you’ll also earn referrals when your prospects and referral partners run into someone who is a great fit for your service.

And even if a prospect doesn’t proactively come back to you or refer you business, you'll have increased your chances of keeping the lines of communication open. They'll be much more likely to be receptive to a conversation or a request if you call on them again.

In short, do your best to help everyone you connect with, regardless of whether the prospect is ready to buy now, later, or never. Make every interaction count by being immediately helpful.

Sales isn't always a straight line. Be prepared and willing to help buyers navigate their complicated, busy, and overwhelming worlds -- even if you’re not the right or immediate solution to their struggles. If you do, I bet business will boomerang right back to you.

HubSpot Free Sales Training

02 May 17:49

10 Ways to Succeed When Starting a Sales Career

by Mark Hunter

It’s that time of year when thousands of new graduates enter the job market and begin their first job in sales, and with that comes a host of dreams, aspirations and goals.

Within a few months or even a few weeks, reality will set in and some bubbles will burst. A few goals might be changed and some salespeople will have deep conversations about what’s next.

As one who started his sales career purely by accident many years ago, I want to share with you my list of things I think you need to do.  I don’t say these lightly. I list these as serious things for you to jump into as quickly as possible.

I’m sure I would have avoided some big early mistakes if I had the advantage of reading a list like this when I began.

1. Don’t take a job that is straight commission.

As tempting as the lure of big money can be, taking a job like this can mess you up for life. The company that tempts you with straight commission and little or no base pay is not invested in you.  The fact they’re paying you commission means you are a 100% variable cost.

If you don’t perform, they don’t pay anything. What this also means is they don’t have any investment in you, and as such, will not invest in helping you develop your selling skills.   The higher the base pay is as a % of total compensation, the more the company has invested in you, which means the more they are willing to spend to train you.

2. Find mentors who can guide you.

No sense in having to learn everything the hard way. Reach out quickly and find mentors who have been in sales for years and are willing to help guide you.  The insights you’ll gain will shave months and years off your development curve.

3. Develop a mastermind group.

Find a few other hard-charging salespeople like you who will help hold you accountable, just as you’ll help hold them accountable. Sales is not a solo activity. It’s a team sport and you want to be associated with a strong team.

4. Read!

You might be out of school, but that doesn’t mean the reading stops. There are any number of great sales books you can dig into. Make reading sales books and sharing what you learn part of your mastermind group activities.

5. Park the ego!

Don’t allow your ego, regardless how big or small it might be, to make you arrogant. If you’re arrogant, it’s amazing how quickly you’ll stop listening, and when you stop listening, you’ll stop growing.  The best salespeople never stop learning, and one of the best ways to do this is by listening to others and being observant of everything.

6. Guard your time.

Time is the one resource that is finite. Protect it, guard, it, value it, and don’t let others steal it from you. Unlike in school where the clock reset itself each semester, that doesn’t happen in real life.  Sure, your quotas might reset, but the prospecting work and accounts you’ve developed all carry over.  The sooner you become a master of your own time, the sooner you’ll be spending a lot more time in front of customers

7. Eliminate the negative voices.

There are plenty of people who will love to tear you down. They do it because they’re lazy and they don’t want others to succeed. You can’t afford to spend even a minute with negative people. Banish them permanently. It doesn’t matter if they’re your frat buddy, you have to see them as toxic to your future.

8. Be disciplined. Develop great habits.

Sooner you get yourself into a schedule, the better you’ll be. It comes back to protecting your time by ensuring you’re spending it on the right activities.  The habits you create in the first year of your sales career will carry with you for many years to come.

9. Serve others.

Sales is an absolutely fantastic profession because of the people you will meet and get the privilege to help. Having an attitude of serving others will go a long ways to shaping you as a person and how others see you.

Serving others requires a delicate balance in how you manage your time.  Key is to never forget you’re playing a long game. Your career may very well span more than 40 years, and in that time, who is it you want to become?  Do you want to be seen as the servant leader or the egotistical prima donna?  It’s your decision.

10. Never stop believing in yourself and the goals you set for yourself.

Life is lived one of two ways. You can allow life to happen to you, and you merely go through the motions. Or you can be the one making the motions. Never settle for average. Be what you know you can be.  Don’t allow yourself to fall victim to seeing yourself as a victim.  You know you’re better than that. You know you have an unlimited amount of potential. Take control and make it happen.

Now you have my list of 10 things I wish I had embraced when I began my career.  Sales is without a doubt a great profession. It’s one of the few professions that offers unlimited growth opportunities and the ability to positively impact people.   Sales for me has delivered success far beyond what I could have imagined, and for you, the success you achieve starts right now.

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

02 May 17:48

Do Great Sales Representatives Automatically Make Great Sales Managers?

by Amy Dordek
Sales Representatives

Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Amy Dordek, Managing Director, GrowthPlay.

Spend any time with a sales organization and you’re bound to hear a story about a great sales representative who failed in their transition to sales manager. Let’s consider this story about Austin, a hypothetical character that will help us explore this phenomenon further.

Austin joined the organization fresh out of school and wasted no time demonstrating a true knack for sales. He was charming, charismatic and ambitious, and he quickly parlayed this trifecta into performance that was nothing short of remarkable. Austin was top 10 percent in his territory in his first year on the job and top 5 percent in the region the next year. What’s more, he was the first sales rep in the company to make its “President’s Club” in every year of his tenure.

Austin’s reputation quickly spread, and it wasn’t long before he caught the attention of the company’s chief sales officer. Sales was developing a pilot program based on high-performance sellers, and Austin seemed perfect to lead a team of successful sales reps.

Initially, things couldn’t have gone better. His accounts continued to flourish and his team simply adored him. The CSO constantly recounted the exploits of this up-and-coming protégé.

It was hard to say what went wrong first. There were whispers of discontent among Austin’s team. There were tales of a heavy-handed approach and a leader too quick to push other sellers aside to manage the account the way he thought was needed. The whispers then grew to grumblings and sales started to soften and then decline. Three members of Austin’s team were recruited by a competitor. Five more resigned within a month of each other. Exit interviews flagged a heavy-handed leadership style and too much stealing of the spotlight. Austin took it all in stride with the charm, charisma and panache that was the foundation of his success as a seller.

Why is this story of failure so common and pervasive in sales organizations?

There are a lot of reasons, but a major one is the belief that “talent” in one area automatically transfers to another. The root cause is that no salesperson worth his or her salt wants to work for a manager who hasn’t “carried a bag.” But, it leads to the common and mistaken belief that you can’t lead a sales team unless you carried a bag. This is a belief that is compounded by the equally flawed assumption that a great seller must equal a great leader.

This myth that great sellers make for great managers persists even though a cursory examination of the data quickly reveals its flaws. In my role, I, along with my colleagues, assess hundreds of thousands of candidates for sales and sales management roles and we do this in a way that lets us empirically assess a person’s fit to both roles.

What we found is more than a bit counter-intuitive. First, only about 1-in-6 candidates that are a strong fit for a sales role are also a strong fit for a sales management role. Perhaps equally surprisingly, as many as 5-in-7 candidates that are poor fits for sales roles are strong fits for sales manager roles.

Although the data is clear about trends that doesn’t mean there won’t be exceptions. In analytics, the exceptions don’t prove the rule, and if leaders want to optimize their talent decisions they will play the odds. And, when it comes to sales management at least, the odds are strongly against great salespeople transforming into great sales managers.

So why can it often be a poor decision to move top sales reps into sales management?

Ultimately, it’s because success in sales is about “me” while success in sales management is about “my team.” If I’m driven to prove my personal ability, I find it hard to step back and let others take the spotlight. Watching others succeed just doesn’t do it. Achievement is all about personal success.

Where great salespeople are driven by a need to achieve, great leaders are driven by a need to influence, to have an impact on the world. Most important, influence doesn’t equal personal success. In fact, whereas a great salesperson can only accomplish what they’re personally able to get done, a great sales leader can inspire, train and motivate legions of salespeople and have an influence far beyond what any one person can accomplish on their own.

Achievement points with great pride to what the person, individually, has accomplished. Influence points with equal pride to what others have accomplished.

Each of us has some amount of both motives. And the motives aren’t mutually exclusive. There are people who have little of either, people who have a lot of both, and people who have a lot of one and less of the other. When thinking about a given person’s fit for a particular role, what’s important is the relative proportion of achievement and influence.

It’s only a slight over-simplification to say that a modest amount of achievement and a whole lot of drive to influence is the hallmark of successful managers, while an overabundance of drive to achieve coupled with some but not much influence drive is what makes a successful salesperson.

Leaders who want to get a sense of what drives a given person should ask them to look back over their career and talk about their proudest accomplishment. Achievement will tell you a story that starts, “Well, I was faced with a challenge” and then goes on to recount the things they did to triumph.

Influence will tell you a story that starts with, “The thing I’m proudest about isn’t even really about me, it’s about Marilyn. You see, Marilyn was struggling…” and then goes on to tell how they helped Marilyn with her challenge and took pride in her individual accomplishments.

What’s the bottom-line of the Austin story, this single failed attempt to transform a great salesperson into a great sales manager? The organization lost an up-and-coming great salesperson and lost eight other strong reps. Counting lost sales, opportunities, clients and goodwill, the organization took several steps backward in revenue.

To keep pace with the latest thinking in sales management, subscribe today to the LinkedIn Sales Blog.

01 May 17:05

The 5 Best Influencer Marketing Studies of 2018 So Far

by Kayla Matthews

The 5 Best Influencer Marketing Studies of 2018 So Far

The field of marketing is in constant flux, with marketers constantly analyzing emerging trends and data to determine optimal strategies. As a result, marketing studies only a year old can be outdated. Fortunately, a fresh crop of influencer marketing studies published in 2018 provide marketers with fresh insight that can positively impact their campaigns.

1. Increasing Marketing Budgets

The vast majority of marketers are increasing their budgets in 2018. Only five percent of marketers report plans to decrease their investment in marketing, per Linqia’s State of Influencer Marketing 2018 study.

Budget increases in marketing have been a trend for the past several years, with more viable channels than ever available for marketing efforts. The cost of managing influencer marketing is one noteworthy reason for increasing budgets, as well.

Another big reason for the continuing increase in marketing budgets is the rise of big data, which confirms the immense value of marketing to anyone previously doubting its importance. Today, brands compete to provide superior customer experience across many digital platforms. Buyers are increasingly seeking out products on their own, whereas in the past, the majority of products were broadcast to them. Customer journeys are becoming increasingly self-driven, which raises the importance of effective marketing.

Influencer marketing has the potential to captivate audiences with influencers they know and trust. As a result, marketers are finding influencer investments to be worthwhile and necessary. Marketers are also choosing to embrace turnkey providers for managing influencer marketing programs, especially since market research costs can vary depending on a variety of factors.

As long as customers continue to browse the web and pursue a self-guided approach to discovering content, marketing budgets are likely to continue increasing.


Customer journeys are becoming increasingly self-driven. #CX
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2. Challenges in Managing Influencer Marketing Programs

Marketers in 2018 report that one of their biggest challenges is incorporating influencer marketing into their busy schedules. Influencer marketing has immense value in 2018, so marketers do not have much choice. However, many marketers are finding viable solutions to managing influencer marketing programs. According to Linqia, 42 percent of marketers report using a managed service or “turnkey service provider” to help run the programs, with an additional 18 percent outsourcing influencer marketing to an agency.

Agencies that act as turnkey service providers and influencers of marketing middle-servicing are increasing in popularity among marketers, who recognize the necessity of scaling their campaigns in 2018. Even if marketers do not have resources on their own to manage influencer marketing, they are getting it done nonetheless with outsourcing and turnkey service providers.

3. Influencers Continue to Engage

One of the most prominent reasons for increasing investments in the influencer marketing sphere is the strength of influencer engagement. The average influencer engagement rate across industry verticals is 5.7 percent. Comparatively, brands on Instagram have an average engagement rate between two and three percent.

Why do influencers have about double the engagement of brands? The answer may lie in influencers’ greater feeling of authenticity. Consumers are well aware that brands are promoting with the incentive to sell. An influencer, however, may be promoting something because they enjoy the product or service. Although consumers are aware that influencers often receive payment for promotion, they also know that influencers are unlikely to damage their reputation by promoting a product or service that’s low-quality or undesirable.

Influencers attract double the engagement

4. Video Content Continues to Reign Supreme

The dominance of video content is nothing new, though it’s notable that 2018 may see video reach a whole new level of engagement. Experts estimate that by 2020, video consumption will reach 80 percent of global online traffic.

86 percent of marketers use video content, which makes even more sense when you consider that viewers absorb 95 percent more messaging via video. Video’s staying power is also clear, with 99 percent of marketers already using video saying they will continue to use it throughout 2018.

In a 2018 study by Wyzowl, 97 percent of marketers reported that video helped increase users’ understanding of their product or service. Combine that with the fact that 72 percent of consumers prefer video over text when learning about a product or service, and it’s easy to see why marketers embrace video content.

It’s worth noting that influencers are rampant throughout video-centric social media platforms, like YouTube and Instagram. Video content’s rise in popularity alongside the ascent of influencers is no coincidence.

