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03 Mar 18:17

The Marketer’s 3-Minute Guide to Data Science

by Chris Pitt
Data science: the three minute guide for marketers

Stock photo

Data science is the practice of revealing hidden insight from existing data in a manner that enables businesses to make better decisions. In this article, we give you a quick three-minute overview of why it’s important and relevant for marketers.

The modern consumer is hard to impress. An average person sees between 300 and 500 ad messages per day but only a small percentage of those ads “hit the target” and encourage that consumer to take action, rather than click away in dismay. Even the wittiest slogans fall flat when the offer is irrelevant at that moment. For example, I’m definitely not “lovin’ it” when reading advice about losing weight.

To influence the buying behaviour, marketers need to second-guess the customer’s next move and deliver a targeted offer at the right time, and at the right place in their journey. For that purpose, most businesses now accumulate big data – all the product preferences; past brand interactions; demographics data and so on. No business is now too small for accumulating that kind of data. Yet transforming it into meaningful action remains a common struggle. This is where data science steps in.

What data science can do for marketing

Intelligent decisions are based on accurate predictions. You don’t go and dig a hole in a random spot and expect to find oil. You study the geological data and try to predict where you have the highest chance of locating an oil trap. Data science does a similar thing in marketing. It helps you pinpoint the most profitable actions based on the data you already have. For instance, you can estimate that emailing a free shipping code to consumer group B will generate orders with an average price of £55.57, while consumer group A will likely spend under £30, as that’s how they usually roll.

Predicting better marketing outcomes isn’t the only attractive thing achievable with data science. The most promising applications of data science in marketing stretch across multiple channels.

Micro-targeting

With the help of statistical analysis, you can pin down highly specific customer groups and create more impactful offers for them. A simple example would be sending promo codes for anti-frizz products to women aged between 18-26, who previously bought similar products for curly hair, and are located in the Manchester area, where heavy downpours are expected during the month.

Automation at scale

As big data became big, a lot of marketers struggled to keep an eye on dozens of changing metrics; gathering timely reports from analytics tools and spending too much time going through all the data, rather than taking action. Analysis paralysis is another issue hampering our productivity.

So let’s outsource these chores to the more qualified executors – the algorithms. Data science enables you to automate the common routine process and streamline repetitive tasks. Some quick examples would be:

  • Automatically pausing all advertising campaigns spending more than £350 that haven’t converted in the past 30 days.
  • Launching a new social media advertising campaign in a certain region whenever condition X is met. For instance, promoting your hotel properties near the airports whenever you receive data about cancelled flights.
  • Scoring and grouping incoming leads based on certain parameters and forwarding the data to your sales department with a proposed action plan.

Optimised performance and budgets

Most customer journeys are no longer linear. At first glance, they may look like a tangled mess – a user hops to a third party website to compare prices, looks for discounts, or abandons the basket only to return later in the day and purchase a completely different product.

Data science enables you to understand all of these touch points and refine your message and actions accordingly. You no longer assume that it’s just male consumers aged between 35-45 who want to buy a black suit from you, because your CRM tells you that in fact most customers do.

Analytics-led marketing means that you also take additional factors into account such as the person’s past and current searches on your website, clicks, time spent on certain pages, shares, saves, likes, downloads and a number of other interactions. This data is then churned by the algorithm and transformed into a product recommendation the customer is most likely to respond to. In 2017, predictive intelligence recommendations delivered a 22.66% in conversions rate – a hefty number for a business’s bottom line.

The results of data-driven marketing progressively improve over time as more data is being collected and analysed. This new data can then be applied to tweak the campaign performance even further or reduce spending on low-ROI activities that you can spot at one glance.

27 Feb 17:00

Integrated Marketing: True Stories That Highlight Its Power

by Hilary Bird

What exactly is integrated marketing? Why is so important for your brand?

Integrated marketing is the process of creating a seamless brand experience for the consumer.

It combines all aspects of marketing, including on & offline activities, to ensure that a brand is answering its consumers’ needs in every step of their buyer’s journey.

It matters because the best brands use it, so well in fact, that as consumers we play into it without even realizing!

integrated marketing

For example, I recently attended a Tech Summit where the CEO of a well-known shoe brand spoke about his company’s creation.

It was inspiring because he shared why they choose to use recyclable materials to make their shoes.