Video will constitute 80 percent of traffic by 2020

5. Marketers Are Honing in on Instagram and Blogs

In 2018, Instagram reigns supreme as the most important social network for influencer marketing, according to 92 percent of marketers in Linqia’s The State of Influencer Marketing 2018. The majority of social networks support video content, though Instagram stands out due to its enormous user base and easily digestible, often concise video content.

The Kardashian family alone provides a taste of Instagram’s potential, with Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Khloe Kardashian, and Kourtney Kardashian attracting over 26,000,000 likes and comments on Instagram from January 1 to March 15, 2018. When an influencer achieves success on Instagram, it’s usually a massive success.

Instagram is the most important network for influencers

Don’t overlook the rising importance of blogs, either. Although blogs still lag behind Instagram and Facebook as the most important social networks for influencer marketing, they are a close third and have risen in popularity since 2017. Influencers on social media are embracing the blog form for more word-heavy content, especially the influencers launching their own e-commerce lines. These blogs showcase products and more informative content beyond these influencers’ social media presences.

2018 is an exciting year for marketers, who are seizing emerging forms of content like video and embracing influencers in their marketing campaigns. As consumers become more wary of conventional marketing techniques and gain more awareness of market research, influencer marketing offers a fresh and (hopefully) authentic approach that provides consumers a new perspective on why a particular product or service may be a good fit for their needs.

The post The 5 Best Influencer Marketing Studies of 2018 So Far appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

01 May 16:39

3 P’s Of Prospecting

by Tibor Shanto

By Tibor Shanto

I find that focus, or maybe even micro-focus is an excellent mechanism for lasting change in how sales professionals execute. It’s all great to have “big audacious goals,” but for most, (80%?) is just a precursor to “big audacious” disappointment. This not because they are incapable, but more because they reached too far ahead, and in trying to impress their peers and managers bite off more than they can deliver on. I have seen too many careers cut short not because they didn’t have what it takes, but because they took on too much and crumbled. Over the long run improving your execution is more likely the result of baby steps than power leaps. Today I’ll unpack three little, but interconnected things you can infuse your prospecting with, one at a time, to help you build a more robust pipeline.

Plan P

This more than a plan, it’s Plan P, the P here is for Pursuit. I know some people feel this may be a bit strong, but not when put in the context of the pursuit of mutual Value. The format of the plan is not new, few things worth doing in sales are, the difference is in the depth of planning and the options it serves up for continuous execution. Our format continuously focuses the rep on two crucial elements, i) how does this person fit into the decision I need their company to take? ii) who else can be or needs to be part of the decision? The great thing is that both of these require engagement, which propels the whole thing again.

How a specific individual impacts a decision requires that we engage, test, confirm and understand key factors. Are they a user or someone that only interacts with the processed output from an end-user interacting with the product? Are they an implementer who does not care about either of the above, they “just want to install and move on.” If they are an influencer, are they likely to influence to the negative or in support? These and other pieces require engagement.

But that’s not enough; it needs to be intelligent and planned, remember we are talking prospecting, not mid-deal. Not easy, unless you understand why you win the deals you win, in great detail, and of course why you lose or clients decide not to decide. Using the 360 Degree Deal Review, you can get the detail and connections you need to understand to have a useful Pursuit Plan – Plan P. (Grabs yours to see)

Prescriptive

One upside to having a plan based on actual outcomes from similar type of opportunities is our ability to be specific about issues that matter to the person you are engaging with not your marketing department. One key thing that most buyers are looking for is a Subject Matter Expert who can cut through the noise, and speak how to achieve objectives, not why theirs is right for a task.

Contrary to popular myth prospects are not better informed than ever, yes they have loads of information but lack insight. This is why it is taking buyers twice as long to decide as they had planned, which likely four times longer than you forecasted.

Once you get in the habit of using the 360 Degree Deal Review, you will see details as to why people did or did not act the way they did, and a range of topics that not only engage but allow you to demonstrate your expertise, not in the product, by their objectives. When you do that, you are in a position to be prescriptive, and help people achieve what they set out to in less time and better outcomes. This is not limited to questions relating to the solution, in fact, more important, is being prescriptive about how they make the decision. Most people know what they want, they lack the how, being prescriptive with the confidence of data and experience, helps you fill that void.

Persistence

You’ve heard this before, and here it is one mo’ gain – persistence trumps all! While there is a lot to be said for being the “first man” in, but there is infinitely more to be gained being the last man standing. This is that much more so for the largest segment of the market, the status quo. But even with actively looking buyers, it could take a lot more than most salespeople are willing to put in. Different studies have shown that it could take 12, 15, 18 touchpoints to get a response from buyers. For that large segment of status quo buyers, 10 – 15 is just the starting point; it could be into the dozens before they engage.

With the status quo, it not only takes more touchpoints but over a much more extended period. Those touchpoints may need to spread over 25 – 30 weeks; I saw one stat recently that suggested 35 weeks. This requires a process, automation and most importantly, creativity; you need to find something compelling to say. The best sellers use it as a means of educating the buyer, not about the product, but the efforts and unanticipated elements of buying, giving them even more value in the eye of the buyer.

Prospecting is not comfortable, the above is just a start, to go deep, and be one of the 20% looking back at the 80% struggling, check out another set of 3 P’s, the Proactive Prospecting Program!

The post 3 P’s Of Prospecting appeared first on TiborShanto.com.

01 May 16:38

5 Ways LinkedIn Can Help You Do Your Job Right Now (Part 2 of 4)

by James Potter

After the success of part one of our blog 5 Ways LinkedIn can help you do your job right now, here are some more ways you could be using LinkedIn to help you with your networking, profile and role.

LinkedIn is a veritable Swiss Army Knife of tools and rather than have that ‘odd bit’ you don’t know what it is for (horses hooves normally) here’s another five ways you could use LinkedIn to help you with your role:

1. References for skills of suppliers using recommendations or endorsements.
With over 546 million users on LinkedIn it is sometimes tricky to know which person or supplier you might want to shortlist to meet or engage with but LinkedIn can really help here.

The obvious places to look are at profiles (do you like what / how they write), recommendations and endorsements (consider contacting the people that gave them), and the dates (have they not done any good work recently?). There is a whole blog you can read on this.

2. Visual credit check – do they feel like they’re worth investment?
This is often used by lease companies, asset finance and more.

People are often surprised that financial organizations such as venture capitalists, investors, banks, finance companies (we’ve even trained casinos!) look at your profile, activity and connections as an indication of your value both as an investment but also as a potential recipient of funding.

Do you come across well and is the perception of you if you read your profile as good as you really are? As an example we’re often seeing startups using LinkedIn to build profile and value perception in advance of seeking funding (as well as finding the funding using LinkedIn!).

3. Address book
This is often where a lot people start with LinkedIn, a way to keep the people they know close and accessible.

As your contact details on LinkedIn are managed by you they’re more likely to be up to date and hence your network of connections can contact you – if they want to engage or purchase from you.

Of course this relies on you keeping your own contact details up to date!

4. Tender research and support
If you have the ‘joy’ of doing tenders then LinkedIn should be one of the first tools you reach for on receipt of any bid.

Not only can you research the profiles of who is on the review panel (you all ask who’s on the review panel when you receive a bid right?), but start to research their style, what they find interesting, talk about and weave this into your tender responses.

Of course, if you’re connected to them already, you’d be searching that individuals connections to see which competitors they’re connected to but then I’m sure you’d do that before each client meeting.

If you are particularly aware you could always seek out the ex-employees of the potential client your tendering to and talk to them about the current supplier, what they could do better and use that to inform your bid / no bid decision as well.

5. PR / Press
To get more press or PR most people just ‘throw’ press releases at the journalists inbox, not pausing to consider that everybody else just does the same so there you have a journalist inbox with a couple of hundred ‘exciting’ press releases – which do they choose?

Now imagine you searched your network to find the editors or journalists your connections knew and got them to introduce you or sponsor your exciting press release by sending it to the journalist – Good huh?

Who’d have thought that you could use LinkedIn in such creative ways? This is only number two in our series of four blogs (you can see the previous one here). Just wait and see what else is to come…

01 May 16:38

How to Write an Effective Facebook Bio for Your Business

by Amanda Clark

First impressions are everything—and while many consumers will first encounter your business through its official website, there are some who will be introduced to your business via its Facebook page. As such, it’s important to treat your company’s Facebook profile almost like a second home page—a succinct but effective summary of the things you do and the value you offer.

But how can you make your Facebook bio resonate? Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Tips for Optimizing Your Business Facebook Bio

Start with your value proposition. You can’t include everything about your business, and it’s best not to try. Instead, focus on the things that make your company distinctive. What’s your elevator pitch? Or, why would a consumer pick your brand over the competitor’s? Those should be the focus points for your bio.

Be mindful of SEO. While it’s important not to stuff your Facebook bio with keywords, to the point where it reads as stiff and robotic, you do want to include some keywords whenever you can do so naturally. Geographically-specific keywords are especially important.

Don’t forget links. Invite your Facebook visitors to learn more about your company—and make sure to include a link to your home page! Alternatively, create a landing page for your Facebook visitors, a page that thanks them for their visit and invites them to take the next steps in learning about your brand.

Include CTAs, too. All good online content comes with a call to action. Use some compelling verbs to encourage your readers to call, email, or visit your website. Alternatively, simply invite them to like and follow your Facebook page!

Don’t waste space with redundant words. We see a lot of bloated Facebook bios that waste their precious online real estate. For example, telling your visitors that they have reached “the official Facebook home of [Company Name]” is needless. Trim the fat and focus on words that pack a punch.

Drive your benefits. Specifically, focus on language that conveys the value your brand delivers to consumers. Ultimately, your Facebook bio shouldn’t be about you; it should be about your consumers. It should be centered on what’s in it for them to dive into your brand.

Get a Facebook Facelift

Your Facebook bio is an important marketing asset. Make yours count.

01 May 16:37

6 Steps to a Killer Webinar That’ll Leave Them Begging for More

by Garry Grant

Recently, we posted about how you can use webinars as part of your overall content and digital marketing plan to not only boost your brand awareness and increase your customer base, but also improve your SEO. Now, we’re going to make sure you know how create webinars that leave your audience coming back for more. It’s just six simple steps that once you get down, you can repeat again and again to create a library of useful content for customers and prospects alike.

Man sitting at desk watching webinar and taking notes

Start with the Content

The content, of course, is the main focus of the webinar, so it needs to be on point if you expect it to go over well with your audience. Choose a specific pain point that your attendees are dealing with, and provide solutions to the problem. Keep things specific, because your audience is looking for something beyond, “visit my website for more.”

If you’re struggling to find the right angle, think about how the product or service you’re offering solves problems for your target customer. You can use webinars to build your customer base, to educate them so you position yourself as a credible and trustworthy source, and to demonstrate how to use your product or service.

For example, if you’re selling products to dog owners, you could host a webinar with tips and tricks to help dog owners learn how to train their dogs to do certain tricks, or methods to breaking bad habits. You could also demonstrate your invisible fencing product, or other items you have that will help them keep their dogs secure and safe.

Knowing how you will use the webinar will guide the content and the promotion strategy.

Create a Delivery Outline

If you hand three people your webinar content, those three people would each deliver it in their own way. If you’re the one delivering the webinar, it’s a good idea to create an outline based on whatever delivery method you’re comfortable with. The outline is recommended because if you try to deliver it without any notes, it will be easy to get lost, and if you attempt to script the entire thing, you could come off as though you’re just reading from a piece of paper. Since you want to keep things as natural as possible, it’s best to keep it from coming off as too scripted.

In this outline, make sure you have a few minutes at the start of the webinar to introduce yourself and anyone else who is delivering the content with you. Share the kind of experience you have, and be energetic. In your introduction, you should make sure the audience knows you love what you do, and you enjoy talking about it.

Make Sure You’ve Got Good Equipment

You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy camera and microphone, but you’ll want to make sure you have something of quality. If the sound quality is poor, your resulting webinar could be poor quality, and if that’s the case, your viewers could translate your brand as poor quality, too. In addition to good equipment, you’ll also need to make sure you have a reliable, high speed internet connection if you’re planning to do a live webinar. If the connection isn’t stable, or is too slow, you’ll run into issues with playback, which will clearly affect the recording you can save and send to people later.

Pre-Recorded or Live

You can pre-record your webinar and have it look like a live one This is a good option if you’re looking to automate more of your business. It’s important to recognize that not all webinar platforms allow for this function, and those that do may or may not be in your budget.

If you do decide to pre-record your webinar, it’s a good idea to do it live and then record it, so the energy level is higher and you’ll carry the “live” feeling over to the recorded version. You can to the live version without having any attendees – just behave as if there are attendees watching during your recording process.

Choose Your Platform

With everything else in place, you’ll now have to choose your platform. Options include:

These platforms vary in terms of features and pricing. Not all of them allow for webinar automation, though. Depending on the number of attendees you’re expecting, and the features you’re looking for, you should find the right provider in this list. Paid plans will come with a free trial so you can give it a shot to make sure it fits your needs before committing to a financial investment.

Promote, Promote, Promote

For maximum benefit, you’ll want to have the webinar ready to go before you actually host it. Plan a marketing campaign designed specifically to drum up interest and curiosity in the webinar itself, and give yourself at least a month to promote it. Promote it on your social media channels. Use paid ads to drive traffic to a landing page where people can sign up to join your email list and be reminded of the webinar the day before, or an hour or so before it starts. Use a snippet of the webinar content to create a preview you can use to market it on video sharing platforms like Facebook and YouTube. Remind people of the value they’ll get from attending live, rather than waiting for you to release the recorded version after the air date and time. We’ll be covering webinar promotion ideas in another blog post, so keep an eye out for that soon.