Then he discussed their interview process for vetting out who really understood their company’s core purpose to better the world.

As Simon Sinek would say, he shared the “Why” of their company, not the “How” or “What”.

After the conference, we received emails reminding us about the company.

A week or so later, my colleague was in New York City & came across one of their two stores in all of the nation.

Her feet were sore from walking so much, so she went in & bought a pair.

This company used PR tactics, email marketing, & offline marketing to provide a seamless buyer’s journey for my colleague.

The result? She is obsessed with her new, comfortable shoes & feels like she really knows (& trusts) the brand.

What’s more, she’s now a brand advocate for them – & we all know that the golden nugget of marketing is word-of-mouth marketing!

The Key to Quality Integrated Marketing

The key to mastering integrated marketing is staying hyper-aware of where you could be making the consumer-to-brand experience more seamless.

Every day we are walking advocates for our brand & have the choice to help promote, or detract from, our brand.

Which brings me to my next example…

About a year ago, I attended a marketing trade show. While my priority goal was to learn new marketing strategies to test out with my company, my second priority was lead generation.

I attended a session that touched on the importance of updating older content, rather than starting from scratch.

That really resonated with me because I was at a small, rapidly growing startup that constantly needed all the hacks & timesavers we could find.

During lunchtime at the event, I made a beeline to sit at the speaker’s table. We talked for a few minutes & ended up exchanging business cards.

I had begun the conversation by telling her the specific takeaways I loved from her presentation.

She was flattered & responded by asking me questions about my role & my company, thus leading to her making the comment, “we could use a product like that”.

By simply genuinely paying attention to her presentation & asking her questions, I had developed a lead.

But Wait, There’s More…

When I returned from the conference, I wrote a blog post summarizing the highlights of the show.

The post included a quote from the speaker, the name of her company, & a link to her company.

I reached out to her on Linkedin & let her know I quoted her in the post.

Overnight, the blog views skyrocketed!

When my company was seeing an average of thirty blog views per month, this one had garnered almost sixty in less than twenty-four hours.

She responded & thanked me for letting her know.

Turns out she had shared the post on her own Linkedin page, as well.

A few months later, someone from her company filled out one of our contact forms & officially became a warm lead.

While I don’t believe they ever officially closed as a sale, it’s still an incredible example of the power of integrated marketing.

By combining offline, PR, networking, social media, & content marketing tactics, we had converted her into a brand advocate who told a colleague about our company.

That being said, it took being aware of the opportunities presented to me throughout the course of my trip in order to execute on this.

Integrated marketing isn’t always planned out; that’s why you need to keep your marketing senses on high alert.

Have you harnessed the power of integrated marketing? Tell us how in the comments below!

27 Feb 16:59

4 Common Misconceptions About CRM Tools

by Dusti Arab

Long gone are the days of the little black book or the rolodex. We live in a digital world, and our contacts are often scattered across spreadsheets and inboxes.

Many businesses have either been resistant to or have misconceptions about using Contact Relationship Management (CRM) tools – and for good reason. It can be time consuming, hard to get your team onboard with a new tool, and a struggle to get the buy-in you need to get the leverage you have to have to justify the expense.

That said, it doesn’t have to be that way. We’re here to debunk some of the common misconceptions surrounding CRM solutions, so you and your team can be more effective using CRM tools today.

1. CRM Tools are just for building and maintaining relationships with customers

While it’s true that CRM tools were initially created for the tasks of building and maintaining relationships with your existing and future customers, today’s CRM tools can do much more.

CRM tools such as Salesforce, Hubspot CRM, or Insightly can help you manage the data flowing into (and out of) your business. Tools like these can help you track your sales cycle and build customized email templates that help streamline communications as well as manage your contacts and interactions. Believe it or not, a CRM can actually shorten your sales cycle.

Managers, reps and assistants can all have access to information that will help your team to function more efficiently. Cloud based CRM tools are perfect for busy reps who spend a lot of time on the road. You can pass information back and forth easily and even access it on any device. Have an impromptu meeting or call with a potential customer? Pull up their info immediately and start building that relationship.

2. My business is too small to need CRM

Small businesses work hard – and are always looking for a leg up on the competition. CRM tools can help, enabling smaller teams to do more work in less time.