Have you used webinars before? What kind of impact did it have? If not, what’s holding you back? We can help you learn to leverage them for an extra SEO boost.

01 May 16:35

Danger! Are You Out of Sync with Your Prospects?

by ceridon+thockenberry@hubspot.com (Todd Hockenberry)

Have you ever engaged with a salesperson who got impatient or upset with you when you didn’t immediately see the “value” of their product or service? Did that salesperson make you feel as if you were the one missing something?

These salespeople see a one-to-one connection between their product and the problem and get annoyed when everyone else sees … well, a salesperson.

This mindset is “features lead to benefits.” And it’s as deep as many salespeople get into the buyer's world. They rarely think of the goals of the customer or how the product helps them in a bigger sense -- the ultimate job to be done -- which is what the customer is really buying.

So, a disconnect develops between what’s sold and what’s bought. But where does the problem actually start?

Unconsciously Uncoupling from Your Prospects

Lack of training

It comes from two places. The first source is a lack of training. Salespeople are often unaware they appear arrogant or self-serving. They lack real empathy or understanding of the prospect.

This salesperson might think they’re being empathetic, but real understanding and care is a daily, intentional practice by successful salespeople. It’s something they practice in every communication and touchpoint they have with a prospect -- and it means they care for the prospect’s needs and well-being over their quota.

Lack of empathy often looks like, “Dammit, I have a great solution, and everyone should just buy it because the benefits are so obvious.” I see this in spam emails and LinkedIn messages that all say the exact same thing, “We have a new [insert product name here] other HubSpot partners love, so you should too. Let’s get 15 minutes scheduled to discuss.” These are salespeople employing an old school selling mindset.

Bias

The second source of disconnect between a salesperson and their prospect is personal bias. This bias is usually held by a product-focused (software, equipment, or services like financial or consulting) salesperson who’s heavily familiar with the technical aspects of the solution.

So how do you tell if you’ve unknowingly become a product-obsessed salesperson? I often ask salespeople to read the text on their website to discern if it’s about features and products or customers and outcomes.

Then I ask whether the website’s goals align with the scripts and talking points they’re using in meetings with prospects. Sometimes, the results of these questions mean a personal or company-wide realignment with customer goals.

But who has insight into the customer and their goals? Often the answer to that is the marketing team. But, let’s be honest, most salespeople don’t love working on marketing, or anyone working in non-technical areas.

Salespeople should start by speaking with customers. Then, they can sell their product/service based on their customer’s problems and the amazing goals that can be met when those challenges are overcome with your solution.

Go Customer-Focused or Get Out

Reach outcome asymmetry

So, you know you must be genuinely invested in your prospect’s best interests to make the sale in today’s online economy -- but that’s sometimes easier said than done.

This situation is what Daniel Pink refers to as “information asymmetry” in his book “To Sell is Human.” Previously, the buyer wanted product information and the seller-controlled access to it. The seller used that information as leverage to guide (or strong-arm) the buyer toward a purchase. Now, information asymmetry is flipped, giving buyers access to information leaving them in control of the sales process.

Enter inbound selling, which “Inbound Selling’s” Brian Signorelli defines as “Any form of selling designed to earn the buyer’s trust … it is a mindset and a philosophy rooted in empathy, well-executed through personalization and prioritizing a buyer’s needs and goals over the seller’s -- always, and without exception.”

Inbound sellers seek outcome asymmetry in reaction to information asymmetry. Outcome asymmetry happens when inbound sellers know how to achieve the customer’s goals and how to get customers to make changes required to achieve them (i.e., to buy their solution).

Inbound sellers are experts at understanding how to achieve the goals buyers value most, including required timing, major milestones, and roadmaps to success. Inbound selling creates content to help buyers make necessary changes to achieve these goals.

When inbound sellers achieve outcome asymmetry, they put themselves back in a position of value and become sought out by buyers earlier in the process.

A focus on culture

In my new book, “Inbound Organization,” co-author Dan Tyre and I say, “Corporate culture refers to an evolving set of values, attitudes, ethics, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature.”

A product-centric culture puts technology and products at the core of what happens in the company. The product becomes the basis of most decisions, even if leaders pay lip service to putting customers first. A product-centric culture creates a solution companies think is helpful and tells salespeople to go sell it.

For a customer-centric culture, HubSpot co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah says, "The first and most important step is to shift the organization’s mindset to focus on solving for the customer. Make decisions based on what’s in their interest -- because what’s in the customer’s interest is in the organization’s interest too."

Customer-centric organizations start at a high level and need to permeate every conversation and meeting the organization has. In other words, it’s not just on salespeople -- it’s on everyone.

In “Inbound Organization,” Dan and I share a story about a company called customer-centric payment processing company Fattmerchant. The company insists at least one representative from the marketing team attend every company meeting. Their role is to make sure the needs of the customer are front and center, no matter the department or topic being covered.

Make culture and selling style choices

Product-centric cultures maintaining old school selling styles will continue to fall into irrelevance. Buyers have too many choices and no longer tolerate companies and salespeople that don’t put them first.

Image source: “Inbound Organization

I see this type of selling attitude in many traditional industries like finance, banking, and consulting, as well as many industrial and manufacturing companies. If you’re selling in one of these industries, be especially aware of falling into product-focused sales.

Product-centric cultures that adopt inbound selling will ultimately disappoint customers. The promises made by the sales team will be betrayed by the devolution of the company into self-centered behavior. These companies will not stay with the customer and ensure their long-term success.

Customer-centric cultures maintaining old-school selling styles will also underperform. Look for this imbalance in startups that built a product or service on a solid customer foundation, but -- for some reason -- think disruption and spammy behavior still works. These salespeople are the ones sending LinkedIn messages asking for 15 minutes of my time with no personalization, context, or understanding of my business.

Customer-centric cultures that adopt inbound selling will achieve outcome asymmetry and become the companies you love to do business with. Buyers will not only have a qualitatively better relationship with these companies, but they’ll tell others about their experience and build strong momentum for your company in the marketplace.

Companies creating customer-centric cultures with inbound selling methodologies will deliver better customer experience -- which is what modern buyers are looking for. These organizations will also build a sustainable competitive advantage, one that’s on top of the benefits of the product or service itself.

Like what you read more? Check out my new book, co-authored with HubSpot Director of Sales Dan Tyre, “Inbound Organization: How to Build and Strengthen Your Company’s Future Using Inbound Principles.”

01 May 16:34

Friend of a Friend . . .: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career

by Blyth

The world has become one big public networking scoreboard: 16.5K followers on Twitter. 5,000 friends on Facebook. 700+ connections on LinkedIn. We are living in a time that tells us the higher the numbers, the better our chance at success. If we just pull ourselves out of bed for that early morning business association meet-and-greet, we'll meet the next client that will shore up the bottom line. If we drag ourselves to the bar after work to share a beer with strangers that do our same job, it's possible we'll find a position at a new company. Maybe. Nobody wants to do these things, but we are made to feel that we must. But what if everything we know about networking is wrong? What if you already know all of the right people to further your own success? David Burkus's new book, Friend of a Friend . . .: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career, introduces us to some new thinking on what successful networking can look like. Think of it as "Networking for People Who Only Want to Talk to Their Friends. And Friends of Their Friends."

 

Introduction

Or
How I Learned to Stop Networking
And Love Network Science

 

In 1999, a young computer engineer and aspiring entrepreneur named Adam Rifkin was looking for advice on his next move. In gathering advice, Rifkin sent an unsolicited email to a man he had never met in person named Graham Spencer. At the time, Spencer was one of the hottest names in the Silicon Valley tech community, having just completed the sale of his last start-up, Excite.com.

Although Excite.com is still active, it’s easy to forgive anyone who doesn’t immediately recognize the name. In the age before Google and Facebook, however, Excite was one of the biggest brands on the Internet. Started in 1993 by Spencer and five of his friends, Excite had grown to become the front page of the Internet for a significant percentage of web-surfers. (This was back when people still used that term seriously.) Spencer and the Excite team had grown the website from a humble start-up to a vast collection of websites. They had some financial struggles, but the success of the website in drawing users eventually led them to a major payout. In early 1999, Excite was sold to the telecommunications company @Home for $6.7 billion. Needless to say, once the deal was finalized, Spencer was getting a lot of attention.

That Rifkin sent a cold email hoping for some advice from a Silicon Valley success story isn’t unusual; who wouldn’t at least try? What is unusual is that Spencer agreed to the request. Not only did Spencer volunteer to meet with Rifkin in person and answer any questions Rifkin had, but he went above and beyond that. Once Rifkin had explained his idea, Spencer connected Rifkin to a venture capitalist who became one of the first funders of the new start-up.

The overriding question is why, at the height of his popularity, and at the peak of the demand for his time, did Spencer agree to sit down with someone he had never met in person? Because five years earlier, Rifkin and Spencer had built a webpage about punk rock bands.

More specifically, in 1994, as Rifkin was beginning his studies in computer science, he built a fan website dedicated to the emerging punk rock band Green Day. Despite it being the early days of the Internet, the website took off quickly. In fact, the website was getting so much attention that members of Green Day asked if they could take it over from Rifkin and make it their official website. Rifkin said yes. But Rifkin also received another request, from a young Graham Spencer, who felt that labeling Green Day as “punk rock” was taking attention away from “real” punk bands. So Rifkin and Spencer worked together and built a page on the Green Day website that listed other, lesser known bands. “A completely random set of events that happened in 1994 led to re-engaging with him over e-mails in 1999,” Rifkin said. “Which led to my company getting founded in 2000.” Rifkin had helped Spencer, even though he could have ignored the request. Five years later, Spencer in turn helped Rifkin even though he too could have ignored the request.

While this story might seem exceptional, it’s actually not that uncommon an occurrence for Rifkin. His career has been full of incidents of helping individuals who either were or would go on to be well-known figures in technology and business. Like the time Rifkin gave some contract work over to a young Ev Williams so he could keep afloat with a start-up called Blogger — which he later sold to Google for an undisclosed sum (though rumors estimate tens of millions). Williams would go on to start the company that would become Twitter. Or like the time Rifkin was starting another company and needed office space, and Reid Hoffman offered to let his team crash at LinkedIn until they got on their feet.

Rifkin’s story is filled with amazing anecdotes. He may not be a well-known name to everyone, but to the right people in his industry, he’s more than well known. He’s the best networker in the world. Literally. In 2011, Fortune magazine named Rifkin “the world’s best networker” — since it turned out that he was more connected than anyone else to the most influential people on Fortune’s lists (Fortune 500, 40 Under 40, 50 Most Power Women, etc.).

What is surprising about Rifkin earning this title isn’t just that he is not the household name we would expect, but also that he doesn’t fit the image of the world’s best networker. He is not a tall, extroverted, dapper, energetic, eloquent, highly educated professional. “I am not an extrovert,” he has said frequently. “Meeting people is not my favorite thing.” He describes himself as a little shy and awkward. He prefers a T-shirt and hoodie to a suit and tie. His look is often compared to a panda bear (a comparison he wears fairly proudly). He’d rather reconnect with old friends than work a room full of new people.

What Rifkin does have is an understanding of how networks work. Much of his initial strategy for building relationships and making connections wasn’t gleaned from an advice book about being a power networker. It came from his graduate school work in computer science. “I feel fortunate to have learned networking from many excellent teachers,” Rifkin once said. “And the greatest of these teachers was actually the Internet itself.” To Rifkin, human networks follow similar principles to computer networks. And studying those networks taught him several lessons about how to build and utilize better human networks. While we might think of our network as a collection of contact cards in a rolodex (or more modernly, a collection of names in a contacts app), when Rifkin thought about networks, he saw them not as a collection of contacts but as the map of the connections between contacts. “A network is basically a set of people and the connections between those people,” he explained.

One lesson in particular was that computer networks grow in value as the number of nodes and the number of connections grow. (A similar lesson from network science, often referred to as Metcalfe’s Law, is a mathematical expression of this idea.) “If you go about it the right way, then it’s good for everyone,” Rifkin explained. “If you go about it the wrong way, then it cuts off opportunities, not just for yourself but for others too.” So Rifkin committed himself to making introductions every single day. Eventually, he learned to scale his network building by building a whole community, 106 Miles, dedicated to keeping the tech community well connected. Today 106 Miles has almost 10,000 members who interact regularly. It’s a network unto itself. Although Rifkin isn’t at the center of it anymore, it owes its existence to his perspective on networks and networking.

Rifkin’s own extensive network, and the career success it has brought him, is more than an amazing story. It’s a stern rejection of many of the misconceptions about what networking is and how it’s supposed to work. One reason these misconceptions are widespread is that the majority of books, workshops, courses, speeches, and more on the subject are based on old and misguided advice. Specifically:

  • They say you should write and refine your “elevator pitch.”
  • They say you should never eat a meal alone.
  • They say that you should repeat someone’s name three times in the first few seconds of conversation (sometimes as advice for remembering the name, other times as a trick to get people to like you more).
  • They will offer guidelines on how to work a room or how to meet new connections online.


But all advice is autobiographical. Advice, even advice about networks, represents little more than one person’s single story projected onto others. Advice, at its core, says, “I did this and it worked, so you should do it too,” or the slightly more convincing, “I wasn’t doing this, but then I did and it changed my life.” As well meaning, inspirational, and accurate as another person’s autobiography might be, it’s still one person, with one specific set of skills, one personality, in one specific location, at one specific time. So what if you’re not that person with that personality at that point in life? What if you’re not the tall, extroverted, dapper, energetic, eloquent, highly educated professional who’s giving you the advice? Would it still work for you? Would you even want to try it?

 
Excerpted from Friend of Friend…: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Career by David Burkus.
Copyright © 2018 by David Burkus.
Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Burkus is a best-selling author, a sought-after speaker, and a business school professor. A regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review, he has delivered keynotes to Fortune 500 companies and his TED Talk has been viewed over 1.8 million times. He lives with his family near Tulsa. 

01 May 16:32

Using A Facebook Page Analyzer To Boost Your Business Sales

by Ivan Ivanov

The top social networking platform Facebook is still one of the most valuable social marketing tools available today. Yet, while just five years ago the simple act of having a business page on the platform could bring you new sales, today the story is quite different.

To achieve better conversion rates, you need to invest in a proper content strategy, marketing campaigns and more. The reason for this change is the increased saturation of different industries on the social media.

In combination with the algorithmic changes of the platform and when you factor in the improved content expectations of audiences, it’s easy to note that having a better Facebook ROI can be a difficult task.

Using A Facebook Page Analyzer To Boost Your Business Sales

Yet, there are certain strategies that might give you a competitive edge. When utilizing different tools, you can advance your social media efforts and ultimately achieve better business results. With the focus on an increased conversion rate, we have decided to take a look at some of the most useful ways you can use a Facebook page analyzer to boost your business sales. Without further adieu, let’s get started!

Learn How to Engage your Audience

The first and most obvious use for a Facebook page analyzer is that it allows you to learn how to better engage with your audience. Providing you with detailed social media metrics and insights, such a tool will allow you to aim for better conversion based on a multitude of factors.

Just one way you can improve your social media strategy, when you have access to detailed analytics is to see what is the most engaging type of content. Especially when you have developed a bigger following on social media, you will have the chance to better experiment with your content strategy to ultimately achieve the best possible conversion for your efforts.

Quality of the content and the response of an audience simply can’t be properly measured in terms of performance without the help of advanced analytics. After crunching the data, a Facebook page analytics tool can provide you with easy to analyze visual metrics.

By having access to them, you will be able to learn more about the demographics of your audience, their engagement, how people react to your content and business, the most active times to post and much more.

Audience Engagement

What can you do to boost sales?

Conversion is by far the most sought after goal in social media management. Simply having a huge following usually isn’t enough. Instead, you have to spend time to first curate your following so that it better fits the demographics of your target audience.

In addition, you have to ensure that the content you post is engaging enough so that your customers interact with your company. When using a Facebook Page Analyzer, make sure to create a detailed report on your current following and consider testing out different marketing campaigns based on a consistent content strategy aimed for better conversion.

Develop White-Label Reports for your Clients

One of the most obvious ways to boost the sales of your business is the automatic scheduling of white-label reports for your clients. Of course, this option is only available to businesses who benefit from social media reporting to their clients. Nevertheless, the potential increase in ROI is quite notable.

Usually, a digital marketing or a social media agency will have their own process of developing reports for the client. Yet, without a Facebook Page Analyzer that lets you do so, you will be required to download and crunch a lot of data via third-party software such as MS Excel. Not to mention, if you want to properly deliver the insights, your team will have to spend additional time with the design of the report.

Yet, when using a performance measurement tool, you are often able to easily create white-label reports. For example, with Locowise, you are able to create custom scheduled reports for the social media performance of your clients with just a few clicks. Not to mention, our reports are fully editable.

Social Media Reports

What can you do?

If you are interested in the scheduling and development of white-label reports for your clients via an automatic system, Locowise can help you do so. With just a few clicks you are able to create detailed and custom reports based on the available social media metrics and the analytics of your competitors.

What’s more, we have further audit options that create automatic audits to better reflect what’s important in the data for your clients. If you are interested, schedule your free social audit right here.

Target the Most Active Users of your Competitors

Competition is ever increasing and being able to advance your audience targeting methods is always a good benefit for a business. When you use an advanced Facebook page analyzer tool, you are able to proactively funnel the right data from your competitors, including their most active users and current responses and sentiment.

There are multiple ways you can use the data to your advantage. Depending on the size of your industry and the particular marketing strategy you are employing, you might be able to effortlessly increase the sales of your business without the need for additional competitor market research.

For example, McDonald’s is a huge worldwide brand and its competition is just as numerous in following. Going through the most active users on Facebook might not be a viable strategy, as ultimately, targeting specific individuals won’t have a huge impact on the overall business of the fast food chain.

Yet, researching the audience sentiment, the most popular posts and the word cloud responses of their competition might help them improve their social media marketing strategy. At the same time, niche industries and startups might be able to increase their business sales by targeting their marketing campaign based on the profile of the most active users of their competition.

Competitor Benchmarking

What can you do?

Depending on the size of your current Facebook following, choose a few competitors that have bigger following and a few smaller ones. Run a multi-profile report on them and note the different metrics. What are the top content posts? What can you learn from them? Which competitor has the fastest audience growth and what is their paid reach? All these valuable insights can help you improve your current social media management strategy.

Run Content Test and Check Insights Before Advertising

One of the biggest benefits that a Facebook page analyzer can help you out with is the valuable insights you can receive from it. Yet, one opportunity most novice marketers overlook is that as long as you have a following and a reporting tool, you can easily create test runs for your potential advertising campaign on the platform.

Now, Facebook does provide you with different post types for advertising to maximize your chances of conversion and paid promotion can potentially have a different response than your usual posts. Nevertheless, you can still experiment with the marketing message itself through post outreach testing via your existing following and audience.

With detailed reporting on the direct response of your audience, you will have access to insights that will let you adapt your content to perform better when using it in Facebook advertising. This sort of testing of your marketing message beforehand can help you avoid major social media disasters, such as the ones we’ve featured in our top viral marketing mistakes to avoid blog post.

Paid Promotion

What can you do?

If you are about to run an advertising campaign, have your team prepare test content for your Facebook feed in relation to the message of the advertising. Try out a few different ways to tackle that particular message through the content and post it at regular intervals that are coherent with your social media strategy.

After the test content is posted, within a margin of error, check the analytics available via your Facebook page analyzer tool. Which content had the best ER? Did any post provoke a response from your audience you didn’t expect? Take the feedback into account and improve upon your advertising. Then, simply run the advertising campaign and reap the results!

Tip: Adapt Your Business Strategy to Reflect your Demographics

A Facebook page analyzer can give you extremely detailed demographics of your current social media audience. Especially if you already have a big following on Facebook of active and potential customers, having this data can help you greatly enhance your current business strategy. In a sense, once properly deployed, a social media marketing strategy can be a two-way street. You both target your specific audience based on your business plan and are able to learn more about how the market responds to your business.

Make sure to use such data to the best of your ability. Especially if you are planning long term, specify certain periods within your social media management to analyze the audience demographics. Then, based on the data, focus on how you can improve your business strategy based on the market report. Are you a digital marketing agency owner? Even better! Gain the competitive edge, by providing your client with detailed insights about how their business can improve their sales via social media metrics.

01 May 16:30

Demystifying Sales Enablement: What Is It, Why It Matters, And How To Do It Right

by Roderick Jefferson

To see what selling on steroids looks like, check out companies with the best sales enablement strategies. You’ll discover a lively place, with a lot of things — like revenue, productivity, and win rates — going up, and a lot of things — like speed to revenue, sale cycle period, customer churn, and staff attrition rate — going down.

It’s an up-and-down ride that moves the needle where it matters, driving sales teams to peak performance and customers to brand loyalty.   

Aberdeen reported that companies with excellent successful sales enablement programs are:

  • 2.2 times more effective at linking sales actions to revenue,
  • 83% more effective at improving productivity using technology, and,
  • 58% more effective at finding, training, and retaining talent.

These companies also deliver:

  • 32% higher team sales quota attainment,
  • 24% better individual quota achievement, and
  • 23% higher lead conversion rate.

Given its broad and powerful impact, sales enablement is no longer an optional but a crucial element for survival, growth, and success in the new economy.   

Here’s everything we’ll cover now:

1) Sales enablement definition
2) Key functions
3) Team structure
4) Process
5) Examples
6) Sales enablement vs. sales operations
7) Metrics and KPIs
8) Best practices

What is Sales Enablement?

What is sales enablement

After (20) + years of success in multiple roles in the Sales Training/Sales Productivity/Sales Enablement space, I’ve narrowed my definition down to this:

Sales Enablement is centered around “Getting the right people in the right conversations with the right decisions makers in the right way. We break the complexity of sales enablement into practical ideas through scalable and repeatable practices that will lead to increased revenue .”

It really comes down to increasing productivity through a systematic approach to support content that will drive incremental revenue. You then focus on metrics, tracking, and reporting to substantiate the ROI that you and/or your team brings to the company.

Seems simple enough to do, right? Well if you believe it’s simple, I’ve got a “famous” bridge near San Francisco that I’d like to sell you! 

The biggest problem with “Sales Enablement” is there is no one globally accepted definition.

Sales Enablement is a combination of multiple sales functions

If you ask the question, “What is Sales Enablement” to ten people, you’ll get ten different answers. Some will say the it’s training. Others will say that it’s on-boarding new employees and building a solid foundational experience that will lead to long-term success.

Yet another group will say that it’s all about making sure that sales professionals have access to sales tools, templates, & processes. Finally, some will say that it’s about doing whatever it takes to ensure that a company’s messaging and positioning is deployed consistently to prospects and customers. I would venture to say that it’s a combination of all of these components.

Understanding the importance of Sales Enablement

As Sales Enablement professionals, we often complain that senior leaders don’t understand the importance of our craft and don’t appreciate the value we add. In many cases, though, the fault for this lack of understanding and appreciation lies with us.

  1. We often don’t speak the language of business, and we don’t do a good job of strategically aligning our programs to their goals.
  2. Sometimes, there’s little effective communication to define the planned impact and agree on roles and responsibilities.
  3. Most importantly, seldom do we consistently tie our value to metrics around influencing increased incremental revenue.

One of my primary goals should be to provide a roadmap around how to move from being viewed as “training” to being valued as a true business partner with sales and the multiple lines of business within a company.

Key Functions of Sales Enablement

Sales enablement functions

Depending on the specific organization or implementation framework, sales enablement may encapsulate different sets of functions.

It’s the orchestration point that aligns the intersecting elements of sales, marketing, customer care, product/brand management, legal, and human resources to improve seller productivity and enhance buyer experience.  

These generally include —  

  1. Optimization of technology resources such as CRMs (sales orchestration)
  2. Content development (sales communication)
  3. Talent management (on-boarding, performance analysis, enablement, and coaching)
  4. Customer happiness (buyer journey optimization)
  5. Ongoing process efficiencies (sales collaboration)

In a sense, it focuses on the seller-buyer dynamic and the tools, different systems, methodologies and processes that enhance engagement. It optimizes value (expressed in ROI) for both buyer and seller over time.

Hence, One of the most constant functions of sales enablement is to help fine-tune an organization’s sales process so that it aligns perfectly with the journey of its prospects and customers. Once perfect alignment has been reached, prospects and customers become more emotionally invested in a brand (company, sales team, product). Thus, win rates, repeat business, referrals, sales cycles, and customer success improve significantly.

Sales enablement image 2

Sales Enablement Team Structure

Sales enablement team structure

Even after its core functions have been clarified, sales enablement — especially the way it is set up in a company — is still evolving.

Unlike well-established departments such as Finance and Human Resources, the team structure of sales enablement dramatically varies across organizations.       

In its early years, sales enablement either emerged as a subset of the broader field of Sales Operations or as a function performed singularly or collectively by other business units (sales, marketing, customer service, etc.) in support of revenue-oriented goals.

Sales enablement image 3

As sales enablement matures, some companies which originally structured it within their Sales Operations unit have run the two units as co-equal branches within the sales organization.

On the other hand, research and advisory firm TOPO recommends a company’s sales and marketing units to assume joint ownership of and collaborate on sales enablement. Marketing will spearhead content development and sales will lead efforts at “operationalizing” the content/communications assets to help sellers drive better engagement and conversations with customers.

The Sales Enablement Process

Similar to its structure, the processes central to sales enablement are still evolving.

Sales enablement process

On the buyer side, it should:

  1. help align the sales process with the buyer journey.
  2. customize engagement tools, sales communication, and marketing content with the different buyer personas the organization is targeting.
  3. serve as the feedback loop between prospects, customers and multiple internal lines of business.

On the seller side, it can focus on the following:

1) Recruiting and on-boarding

Sales enablement should be a consistent component of the sales interview process. A sales organization needs the right number of top talent to consistently meet targets, grow revenues, and remain competitive.

Too many sellers on the floor can impact profit margins while an insufficient number can retard growth. The talent acquisition team should work closely with Human Resources in finding and retaining qualified professionals with above-par experience and skills, bearing in mind that hiring sub-par candidates will dampen overall team performance.