These tools can also help to ensure the integrity of your data. How many times have you gotten a bounce-back from a client who had recently changed jobs? It’s a waste of valuable time, which is a finite resource for all of us, and even more important for smaller teams.

In fact, Harvard Business Review estimates that bad data costs the U.S. an unbelievable 3 trillion dollars per year. Using CRM tools contributes to improved data integrity, because it sets a standard for capturing data that becomes part of your company’s best practices.

3. CRM tools are an unnecessary cost.

Some of the best CRM tools out there, including HubSpot CRM and Google Contacts, are free to use. You can always try out one of the CRM platforms that is free to use and upgrade to premium features once you find them necessary. Other CRM apps are anywhere from $9 – $75 per month, and several have custom pricing options that you can fit to your business.

Check out this article for 9 cost effective CRM platforms alternatives to the more expensive CRM tools. Chances are, you’ll fall in love with the functionality – and find that the cost is far outweighed by the benefits.

4. Data entry is too time-consuming. CRM will just slow us down.

Even the most old-school of sales teams must have a way to track their progress. This often means using a system involving a series of spreadsheets. Sure, you’ve got a system, everyone knows how to use it, and it’s working just fine for you. But, what if you could be even more productive?

Some of the best CRM apps will data mine for you. Enter a domain name for your contact, and it will pull in relevant information both from their website and your email inbox. You can build robust data on potential customers with just a few keystrokes. A spreadsheet can’t do that.

If you’re considering migrating from a spreadsheet-based system that you’re currently using, it can be useful to hire a virtual assistant to help with data entry. Once your data is in the system, you’ll have the entire picture at your fingertips in moments instead of minutes.

27 Feb 16:57

The 4 Personality Types of Buyers & How to Sell to Them

by lye@hubspot.com (Leslie Ye)

I’d only been driving my dad’s car for two weeks before it exploded into flames on the highway.

This is not an exaggeration.

After the auto shop confirmed there was no way I could drive the car again without paying for more repairs than it was worth, I went car-shopping.

I was prepared to spend a good chunk of change for an extremely reliable vehicle (you can understand my trepidation). And I wasn’t going to be too picky — I needed a new car ASAP. Those two factors meant I was an extremely good prospect.

Unfortunately for him, the first salesperson I talked to used the wrong approach. He didn’t ask, "Why are you getting a new car?" or even specific questions like "Do you care about fuel efficiency over style?"

Instead, he tried to steamroll me into buying a "cute" car. He didn’t give any facts or figures about its reliability or tell me about its safety features. He just said things like, "I think you’ll love driving around in this car."

His pitch would’ve worked on a different personality type, but not mine. So he lost out on a multi-thousand dollar commission.

If you want to consistently win deals, you can’t sell how you’d like to be sold to. You have to adapt your strategy to the buyer’s personality type. Let’s dive into the four main types of personalities and what you need to know about each.

Types of Buyers & Their Personality Types

1. Assertive

Assertive personality types are goal-oriented, decisive, and competitive. They care more about results than personal relationships. They might not send you a holiday card, but if you deliver on your commitments, you'll maintain a healthy business relationship. Assertives care deeply about the bottom line.

People with assertive personality types are also relatively impatient and controlling. They want information — fast — so they can make a decision and move on.

Assertive personality traits:

Assertives usually speak in declarative sentences and ask few questions, so if you notice your prospect says things like, "I'm looking for a new sedan," rather than, "Can you show me your sedans?", you're probably dealing with an Assertive personality type.

Their volume is also a little louder than average, and they use animated, confident body language.

How to sell to them:
  • Professionalism is always important, but especially so when it comes to Assertives. Always make sure you’re prepared for a meeting with an assertive personality type. If you don’t know the answer to a question, let them know you’ll follow up instead of trying to give a halfway correct answer.
  • Assertives appreciate efficiency. Don’t waste their time repeating facts or building up to your point — cut to the chase.
  • Emphasize how your product will solve their business’ problems. Cutting-edge features won’t impress Assertives unless you can demonstrate why they will be useful to their organization.
  • Take advantage of their competitive streak and show them how your product will help their company compete with others in their industry.
  • Steer clear of personal opinions and testimonials. If you're citing a successful customer, talk about the ROI they saw rather than how much they loved the product.
  • Since Assertives aren't great listeners, keep your statements short and to the point.