2) Enablement and coaching

It takes more than qualified sellers to achieve business goals. Top talent needs ongoing enablement and coaching to build knowledge, hone skills, and harness resources to drive customer conversions, sales velocity, and win rates.

In addition to a dynamic, robust, and easily accessible knowledge base, organizations should have seminars, workshops, mentorships, and other training programs to keep their salesforce in top shape.   

3) Tools and technology enhancement

Deploying talented and highly-skilled salespeople out in the field will not necessarily translate to success without access to the right tools. In a highly competitive arena, powerful tools that improve conversations, shorten sales cycles, or generate valuable business insights provide game-changing advantage.

The right mix of CRM, content library (videos, articles, infographics, social media assets, presentations, podcasts, mobile apps, etc.), and engagement workflow will help optimize every sales opportunity.

4) Performance/effectiveness assessments

Successful sales enablement is a team sport!

How do you know your salespeople are in top shape and your investments are not going to waste? Through assessment tools such as feedback mechanisms and key performance indicators.

Working with the sales First Line Managers (FLMs) to adopt the right performance metrics will give you a 360° insight on:

a) the level of efficiency of sellers and team leaders and how they are achieving their targets.
b) the sweet spots where you can still tweak the numbers to drive further improvements or hack overall growth.     

Sales Enablement Examples

There are many specific ways sales enablement can impact process and profits.

Here are some common methods:

1) Build a long-term, strategy that includes roles specific tools, processes and scalable, repeatable best practices. This can be done by partnering with the sales organization to agree upon specific goals, deliverables, milestones and responsibilities.

2) Drive better conversations and achieve higher conversion rates by facilitating seller and buyer access to on-demand, in-context, and high-quality engagement materials.

3) Eliminate silos and bubbles that tend to convey conflicting messaging/processing among prospective buyers. Organization-wide communications tools that automatically syncs everyone on new available resources or workflow updates come in handy here.

4) Improve bottom lines and scale growth by systematizing sales training activities and coaching to deliver best-in-class outcomes.

5) Gain full visibility to customer behavior using cloud-based technology tools that track engagement with branded content.

6) Optimize sales pitches using sophisticated data analytics software.

7) Communicate early and often to ensure engagement, commitment, and adoption between sales, sales enablement and the multiple lines of business.

Sales Enablement Vs. Sales Operations

Sales enablement vs. sales operations

Professionals in non-sales roles sometimes use the terms Sales Operations and Sales Enablement interchangeably. When used in reference to corporate functions, the two terms do coincide in some sense but they are not identical.

Certainly, both aim to improve the performance of a sales organization, but each technically do so by focusing on distinct areas.   

Sales Operations focus on the entire sales organization and its daily grind, overseeing even processes and people that may not have direct sales roles but are considered part of the sales organization.

On the other hand, Sales Enablement spearheads all programs that directly impact the efficiency and performance of sellers and the experience of customers.      

In general, Sales Ops handles the daily operational side of the sales organization including territory planning, transactions management, compensation, and systems management.

Meanwhile, Sales Enablement leads training, coaching, content development, sales communications, technology optimizations, performance analytics, engagement tools, and process efficiencies.

Common Sales Enablement Metrics & KPIs

Different organizations adopt varying metrics to evaluate their sales enablement efforts, depending on how they structure the unit and which areas it is tasked to focus on.

Here are ten common metrics this function typically tracks:

1) Time to Revenue

This metric refers to the time required to close a sale.

2) Quota Attainment

The percentage of sellers in the team that consistently meet or exceed targets.

3) Sales Cycle

The average time duration it takes to close deals from one end of the funnel to the other.

4) Time Spent Actively Selling

The average length of time sellers actively spend engaging prospects.   

5) Content Usage

Evaluates the efficiency of each communication material based on unique visits, amount of time customers spend on the content, and other quantifiable factors.   

6) Sales Funnel Transition Rates

Specific transition rates from one stage of the funnel to the next (e.g., from prospect to marketing qualified lead, from sales qualified lead to won opportunity and to a closed deal).    

7) Average Win Rate

The ratio of closed won deals to the total number of won and lost deals.

8) Attach Rate

The percentage of deals that includes a go to market strategy with a Partner.

9) Number of Closed Deals

The number of engaged/closed deals in a specific timeframe.

10) Product Mix 

The percentage of products/solutions included in a closed deal.

Sales Enablement Best Practices

Sales enablement best practices

The decision to adopt sales enablement to support sellers, keep customers happy, and drive revenue carries the additional responsibility of implementing the field’s best practices.

1) Set clear objectives for your sales enablement program

The goals should not be just to support the sales force in general but to drive specific, transformative, and measurable changes in the organization and its performance. It could be to update the technology stack, quicken the sales cycle, improve margins, or other strategic goals.

2) Make sales enablement accessible to all stakeholders

A program won’t deliver its promise if there are hurdles to its actual implementation by sellers.

Ensure that all salespeople know about and are skilled in utilizing your sales enablement assets. Playbooks and engagement material should be uniform and updated across the organization. Use effective communication and training to optimize the benefits of sales enablement.  

3) Use sales enablement to make salespeople more buyer-centric.

Customer centricity has become a success factor in the digital economy where power has already shifted to consumers. Align the program with the customer journey and tailor each engagement to deliver the best buyer experiences.  

4) Adopt sales enablement as a corporate mindset

Encourage a culture where every non-sales employee believes they are part of the sales support team. Meanwhile, establish sales training as an ongoing process for members of the sales force.

5) Make sales enablement transparent, integrated, and measurable

The sales organization should be able to make accurate and quantifiable assessments about the impact of each sales enablement effort. Sales enablement assets should also be synced with the rest of the company’s technology stack.

6) Improve and evolve sales enablement processes periodically

It’s a continually evolving field and stakeholders should remain open to technological breakthroughs and new methodologies that can improve current capabilities.

As the mindset, behaviors and needs of your prospects and customers are shifting, you must be prepared to change the way that you support them. In other words, “learn their language, don’t expect them to learn yours.”

Key takeaways: Getting Started with Sales Enablement

As customer behavior shifts (especially in the B2B space), sales enablement also transitions from being just “valuable” to “indispensable.”

As competition gets fiercer, the need to make sales enablement part of the corporate culture has also become more urgent.

At the end of the day, if your company thinks of sales enablement as the “fixer of broken things,” you’re setting yourself up for failure. Sales is not broken, but it can always be better!

Positioning sales enablement as a revenue generator and not a cost center starts with shifting the mindset away from training and onboarding, etc. and succeeds by working closely with first line managers, internal lines of business, and executive sales leaders to associate sales enablement metrics with sales success.

The post Demystifying Sales Enablement: What Is It, Why It Matters, And How To Do It Right appeared first on Sales Hacker.

01 May 16:30

6 Keys to a Blissful Marriage Between PR & Marketing

by William Comcowich

how to integrate PR & marketing, tips to merge PR & marketing

In the old days PR handled media relations. Marketing oversaw advertising, promotional materials and gathering customer information through surveys and focus groups. PR focused on safeguarding the brand’s reputation, marketing on boosting sales. Today, PR and marketing collide, overlap and intertwine. Either PR or marketing can manage content like social media updates, blogs and guest articles.

As a result of increasing integration, the percentage of in-house communications teams reporting to marketing increased to 26 percent from 18 percent last year, reveals the 2018 Global Communications Report from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Ninety percent of PR agency professionals and 82 percent of in-house PR pros predict PR will become more integrated with marketing over the next five years.

“Combining PR and marketing allows you to consider both the art and the science of relating to consumers, which will ultimately boost your bottom line more quickly and effectively,” says Forbes contributor Amy Osmond Cook, CEO of Osmond Marketing.

Success often hinges on how well those two groups work together. The merger of PR and marketing may sometimes seem more like a custody battle over job functions than a happy marriage.

The following tips can help PR and marketing find professional bliss together – and meet the organization’s overall business goals.

Cooperate early and often. PR and marketing pros can develop effective campaigns by engaging with each other frequently and starting the collaboration early in the process, says Matt Schlossberg, senior account content director at AC Amendola Communications.

Meet the other side. The first step for PR agencies with new clients: Get to know the marketing team and what they are working on, Schlossberg says. Also meet the sales team. Ask questions like: What are customers connecting with? How do they interact with the company? Who are the target audiences? What are the key product messages? What are the product differentiators? And don’t accept stock answers. “Years ago, I might not have thought to do this. Today, I understand that the data I acquire from them will inform the shape of my PR campaign,” he says.

Dump old names. Current titles handed down from the past no longer correctly describe communications functions. Many corporations now discard old titles and old schools of thought and build a new team called integrated communications, says Wendy Dessler for Flarrio. Messages remain the same; ways of communicating change. “The new name puts everyone on the same board and allows the hand-me-down rivalries of the past to be put to rest,” Dessler says.

Find win-win scenarios. Find how marketing assets can help PR gain media coverage. At the same time, find how PR can help meet marketing goals, says Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Marketing. For instance, social media listening can spot opportunities for sales.

Build a business case. Pursue the easily obtainable “low-hanging fruit opportunities” to demonstrate how PR and marketing can work together to achieve business goals, Odden advises. Then sell the results with performance metrics that executives can appreciate.

Employ comprehensive monitoring and measurement. Marketers may lack information on earned media. PR may lack data on sales and leads. A comprehensive media monitoring and measurement solution can integrate data from all forms of media into a single dashboard. That can reveal winning strategies, such as when leads and sales spike during a major PR campaign or after a high-profile media mention.

Bottom Line: Combining PR and marketing offers substantial benefits and is the prevalent trend. The merger may sometimes involve scuffles over who will control what jobs. Initiating cooperation as early as possible and ongoing, frequent communications between the two groups can ease conflicts and improve results.

This article was first published on the Glean.info blog.

Sign-up for a free demo of the Glean.info media monitoring & measurement dashboard.

01 May 16:30

Real World Tips & Tricks to Maximize Lead Gen Efficiency with LinkedIn Sales Navigator

by Kylee Lessard
sales navigator strategic contributions data

How much is a minute worth?

The question is largely rhetorical, but drives at an undeniable reality: every bit of wasted time has a cost. An inefficient sales process wreaks havoc on the bottom line.

You probably could calculate how much money is lost on every moment spent chasing unqualified leads by factoring in the rep’s salary and a handful of other expenses. But such an exercise isn’t needed to understand the financial implications of futile pursuit.

The key to B2B selling efficiency lies in three outcomes: shorter sales cycles, better qualified leads, and a higher percentage of business closed. And as our customers have reported, refining LinkedIn lead gen with the help of Sales Navigator can contribute to all three.

A Cost-Effective Sales Process Requires Groundwork

For our guide, How to Maximize LinkedIn’s Value with Sales Navigator, we studied a number of the product’s users to see what kinds of results the software was generating.

In one example, Hyland Software attributed the following major improvements to strategic contributions from Sales Navigator: sales cycle reduced by 30% to 60%, 40% to 60% more qualified pipeline leads generated, and more business closed.

Mike Cachat, an account manager for Hyland, said Sales Navigator has helped the sales team adapt to a more complex B2B environment.

“Buyer behavior has changed,” he said. “Instead of an executive making a decision and that whole decision riding on his or her shoulders, they’ve started allocating a lot of the buying process to a project team of six to eight folks.”

Without knowing each person and what their specific buying behaviors may be, it’s nearly impossible to effectively present your solution to the group. Navigator has enabled our team to perform the necessary research and proper due diligence.

This, in turn, helps Hyland cut out needless outreach to the wrong players, while better qualifying specific prospects and engaging them more intelligently. Specifically, Cachat called out Advanced Search with Lead Builder as one of his go-to features, pointing out that it drastically cuts down time spent searching manually through the web or reports or other sources.

He added that making intros in a more sophisticated way, through Sales Navigator tools like InMail, has greatly improved response rate and receptiveness from prospects.

“We see Sales Navigator as a more professional way to reach out to our prospects,” said Cachat. “Instead of sending the same type of emails that are inundating everyone, Sales Navigator provides a more direct-connection channel—and the messaging is resonating at a higher rate.”

With this remark about inbox inundation, Cachat hints at another aspect of improved targeting and lead gen efficiency: It’s not just your own time and money that’s saved.

Prospects Care About Efficiency Too

The saying “time is money” applies for every company, of course. When sales reps reach out to buyers and execs who are not viable leads, it wastes the other person’s time and costs their business money.

A smarter sales prospecting approach, driven by data and insights, yields considerably better experiences for those you engage. People you reach out to are more likely to find value in discussing your solution, and because reps tend to enter sales conversations with built-in knowledge of the account and its circumstances, they can get to the point more quickly.

It goes without saying that your customers, and potential customers, dislike waste the same as you. When you streamline your processes and use Sales Navigator to target the right buyers based on the right info, the savings extend beyond your own organization.

How to Maximize Efficiency with Sales Navigator

How have Sales Navigator power users been able to achieve the aforementioned results when it comes to cutting down the sales cycle and better qualifying leads? Here are some tips derived from Customer Success Stories:

  1. Consult LinkedIn profiles and Company Pages to gather clues about an organization’s objectives
  2. Download the Sales Navigator mobile app to stay updated and discover leads on-the-go
  3. Use TeamLink to search extended networks and find attainable opportunities
  4. Save promising leads and keep an eye on real-time updates for timing cues
  5. Integrate Sales Navigator with your CRM to get the most out of all your data
  6. Reach out to prospects through InMail instead of email to improve response rates
  7. Identify commonalities and mutual connections to foster warm introductions
  8. Use PointDrive to quickly and easily deliver sales content
  9. Interact with contacts frequently to maintain relationships

When you tap into the full extent of its capabilities, Sales Navigator can save your sales team (and the companies you engage) a whole lot of minutes. How much is that worth?

To learn more about Sales Navigator and its various efficiency-boosting features, download our in-depth guide: How to Maximize LinkedIn’s Value with Sales Navigator.

01 May 16:30

The 3 Biggest Factors That Drive Sales Close Rates – And How to Navigate Them

by Frank Dale

For sales organizations, there’s simply nothing worse than losing a deal during the final proposal and negotiation stages. By that point, significant resources have been invested and the sales professional has dedicated much of her time to building the relationship, asking what she thinks are the right questions, and demonstrating value of the solution. These resources are not insignificant, either. For nearly every enterprise sales cycle, considerable time (and monetary) investments are made:

  • Finance and legal teams work hard on contracts, proposals, and revisit redlines
  • Investment is made for travel, onsites, custom materials, and prospect entertainment
  • The sales professional spends significant time spent on prepping for calls, running meetings, conducting admin work, and sending follow-ups
  • The sales leader spends time on the deal during 1:1 sessions, strategic account planning, and helping to quarterback the deal

Salesforce.com released B2B sales data that shows, on average, only 13% of leads convert to opportunities and the conversion rate from opportunity to deal is even lower—only 6% of opportunities convert to deals.

Of course, no company wins 100% of the deals it works on, but the fewer deals the sales team closes, the more and more attention the elusive close rate receives. While there are many factors that go into why a prospect ultimately chooses a partner—some out of the company’s control—there are certainly aspects that can be controlled early on to improve the chances of a successful close and a long-term partnership. Let’s take a look at 3 of those biggest factors:

Factor #1: The Solution’s Value Wasn’t Properly Established Up Front

The first factor that plays an important role in the close rate is whether or not the company’s value proposition was properly articulated up front. Not doing so is common when an SDR or a sales professional wants to keep progressing a deal—even if the prospect clearly isn’t a good fit for the solution. Rather than kill the deal early on, a sales professional may drag the conversation on for weeks or months by engaging the prospect with demos or solution discussions that attempt to progress the deal to the next stage. Tactically, this could mean that a sales professional tells a prospect something like “I’ll go ahead and send you a proposal—just let me know what you think and we can go from there.”

How to Navigate: Rather than keep a deal alive for the sake of showing numbers or trying to force a close even when the prospect isn’t a good fit, it’s best to mutually agree early whether or not to continue sales conversations.

Factor #2: The Decision Makers and Influencers Weren’t Determined Early Enough

One of the most common issues in enterprise sales is working through the complexity of the organization—especially as it relates to stakeholders. Not only are there multiple business units, but usually separate departments in each one. Add on top of that the number of regional offices or even global offices that many enterprise companies have, and it can seem nearly impossible to get to the right decision-making stakeholder (or even true influencers, for that matter). For sales professionals, it can be tempting to start a sales process with an individual at an enterprise company—even if they aren’t quite the right persona target. If they’ll listen and help to champion the deal, that’s often enough.

Nothing can derail a deal quicker than getting through discovery, demo, and even proposal stages only to realize that the financial buyer or the ultimate decision maker hasn’t been included in any of the conversations. In this scenario, the sales process usually starts over—or at least has to rewind several steps in order to ensure proper buy-in to proceed. That not only throws off the deal for the sales professional, but it makes accurate forecasting nearly impossible for the sales leader.

How to Navigate: Sales professionals know that having the right stakeholders involved from the beginning is key, but it can be tricky to ensure that they are—especially since every organization is different and influencers may not even know who the financial buyer even is. The best way to mitigate this issue is to review the same questions on every discovery call so nothing is left out and every base is covered before progressing.

Factor #3: The Competition Wasn’t Identified and Differentiation Wasn’t Established

In today’s explosive SaaS market, sales professionals have to compete against multiple solution providers at any given time. And, even if there is no ‘competition’ to speak of, budget is always negotiable and different vendors (even if they solve different issues) could be fighting for the same dollars. No longer are budgets earmarked for a specific solution category. Instead, budgets are set aside to help solve a problem (like ‘lead flow’ or ‘employee engagement’, for example). In today’s sales world, the organization that proves to solve the most problems or add the most value throughout the sales process wins the budget—it’s usually that clear cut. Sales professionals who don’t conduct deep enough discovery to identify who or what they are competing against will face much larger challenges later on in the process when they find out that they didn’t adequately differentiate both the problem and the solution at hand. Simply reciting product features and getting the prospect to see the solution via a demo has become the elementary form of selling (and it no longer works).

How to Navigate: Sales professionals win by asking questions to uncover problems or areas of opportunity, tailoring every conversation to one of value for the prospect, and finally, differentiating against potential competitors.

What do these 3 factors have in common? Each of them should be initially addressed during the discovery process, and then used as a basis for the entire sales process.

The post The 3 Biggest Factors That Drive Sales Close Rates – And How to Navigate Them appeared first on OpenView Labs.

30 Apr 16:44

The Tactics of Marketing Strategy: A Marketer's Guide

To plan your marketing, you need a marketing strategy. But how do you create that strategy? You need a tactical approach to understanding where you've been, where you are, where you're going (or should be), and what resources are required to get there. Read the full article at MarketingProfs
30 Apr 16:42

Marketing Flaws For Powerful Brand Differentiation

by Richard Shotton

Marketing Flaws For Powerful Brand Differentiation

In 1982, Levi’s launched black jeans in the UK. At the time denim was invariably blue so Levi’s wanted to capture the rebellious spirit of those opting for black.

The ad by BBH became a classic.

But the strapline, written by Barbara Noakes, “When the world zigs, zag”, has relevance beyond fashion. Advertisers should heed the brand’s message: distinctiveness is a route to memorability.

And that’s not just hearsay. After all academic evidence shows that brands benefit from subverting expectations.

The original evidence comes from the work of Hedwig von Restorff in 1933. The pediatrician gave participants a list of text: it consisted of random strings of three letters interrupted by one set of three digits. So, for example: jrm, tws, als, huk, bnm, 153, fdy.

After a short pause the participants were asked to recall the items. The results showed that items that stood out, in this case the three digits, were most recalled. This is known as the von Restorff effect.

Delivering Distinctiveness

Knowing that your ads need to be distinctive is helpful, but how do you standout?

Luckily for you, most brands abide by category conventions. Break those conventions and you become distinctive.

In the U.K. you can see this herd mentality in lager beer advertising with leading brands invariably associating themselves with football. Such is the clutter that Campaign magazine said they’re “playing 11-a-side on a 5-a-side pitch”.

Lager isn’t the only guilty category. Most brands brag about their success which creates a simple way to stand-out: admit your flaws.

But Isn’t This Risky?

You’re not alone in worrying about admitting weakness.

However, there’s plenty of evidence that this tactic improves your odds of being effective. The original evidence comes from Harvard psychologist, Elliot Aronson.

In his experiment, Aronson recorded an actor answering a series of quiz questions. In one strand of the experiment, the actor – armed with the right responses – answers 92% of the questions correctly. After the quiz, the actor then pretends to spill a cup of coffee over himself (a small blunder, or pratfall).

The recording was played to students, who were then asked how likeable the contestant was. However, Aronson split the students into cells and played them different versions: one with the spillage included and one without. The students found the clumsy contestant more likeable.

Aronson called the preference for those who exhibit a flaw the ‘pratfall effect’. It’s an insight that has occasionally been harnessed to great effect by brands. Think of VW Beetle (Ugly is only skin deep), Stella (Reassuringly expensive) and Avis (We’re only No. 2 so we try harder).

It works because admitting weakness is a tangible demonstration of honesty and, therefore, makes other claims more believable.

Risk Free For Who?

I’ve listed a few examples of brands harnessing the pratfall effect, stretching back to VW in 1959. But there have been tens of thousands of ads since then. Why have only a couple of dozen reveled in their failings?

The rarity is explained by the principal-agent problem, a theory first suggested by Stephen Ross, a professor at MIT. He suggested that there is a divergence of interest between the principal, the brand, and the agent, the marketer. The brand is interested in long-term profitable growth, but the marketer is also interested in safe career progression.

If a campaign flops having used the pratfall effect it might end a marketer’s career. Imagine you were the marketing director responsible for Reassuringly Expensive and the campaign flopped. You’d be lucky to escape with your job.

Resolving The Principal-Agent Problem

The best way to ensure brands strive for distinctiveness is to popularize the principal-agent problem. If following the herd becomes equated with putting one’s career ahead of the brand’s needs, then it will become a disreputable tactic.

Perhaps then we’ll see more brands admitting fallibilities.

You can find more ideas like this in my new book The Choice Factory: 25 Behavioral Biases That Influence What We Buy

The Blake Project Can Help: Differentiate Your Brand In The Brand Positioning Workshop

Don’t Miss Marketing’s Most Powerful Event: The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World, May 14-16, 2018 in San Diego, California. A fun, competitive-learning experience reserved for 50 marketing oriented leaders and professionals.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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30 Apr 16:29

A Story About a Boat Explains Why Buyer Persona Insights Aren’t Obvious

by Adele Revella

verdesiva / Pixabay

“I have an appointment with a sales person tomorrow.” We were having a leisurely breakfast at our favorite café, and yet my husband’s tone was tortured, almost as if the subject was an upcoming root canal. “I can’t help it,” he said dismally. “I’ve gone as far as I can without talking to their sales guy.”

On our ride home, I realized that the buyers we interview for our mostly B2B persona studies have similar thoughts about their buying experiences. Although most of our clients sell technology or other business solutions, their buyers also avoid vendor interactions, especially with sales, for as long as possible. And like us, most have eliminated all but a few options by the time our clients know they’re looking.

This is just one of the reasons I cringe every time I read an article advising marketers to build buyer personas by interviewing their sales people or tracking the buyer’s digital footprint. There are dozens of boats we could consider, but only one or two companies knows we were shopping for a boat like theirs. As we often discover during our B2B interviews, we didn’t complete forms on any websites or conduct a Google search, so there is no digital footprint for marketers to follow.

What else is similar? Since this is the first time we’ll buy this type of boat and we’ll have to live with the consequences for a long time, we don’t want to make a mistake. So, for the last few weeks, we’ve talked to as many locals and “friends of friends” as possible to learn from their experiences. We’ve listened intently, making note of which brands they purchased and why.

Taking their advice, we went to the websites for the boats they suggested, searching for details about the dozens of criteria we’ve established. Most websites didn’t provide the information we were seeking, so we checked those off our list. On YouTube we found one very helpful video from a guy who owns one of the boats we were considering, which moved it up in our rankings.

Every day I read articles advising marketers to focus on demographics such as age, gender or “a day-in-the-life” when they build their personas. But much younger friends recommended the boat we’ll buy and their daily lives don’t resemble ours in the least. What we have in common are the ways we’ll use this boat, which is why our concerns and questions are essentially the same.

If anyone wanted to understand my boat buyer persona, they’d need to interview me about my buying experience. Just knowing that I talked to my peers or visited websites is of little help, they need to know what information I was seeking and which answers allowed my husband and I to trust in our decision.

As my husband said this morning, we’ve “gone as far as we can” in our buyer’s journey without talking to a sales person. We’ve narrowed our options to three, and now my husband will meet with the rep for the one that looks best. I hope the salesperson is smart enough about our buyer persona to answer his questions.

Price matters, but we’re not considering the least expensive option and will pay a premium for this boat if it does check all the boxes. This won’t prevent my husband from negotiating for a good price though.

I can imagine the day that company’s marketers ask this rep to describe our buyer persona. He’ll undoubtedly describe our age, marital status, and concerns about price. Like most personas developed without buyer interviews, this won’t improve the company’s marketing effort and might even make it worse

30 Apr 16:25

New Video: LinkedIn Presents the Future of Sales

by Sean Callahan
Future of Sales

Editor’s Note: The post introduces the latest LinkedIn Presents the Future video, which examines what's next for B2B sales organizations. The previous videos in the series can viewed here and here.

Sales professionals know firsthand that B2B sales has changed. Sales development reps, account executives, customer relationship managers, or sales managers — all have been on the front lines of big changes in B2B sales.

The Internet has forever altered the buyer’s journey, and now 57% of that journey is complete before a prospect reaches out to the sales department. Alignment between sales and marketing is actually increasing, and maybe even more entrenched than you might think. And salespeople are often finding that their marketing departments are creating more content that is intended to directly help sales and drive revenue.

Those are changes to sales that have already happened. What’s next? In this video, the latest in our “LinkedIn Presents the Future” series, thought leaders in the sales and marketing world prognosticate about what’s on the way in the world of B2B sales.