2. Amiable

People with amiable personality types value personal relationships and want to trust their business partners. They like the excitement of new challenges. Amiables will enthusiastically dive into finding creative or unexpected solutions — but on the flip side, they probably won't do a ton of research before meeting with you. That means you can guide them through the purchasing process.

Unlike Assertives, Amiables don't make decisions quickly. They want to establish rapport with the people they do business with and will likely seek out the help or approval of multiple team members. Expect a longer sales process than usual.

Amiable personality traits:

Amiables are great listeners and might ask more personal questions in an attempt to get to know you outside of your professional role. They will be friendly, calm, and patient during meetings. Conversations with Amiables are generally laid-back and informal.

How to sell to them:
  • Pitch a vision. Help them visualize the outcomes their business could achieve with the help of your product or service.
  • Take time to build rapport. Amiables will need to feel safe in their relationship with your company before they’ll be comfortable doing business with you.
  • Bring up examples of similar clients who have successfully used your product. Flesh out the story — why did client X come to you? What tipped them toward your product? Which features were most important? Details like these are convincing for Amiables.
  • Take the role of an expert and walk them through the decision making process. Instead of overwhelming an amiable with information, help them through the process and act as an advisor.
  • Give them personal guarantees. Since Amiables are risk-averse, promising them your company will refund their purchase if they're not satisfied or they can cancel at any time will calm their anxieties and make them likelier to buy.

3. Expressive

Expressives are also sometimes called "humanists" for a good reason — like Amiables, personal relationships are very important to this personality type.

Expressives tend to make decisions factoring in their emotions, and are often concerned with others’ well-being. Whether it’s their employees or their customers, the expressive personality type will want to know how decisions they make affect the people around them. They tend to be people-pleasers, but don’t be fooled — expressives often have powerful personalities and use them to convince others of their strongly held convictions.

Expressives are creative, outgoing, spontaneous, and rely on their intuition. They value mutual respect, loyalty, and friendship. Don’t make offhand commitments to Expressives — reneging on an offer could spell the end of your relationship.

Expressive personality traits:

Expressives tend to be very enthusiastic and colorful. Like Amiables, they’ll want to bond with you and feel connected on a personal level, but like Assertives, Expressives are sure of their beliefs and speak more in statements rather than questions.

How to sell to them:
  • Present case studies. Expressives want to be reassured that you’re looking out for them, and what better way to prove your track record than to show stories of how your business made an impact on other people’s lives?
  • Emphasize an ongoing relationship. If your company offers exceptional customer service or maintains long-term partnerships with its clients, now is the time to shout it from the rooftops.
  • Don’t focus too much on facts and figures. Data is important, but an expressive will ultimately want to know how their buying decision affects their business on a human level.
  • Summarize along the way. You want to continually get their buy-in, so ask questions like, "So, we agree that you can use Templates to automate the prospecting process?"

4. Analytic

Those with an analytical personality type love data, facts, and figures. As no-nonsense people, they’ll look past a flowery pitch and get straight to the facts. Be prepared to field a lot of detailed questions, and don’t be surprised if it seems like an analytical prospect already knows you — they will research you and your business before meeting.

Analytics stick to their deadlines, but they do not make decisions quickly. They care about thoroughly vetting and understanding the options available to them, and won't jump the gun on a decision. They are more logical and cautious than any other personality type — but once they make a decision, they won't reverse it

Analytic personality traits:

Analytics are less expressive than other personality types. They are concerned with facts rather than emotion, and likely won’t spend time getting to know you on a personal level. In conversation, Analytics are serious, direct, and formal. They might not use expressive gesturing in meetings, but you can be sure they are listening intently.

How to sell to them:
  • Never rush an Analytic. Be prepared for a longer selling process, as Analytics will take as much time as they need to gather all the facts they feel are necessary to make a decision.
  • Assume they are prepared and have done their research. This doesn’t mean you should skip over introductory information, but you can expect to spend less time talking basic features, and more discussing custom, personalized solutions for their business.
  • Avoid making high-level claims. Always provide data when you make an assertion, or risk losing credibility. Overhyping your product might make Analytics suspicious that you’re using flowery language to mask flaws.
  • Provide as much detailed information as possible. Instead of saying "Our product drives growth for many companies," say, "Our product increased sales in 13 Fortune 500 companies by 25% or more year-over-year." You can offer more information than they ask for without risking them becoming overwhelmed — in fact, they’ll probably welcome it.
  • Don’t try to force a relationship that’s not there. Analytics might become annoyed by those they feel are overly flattering or obsequious.