Here are some of their ideas about the future of sales, which appear in the new video, “LinkedIn Presents the Future of Sales”:

Artificial intelligence will help pave the way to be able to help give us insights so that we can better work with and or speak to and or personalize content directly to our particular buyer. —  Mario Martinez Jr., CEO, Vengresso
What we’re doing is we do all of our research ahead of time and then we want someone who is going to help facilitate that decision and if it seems like someone is going to put pressure on us or not help us facilitate it, then we’re going to find another option. —  A.J. Wilcox , Founder, B2Linked
The future of sales is very bad if you were in an environment where the decision making can all be handled online with the audience doing the research themselves. —  Andy Crestodina, CMO, Orbit Media 
I think that you will start to see to see more and more sales organizations understanding the importance and the value that their marketing colleagues bring to them. —  Jeff Davis, Founder, The Sales & Marketing Alignment Summit
I think that it's (still) all about relationships. People buy from who they like and the thing about platforms like LinkedIn, and we use LinkedIn to stay connected to clients and prospects all the time and we also work with our clients, is basically — it gives you the opportunity to build that relationship. —  Gina Michnowicz, CEO, The Craftsman Agency
We’re going through a transactional world to a relational world and sales people have to become guides for their prospects and customers, and so the skills of empathy, creativity, trust building really that’s where our sales is going.—  David J.P. Fisher, President, RockStar Consulting

Also in this video, Gini Dietrich, CEO, Arment Dietrich, and Eric Martin, Director-Marketing Programs, SalesLoft, share their thoughts on the future of sales. View the full video below.

LinkedIn Presents the Future of Sales

To keep pace with the latest in the sales world, subscribe today to the LinkedIn Sales Blog.  

 

30 Apr 16:24

The Future of Audience Selection: Where AI Can Take Your Campaigns

by kniemisto

Where do you start when you’re building an audience for your campaigns? Job titles? Industries? Maybe company size?

There’s so much more that indicates a buyer’s likelihood of engagement. But in the modern era of marketing technology, segmentation has remained largely linear – defined by the obvious demographic criteria such as industry, company size, and yes, job title.

It’s left many marketers unable to overcome lackluster campaign results and wondering how best to maximize the success of each campaign they run.To better engage individuals with relevant content and personalized interactions, we also need to evolve how we select who receives our outreach in the first place.

We need to move from batching and blasting to AI-driven, lookalike audiences.

Last year, Marketo kicked off a multiyear alliance with Google Cloud, to migrate our entire infrastructure to the Google Cloud Platform. This means our customers can leverage big data analytics on a world-class cloud platform and deliver faster campaign performance to engage with billions of individuals in the moment, all with the security that our customers demand. Currently, the Marketo Engagement Platform manages nearly half a trillion of these interactions every year.

Introducing Marketo AudienceAI

This week, at the 2018 Marketing Nation Summit, Marketo is announcing new AI innovations that build on Google Cloud’s portfolio of machine learning technology, putting greater insights in the hands of the marketer faster. Those at Summit will get a sneak peak of Marketo AudienceAI, which will leverage Google Cloud machine learning to help to improve the speed, scale, and effectiveness of marketing campaigns on our Marketo Engagement PlatformTM.

Marketo AudienceAI uses the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to expand a marketer’s campaign reach beyond linear segmentation, to include individuals who are similar to those who have converted (lookalike audiences.) This will allow marketers to identify the right target audience, based on behaviors and patterns, that will increase the relevance, and deliver powerful benefits for organizations. Relevance leads to better conversions, revenue, and ROI, while delivering experiences that will resonate with buyers.

Six months ago, we debuted Marketo ContentAI, which applies machine learning to the content delivery process. It selects the next piece of content of interest to a customer, based on their previous choice, and can, for example, tell you the top 10 most interesting pieces for a particular audience. It does this in real-time, something that no human could possibly be able to do in weeks or even months. Plus, it learns as the customer continues to engage, getting more and more information about their preferences. This saves time, energy and more importantly, provides a more personalized and engaging experience for customers.

Marketo AudienceAI, which is still in development, will be designed to use the same concepts of audience selection, tapping into a marketer’s own data to find the next lookalike target audience.  In addition, this innovation supports Google AdWords Customer Match, allowing marketers to optimize your paid media spend and get a better ROI by targeting your Marketo contacts with personalized ads across Google Search, YouTube, and Gmail. Alternatively, marketers can expand reach by targeting similar audiences with personalized ads.

Underlying this technology is Marketo’s dedication to security. The Google Cloud Platform, with its intelligent and elastic infrastructure, provides performance and trusted security our customers require for real-time engagement on a global scale. Through our alliance with Google Cloud, engagement in the moment becomes a reality worldwide, and in a way where marketers have peace of mind that they’ll do it more securely.

At Marketo, we believe in purpose-built innovation, putting it in the hands of the marketer faster. In the Marketing Nation, there’s no need for data scientist expertise and IT resources to unlock the value of AI.

Welcome to a fearless, AI-driven marketing future.

For more information on our AI technologies visit marketo.com/ai.

The post The Future of Audience Selection: Where AI Can Take Your Campaigns appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

30 Apr 16:22

5 Common Multi-Channel Challenges and How to Overcome Them

by William Harris

Every ecommerce business owner wants to see their business grow and profits increase, but no one likes experiencing the growing pains that so often go hand-in-hand with scaling operations.

In ecommerce, investing in multi-channel can help you quickly take your business to the next level, but it can also come with a number of challenges that you may or may not be aware of.

To succeed in multi-channel, you have to know how you’re going to address these challenges when they appear in front of you. You have to put a clear strategy in place before you necessarily need it.

Here are 5 of the most common challenges you might face as you work to spin up or scale multi-channel for your ecommerce business, and tips for overcoming those challenges:

1. Cross-Channel Messaging & Branding

One of the biggest marketing challenges most ecommerce business owners face when it comes to multi-channel is keeping branding and messaging consistent across different channels. When you’re only selling your products on one channel—usually your own website—it’s much easier to control and keep track of the messages and branding you’re using to compel people to buy. But when you start investing in multi-channel, you’re forced to manage messaging and branding consistent across a number of channels (Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Jet, etc.) that all have different requirements, nuances, and best practices.

When you’re presenting your products to new audiences on new channels, you have to ensure that you’re creating the same first impression that people are getting when they visit your website and buy products through your own online store.

If you decide to test new product photos, graphics, or new key messaging to promote products and drive more sales on your website AND you find out those photos and messaging are more effective in boosting conversions than what you’ve used in the past, you need to make sure you’re updating your other channels too. Otherwise you risk missing out on sales.

To ensure that you’re painting the right picture on all the channels you use to sell products, keep these 3 tips in mind:

  • Tip #1: Know the requirements of each channel and adjust your branding and messaging accordingly. When you start selling on more channels and marketplaces, it’s important to have a firm understanding what requirements exist. Each channel will have different requirements when it comes to things like photo size, graphics best practices, word count, and messaging. For example, see this requirements and best practices document from Amazon. It helps sellers understand how to create product detail pages. Here’s another example from Etsy. In this document, you’ll learn all the best practices and requirements for adding images to your product listing pages. Make an effort to read through the guidelines for each of the channels you intend to use going forward. Work with your designers and copywriters to ensure that your graphics and messaging can meet those requirements while still painting the right picture and telling the right story.
  • Tip #2: Keep everything stored in a Google sheet, Dropbox folder, or online catalog. As you add more marketplaces and channels to your selling strategy, make an effort to keep all your messages, graphics, and photos stored in one convenient location. You want to be able to review messaging across all channels without having to visit each of them individually. You can do this by compiling text and links in a Google sheet, or by adding documents and screenshots to a Dropbox folder. Alternatively, you could leverage multi-channel selling software to create one centralized product catalog that can be reviewed and managed in real-time for all channels at once.
  • Tip #3: Put a strategy in place for updating messaging and branding all at once. To ensure that you’re not using any out-of-date messaging, branding, or product photography across your channels, make sure you have a clear strategy in place that you can implement whenever updates need to be made. Put someone from your team in charge of making and managing updates, make sure the process is clearly defined, and leverage multi-channel automation software to boost productivity.

The important thing to remember when it comes to adding more channels and marketplaces into your selling strategy is this: you only have one opportunity to make the right first impression. To be successful, keep messaging, branding, and consistency at the top of your mind when creating and updating product listing and brand pages for each channel.

2. Inventory Management

Another big challenge that most ecommerce business owners face when they start selling products on more channels is keeping up with inventory. We’ve written about this topic before on our blog. In a piece published last December, we outlined a few challenges that exist for many ecommerce business owners who suddenly need to manage inventory across multiple channels:

  • Challenge #1: Overstocking & Overselling – When you’re investing in multichannel, it can sometimes be difficult to manage supply demand, or estimate how much product you’ll actually need to have on hand in a given month. Keeping too much inventory on hand can be expensive, but not having enough can prevent you from growing and serving new customers.
  • Challenge #2: Manual Management That Doesn’t Allow for Scale – Manually managing and fulfilling inventory might have been easier when you were only selling from your own store and website, but it quickly becomes very ineffective once you start adding additional channels into the mix. To succeed and scale, you can no longer rely on offline spreadsheets and documents when tracking and managing inventory. You have to put tools in place that allow you to become more efficient.
  • Challenge #3: Lack of Visibility Across Multiple Channels & Multiple Warehouses – Without multi-channel software, it’s not always easy to keep track of the sales and orders that come in from each channel, and how those sale and orders are impacting the inventory you have on hand. In addition, it’s equally as challenging to try to keep track of orders, inventory, and relationships across all the warehouses, partners, and manufacturers you need to support all the channels you’re now selling products on.
  • Challenge #4: Lack of Insights – To succeed with multi-channel, you need to be able to track, understand, and leverage data relating to your inventory and customers. You have to know how inventory is fluctuating over time, how demand is changing over time, what demand will look like in the future, when to reorder products, when to scale back on products, and where breakdowns in your processes are happening.

So how do you overcome the challenges that exist with managing inventory across multiple channels and marketplaces? Read through this blog post. In it, we share 6 actionable inventory management tips that you can start applying to your business today.

3. Customer Support & Experience

When you’re only selling products through your own website and store, creating the right experience for customers is fairly easy to manage. But supporting and nurturing relationships with customers can easily become a lot more challenging when you start selling on places like Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Facebook, Alibaba, and other online marketplaces.

To succeed in ecommerce, you have to serve your customers above all else. That means knowing what their pain points are, providing them with value, selling them high-quality products, offering world-class support, and creating delightful unmatched experiences for them.

To ensure that your customers are getting the same level of attention no matter where they go to buy your products, keep the following 5 tips in mind:

  • Tip #1: Hire the right people – The best thing you can do to ensure that your customers are getting world-class support is to build a world-class team. To find out who exactly you should have on your team, read through this blog post on building a dedicated customer experience team for your ecommerce business.
  • Tip #2: Document guidelines – Know how you want and need to interact with customers on each of the channels and marketplaces you use. Take time to document guidelines that your team can leverage as they interact with customers. Include relevant examples, links, and stories to make your documentation more relevant and useful to your team.
  • Tip #3: Map out the customer journey – To provide an unforgettable experience for your customers, you have to know what their journey looks like. Take time to map out the journey that a typical customer takes with you—from discovery and purchase to delivery and re-ordering. Look for opportunities to delight and help you customer all along the way. To learn more about mapping the customer journey, read through this blog post from Shopify.
  • Tip #4: Use automation tools – There are a number of tools your support team can be using to ensure that every customer is getting the same level of interaction from your company when they reach out. If you’re looking to invest in a customer support tool, look into Zendesk, ChannelReply, or xsellco.
  • Tip #5: listen to your customers – Finally, take time to listen to your customers. If you find out that people aren’t having a good experience at any point along their journey, find out why, and do something to fix it. You can spend all day reading about how to optimize and improve customer experience, but if you’re not taking the time to listen to your customer, you’re missing out on the some of the biggest learnings you can capture for your business.

If your customers are happy, your business will grow. It’s as simple as that.

4. Shipping & Returns

Shipping is another area that ecommerce business owners struggle with when they start selling products on more channels and marketplaces. Again, the big problem lies in the fact that when you are small and you’re only taking and fulfilling orders through your own website and store, shopping is a lot easier to manage. When you start adding more channels into the mix, you have to be ready to scale, otherwise you risk damaging relationships with customers, ruining your brand reputation, and losing out on future sales.

Here are a handful of tips that you can use to overcome multi-channel shipping challenges:

  • Tip #1: Know your fulfillment options – When you’re working on scaling your ecommerce business, it’s important to know what your fulfillment options are. We recently published a helpful guide to product shipping that outlines 3 main options you can leverage as you dive deeper into multi-channel. Those options are: self-fulfillment, 3PL (third-party logistics), and dropshipping.
  • Tip #2: Find the best shipping partner for your needs – when it comes to shipping, it’s also important to know what your shipping options are. There are a number of partners you can leverage to ship products for you, and they all have tools that can make scaling easier for you and your team. To learn more about what your options are, read this post from Shopify.
  • Tip #3: Hone in on pricing – to ensure that your business can remain profitable even as it scales and shipping becomes more expensive, you need to understand how to effectively price your products. To develop the right pricing strategy for your ecommerce business, products, and customers, read through this helpful post from LemonStand.
  • Tip #4: Make your return policies clear – Finally, make sure your customers and prospects understand what your return policies are. Be clear about what your guidelines are and what they need to know before purchasing a product from you. Include return policy messaging or links to policy pages on each the channels you’re using. Doing so ahead of time will save you time and headaches as you work to scale your business and launch your products on new channels over time.