Keep in mind that most prospects will be a mix of these personality types and won't fit neatly into one of the four categories above. However, once you’re familiar with these core personalities, you should be able to tailor your selling strategy to fit any situation you come across.

More of a graphics person? Check out the infographic below, made by Visme for HubSpot, for a visual take on the four different personality types and how to sell to each one.

How to sell to the four main types of buyers

Need more practice selling to different types of buyers? Enroll in HubSpot's Inbound Sales Course to learn how to deliver a personalized experience to your buyers regardless of their personality type.

27 Feb 16:57

The Growth of Accelerators Continually Drives Startup Figures—Here’s Why

by Jimmy Rodela

StartupsStartups are growing every year. This means investors have a lot of options when choosing which one to support. A research by Challenger, Gray, and Christmas states that in the last quarter of 2016, 7.4 percent of job seekers in the United States started their own businesses. That’s a 4.8 percent increase from the last quarter of 2015.

The rise of accelerators could very well be one of the reasons why startup businesses are growing in popularity. Gust and Fundacity’s Global Accelerator Report 2015 reveals that more than $191 million was invested into over 8,800 startups across the world. Among all the regions, the United States and Canada were responsible for 47 percent of the investments made which helped accelerate 33.6 percent of the startups.

Even better news for startups is that there are 467 startup accelerators who are ready to provide support, Entrepreneur says.

A Direct Correlation

A Global Accelerator Learning Initiative study cites that “high-performing programs had smaller applicant pools on average.” As more accelerators are beginning to open their doors, more entrepreneurs are encouraged to create startups.

This, however, is a double-edged sword. On the flip side, the boom in entrepreneurial ventures also pushed the number of accelerator programs higher than ever. But not all accelerator programs are created equally. “The best [accelerator] programs have a substantial impact. The worst programs can probably cause damage,” notes Dave McClure, founder of famed Silicon Valley accelerator 500 Startups.

Startups Venture Capital says that the best and most successful accelerators, thanks to the saturation in the market, could then look into funding fewer businesses with more money. The sheer number of accelerators may, ironically, increase the exclusivity of the scene.

Exclusivity is already one of the main problems with accelerators. Accelerators have notoriously very low acceptance rates. The top dogs, like TechStars, have acceptance rates ranging from one to five percent. Apart from having to meet the demands of the accelerators, entrepreneurs also have to compete with hundreds and even thousands of other applicants to get accelerated.

Before investing in a startup, accelerators let applicants through an arduous screening process. In some accelerator firms, startups are required to have reached a certain development stage first, Business New Daily reports.

This poses a problem for both the accelerators and the startups. As the acceptance rate grows lower, the number and quality of startups could go down as well. In the long run, accelerators could get less equity with the number of startups they support.

One way for accelerators to solve this major problem is providing an easier application process—which could easily backfire and lower the quality of their pool. Another is the Public Accelerator-Incubator (PAI) model by Digital Arts Media Network (OTCMKTS:DATI) which provides an alternative solution for both startups and accelerators.

A Slice of the PAI

DATI’s PAI model is a hybrid of accelerators and incubators. It offers budding entrepreneurs yet another avenue for growth aside from accelerators. Aside from being the maker of the PAI model, DATI also is the only one who offers the service. While PAI doesn’t provide traditional mentoring like accelerators do, it does give startups a better chance of propelling into a bigger enterprise because of the capital that pours in from the investors.

The PAI models open a lot of opportunities for startups in terms of acquiring more capital. Angel investors are individuals who invest in early-stage developing companies or startup businesses. They face the same problem; they have to wait up to 10 years before their investment matures to liquidity. The long maturity phase scares off angel investors as it would be hard to predict the value of a startup a decade after the initial investment.

Under the PAI model, angel investors can have access to liquidity in as early as two years. Aside from the early access, angel investors don’t have to worry about their initial investment diluting into a smaller share.