The takeaway here is don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed to figure out how to manage shipping for your business. Develop a strategy ahead of time, and start implementing it before you need it.

5. Growing Pains

As you scale your ecommerce business and introduce your products on new channels and marketplaces, you should expect to encounter a handful of other growing pains along the way. Here are some additional challenges you may encounter and tips on how to approach and overcome them:

  • Challenge #1: You’re swamped with tasks and can’t focus on bigger growth initiatives – The solution here is that you need to hire more people to help you, either temporarily or permanently. To find out who you need, make a list of all the tasks and responsibilities you’re currently managing, and which of those tasks could be outsourced to someone else if you had help. Then prioritize that list based on importance, impact, time spent on each task. It may also be helpful to make a list of all the things you wish you could do if you had more time. Seeing that list may help push you to make the investment in a new employee.
  • Challenge #2: You’re concerned about keeping product quality intact – As you scale, you may have to change the way your product is manufactured in order to keep up with demand. To ensure that you don’t lose out on product quality, be fiercely obsessed about it, and don’t allow your partners to cut any corners. Be clear about your expectations, and cut ties with anyone who can’t meet them.
  • Challenge #3: You’re getting more website traffic – The solution here is to make sure you have the bandwidth in place to allow for more traffic. Even a few seconds of slow pagespeed on your website can have a significant impact on sales. To ensure that your website can handle sudden increases in traffic and activity, work with your web developer, contact your hosting provider, and leverage tools like PageSpeed Insights from Google.

To be successful with multi-channel growth, the key is to try to think about and plan for all the challenges you might face as you scale your business and operations. If you can be proactive about putting strategies in place, you’re much more likely to build a sustainable, profitable business in the months and years ahead.

Over to You

What other multi-channel challenges have you experienced and how did you work to overcome them? Tell me in the comments below.

30 Apr 16:21

How Content Can Create a Self-Sustaining Customer Referral Engine

by Bethany Johnson

customer-referral-engine

Robert Rose, CMI chief strategy advisor, loves to reset his audience’s brains with a truth bomb:

The purpose of a business is to create a customer.

This 60-year-old quote from management great Peter Drucker reminds marketers that their work – creating demand, generating traffic, prompting social shares, or even gathering leads — is in service of this one clear goal. It’s a refreshing pause button on all the distracting possibilities available.

Sulte Group CEO Teju Owoye takes the customer-creation concept one ambitious step further.

Your content can create a self-replicating referral engine, as Teju shares in her Content Marketing World presentation Accelerating Growth by Hacking Your Conversion Journey.

To get there, though, you first must help users learn to love the product or service they just signed up for.

Don’t stop building relationships at conversion

In the conventional sales and marketing funnel, marketing teams work on building awareness and nurturing prospects so some become leads and some eventually purchase a product or service. It’s tempting to celebrate those wins.

“It’s super exciting that you’ve got the customer to purchase your product, your service, engage with your platform,” Teju says.

But, what most marketers call “conversions” are truly a relatively minor transactional event that signals the start of a change. What happens next can determine who does the bulk of your future funnel-filling work — you or your happy customers.

“Marketers need to be intimately involved post-conversion to make sure that the customer is not only utilizing the product, but they become evangelists — and they’re referring their counterparts, their friends, their family, whoever is in their sphere of influence,” Teju says.

To boost growth, Teju suggests you guide the newly converted (through personalized content delivered at key moments) to become a different kind of customer ­­– an active user who gets so much value from your product or service that the impulse to share it with others is almost irresistible.


Guide a new conversion to be a different kind of customer - an active user. @TejuOwoye. Read more>>
Click To Tweet


Change how you view the buyer’s journey

What if, instead of applauding a conversion, a transaction, or a sale, you view a new subscriber or buyer as beginning the journey? What if you devoted the same measure of consideration and resources to new customers as to your red-hot leads? The traditional funnel changes to something more like this:

expanded-conversion-funnel

The right side is what Teju calls “our new job as marketers … making sure that the consumer has a delightful experience and is unlocking value at critical points while using your product.”

Get inside customers’ hearts and heads

To understand how best to guide your new customers toward this value, ask these familiar questions:

  • What is it about our favorite product or service that make customers really love it?
  • How does it make their lives easier?
  • How does the brand respond when they have questions or problems?
  • How does the product or service assimilate into or effect other aspects of their lives?

How does your brand respond when customers have questions or problems, asks @TejuOwoye. Read more>>
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Then add a new, somewhat mind-bending question:

  • Does their behavior change because of how they feel about the user experience? Or do their feelings change because of the new behavior once equipped with the product?

Good consumer sentiment prompts behavioral change. It’s no surprise that when customers feel a product or service can ease their pain, they engage with it. But did you know that the opposite is true?

Customer behavior can change how a customer feels. The more people act like power users, the more they feel like they are power users. The result is a magical, self-perpetuating brand advocate (a power user).


The more people act like power users, the more they feel they are power users. @TejuOwoye via @thanybethanybe.
Click To Tweet


(A note about “power users.” Although that term is often associated with software or apps, Teju is adamant that the concept works for any B2B or B2C company: “The same thing applies for a software as a service company, applies for a law office, or for a marketing agency: You want to make sure you have delighted customers who are referring you to people they know.”)

Use data to understand power users’ behavior

To bring the behavior-drives-feelings concept down to earth, Teju describes a client whose goal was to popularize its software — an app that powered a cash-back rewards program.

First, they dug deep into website tracking data to identify a handful of behavioral markers that distinguish their most active, engaged, happy customers — in other words, the super users.

Here’s what they found:

  • Super users linked their credit cards to the mobile app right away. Immediately after signing up, they navigate their way to the “link-a-card” function, and they make it happen.
  • Within the first seven days, super users visited about four restaurants, usually around lunch time on weekdays.
  • Over the next couple weeks, they linked more credit cards — three on average.

The brand used the findings in a surprising way. Instead of going out to find new potential power users, Teju says, the team set out to create new power users within the existing subscriber base by developing a calendar of activation milestones.

activation-milestone-sample

Create content that changes existing users’ behavior

To support these milestones, the marketing team devised personalized messages for users who didn’t do these things, those who signed up without fully using the application’s features or getting the rewards. It started with a message like this:

“Glad to see you in our cash back rewards program. Next, link a card so you don’t miss out on any rewards.” 

The goal of this message is to motivate an otherwise lukewarm customer to hit what Teju calls an “activation milestone.” In the expanded funnel, activation is the step that prompts people to really unlock the features of a product.

The marketing team did not expect an emotional investment in the program right away. That could come later. At this stage, a user’s actions mattered most.

Once a customer links some cards, the team sends a reminder like this:

“Looks like you haven’t tried using our app at a restaurant quite yet. Doing that separates our most well-rewarded ($$$!) app users from people who don’t get as much out of the experience.

“Tell you what. If you visit one of our affiliated venues in the next week, then we’ll sweeten your day by giving you a chance to win a restaurant gift card.”

The goal was to get this person to adopt the product or service and use it as a power user would. Incentives were a great way to achieve that goal ­­– especially when your product rewards users organically in time.

Guide the aha moment

For example, this software company realized an aha moment would come for users who took enough power-user actions. A supremely gratifying moment would happen when the user would look down to find a fulfilling $10 reward on the app – just for continuing his usual spending habits.

Often, Teju says, the moment was so powerful the user remarked aloud to friends and family in casual conversation, creating a genuine word-of-mouth referral that sent new prospects right to the app.


The aha moment for power users is when they talk to friends about your product. @TejuOwoye. #wordofmouth
Click To Tweet


Get this right, Teju says, and you’ve not just created a loyal customer, you’ve created a potential viral loop, the self-fueled engine of word-of-mouth marketing.

Much of today’s content endeavors to spark a feeling or perception. It’s tempting to try to convince consumers of their own desire for your solution – to make promises, brag, or otherwise compel audiences to a faux enthusiasm. When maybe, just maybe, another tactic could be to move them one step further toward power-user behavior.

The closer their behaviors inch them toward your product’s built-in rewards, the sooner they reach that natural aha moment. And that’s the kind of moment they can’t help but share with others.

Here’s an excerpt from Teju’s talk:

Want more pause buttons, truth bombs, and aha moments of your own? Register for Content Marketing World Sept. 4-7 in Cleveland, Ohio, and earn a $100 discount when you enter code BLOG100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post How Content Can Create a Self-Sustaining Customer Referral Engine appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

30 Apr 16:21

How Inbound Marketing and Sales are Connected

by Ashley Poynter

Inbound marketing encompasses a wide array of tactics, goals, and metrics. The key ideas here are to increase awareness, drive better leads, and convert more often. Inbound marketing paves the golden road for consumers to find your brand, engage with your brand, and love your brand.

The top priority is to connect to the right audience with the right message at the right time. As such, there are some key components to inbound marketing:

  • Content Creation & Delivery Producing white papers, ebooks, infographics, guides, or other content that is gated and serves to collect contact information
  • Editorial Outreach – Reaching out to industry-relevant blogs and publications to submit thought leadership and guest pieces. This offers new exposure to your target audience on new platforms and positions you as an influencer.
  • Contact Capture – Capturing information about site visitors via analytics and via web forms.
  • Calls-to-action (CTAs) – Ensuring your content, landing pages, product/service pages and other key parts of your website have embedded images and buttons that drive users to take an action (download, free trial, learn more, etc.)
  • Landing Pages – Visually appealing, SEO-friendly web pages that users “land” on and that include relevant information about an offer, content piece, or other promotion.
  • SEO – Optimizing your site and content for core and long-tail keywords that make you and your services more findable online by your target audience.
  • Social Distribution – Ensuring your high quality content gets in front of the right people by publishing to social channels for maximum exposure.
  • Marketing Automation – Regular email outreach to people who have filled out a form or otherwise signed up for these communications. This serves to regularly “touch” interested leads and move them through the funnel with additional content and helpful information to aid in their decision-making process.
  • Contact Management (CRM) Integration – A place to store, access, and share contact information once it’s captured.

The operative word with inbound marketing is inbound. Rather than pushing interruptive messaging, pitches, calls, emails, and other communications in front of a prospect (regardless of whether they’ve asked for it), inbound marketing aims to pull prospects in by providing tailored, educational information based on behavior and preferences.

This method uses data and analytics to learn about and adapt to a prospect’s motivations, habits, interests, and activity. That analysis is used to tailor content and messaging in a way that will resonate with your prospects and compel them to take a desired action. In this way, inbound marketing improves the customer experience, creates brand credibility and builds trust. This, in turn, fosters interest, engagement, and consideration.

Where Does Content Fit In?

Content is a big part of inbound marketing. Producing high-quality content that resonates with your target buyers, solves their biggest pain points, and gets in front of them buyers at the right place and time is integral to effective inbound marketing.

Your audience often views your blog as the heartbeat of your company, making it a way to earn the trust of your audience. We’ve talked before about the importance of “being human” in your content as well as the key ingredients to successfully connecting with your core audience in a meaningful way. In the digital era, content needs to be personable, as it’s often a stand-in for face-to-face interaction. Think of it this way:

Jack is in Industry X. There are 15 important networking events in Industry X each year, but Jack only attends one. When he shows up, he is sloppily dressed, in jeans and a t-shirt. The first person he talks to asks about what he does. He provides a brief, muddled response that is confusing and full of pre-packed industry jargon. The second person he talks to gets a completely different explanation about what Jack does. Jack goes home with no business cards.

Your content is Jack. If you are only blogging once a year (or even once every several months) and your messaging is incoherent or lacks unity, people will be confused. They certainly won’t be compelled to further interact with your content or your site. More than anything, they have questions and problems they’re hoping you can answer and solve. Don’t be Jack. Be prepared to answer and solve your audience’s most pressing and painful issues in a cohesive, meaningful, and engaging way….using content.

So What’s The Connection Between Inbound Marketing, Content, and Sales?

It’s pretty simple: content feeds the inbound marketing machine by presenting compelling, interesting, engaging, and well-packaged information to your audience. That audience responds to that content by continuing to engage with your business. The inbound marketing wheel keeps turning and facilitating smarter communication and interaction when that audience willingly provides additional information.

Then, there is sales.

The traditional divide between sales and marketing can be overcome with the sharing of content. At the end of the day, marketing and sales are aligned on one foundational goal: growing the business. Ensuring that both sides work together is critical in achieving that goal, and content can bridge that gap.

When the marketing department produces quality content for inbound marketing efforts, that content can be leveraged by the sales team in their efforts as well. Not to mention, inbound marketing leads that have consumed helpful content and feel a connection to your business are more apt to have a meaningful conversation with the sales team.

To take it to the next level, sales can – and should – be a part of the content creation process. Sales knows better than anyone the core objections and challenges of your audience base. Those should be relayed to the marketing team, who can then create tailored content around those issues.

The bottom line is that sales and marketing should couple their efforts, share information, and work as a team. The sharing of content and information can make the goals of both departments more achievable. Open lines of communications between both teams are essential for success here.

If inbound marketing does a great job of charming your audience with your vision and your story, the sales team has an easier job of convincing that audience that your business is the right fit for their needs. It can shorten sales cycles and help people make purchasing decisions more easily. The sale then becomes a natural progression that happens seamlessly.

The original version of this article appeared on the Content Rewired Blog.