Being an angel investor in one of DATI’s supported startups means having access to the public company’s equity, which provides liquidity–an exit. Seeing as DATI’s shares are showing signs of high buying potential and growth, angel investors are more likely to get the most out of their initial investments in private startups that are on the DATI platform. DATI’s equity also gives investors diversification; making them a part of those tech startups in DATI’s portfolio that have shown signs of becoming a bigger entity in the future.

The growing number of startups is causing quite the competition for accelerator applicants. Seeing as the competition is fierce, getting accommodated by top accelerators grow less likely. Luckily, innovators such as DATI are there to supplement startups with the financial support they need to kickstart an enterprise.

27 Feb 16:57

Discovery - the foundation of B2B sales success

by bob@inflexion-point.com (Bob Apollo)

Discovery TrimmedWhat’s the single most important stage in any complex B2B sales process? Is it the “close”? The commercial negotiation? The delivery of the proposal? The product evaluation? The solution demonstration? The credentials presentation?

Depending on what we are selling and who we are trying to sell it to, these can all represent significant events in our sales campaign. But there’s one activity that - at least as far as I am concerned - is critical to any complex B2B sale.

It’s the discovery process. What we do, what we say and what we accomplish during this initial period of our customer engagement establishes the foundation for everything that follows. If we do it well, we create a platform for success. If we screw it up, we may never be able to recover.

I regularly have conversations with CEOs and sales leaders who believe that their sales organisation currently has a "closing problem". But you might (or might not, depending on your experience) be surprised to learn that most of these issues turn out to be not closing problems but “opening problems”.

The initial discovery process is absolutely pivotal to success in complex B2B sales. If we rush it, there is a real risk that we will fail to uncover some piece of information that later turns out to be critical. If we choose to prematurely propose our solution, there may be no going back.

Here are my recommendations for running an effective discovery process:

RECOGNISE THAT IT’S A TWO-WAY PROCESS

Too many sales people behave as if the discovery process is primarily a one-way exercise with the objective of qualifying the prospect. We need to recognise that discovery is a two-way process in which our potential customer is as interested in learning about us as we are in learning about them, and seek to strike a healthy balance between giving and getting information.

DO OUR RESEARCH UPFRONT

There is no excuse nowadays for asking our prospect questions that could be answered relatively easily via a few minutes of targeted on-line research. In fact, it’s completely disrespectful (and a waste of the time of all parties concerned) to ask questions we should already know the answer to. At the absolute minimum, we need to visit the company's website, review their corporate profile and news announcements and take a look at our contact's LinkedIn profile.

AGREE AN AGENDA

Before diving into the detailed conversation, we need to mutually agree an agenda with our prospect that covers all the most important elements that we are each interested in covering, establishes expectations as to how our time together can best be be spent and sets out our respective objectives for the discussion.

UPFRONT COMMIT

If possible, we should seek to establish a simple upfront commit that pre-defines what we both agree would represent a reasonable next step if our mutual objectives have been achieved. This can serve to set both party’s expectations for what might be reasonably accomplished during the conversation, and where - if successful - our interaction might go next.

FOCUS ON THEM

Other than trying to qualify whether we might have a potential opportunity with them, our next most important goal must be to persuade an apparently promising prospect that it is worth their time to invest in continuing our conversation. This depends on them looking back on our initial interaction and regarding it as a valuable use of their time - i.e., they must believe that they have learned something useful.

START WITH A HYPOTHESIS

I can hardly imagine a less respectful (or less effective) question than asking the prospective customer “what keeps them up at night” (or any other tired variation on that all-too-familiar theme). If we expect to establish our credentials as a trusted advisor, it is far more effective to approach the conversation with a hypothesis - based on our experience of similar situations - about what they are likely to be or ought to be interested in.

THINK ABOUT WHAT WE INTEND TO TEACH

We also need to go into the conversation with a clear sense of what our prospective customer is likely to be interested in, and what we would like to share with them. This might include relevant insights, customer stories and anecdotes, case studies, key market data and any other information that leaves them thinking that the interaction has been a good use of their time and taught them something valuable.

BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT WE WANT TO LEARN

This is probably the most obvious element of any discovery conversation - but it’s still worth planning in advance. What do we want to learn from them? What are the most useful questions we could ask them? How will we use the information we learn? Maintaining a conscious and appropriate balance between situation, problem, implication and need-payoff [value] questions can help.

PROBE FOR THE PAIN

Assuming that our initial contact is willing to acknowledge a problem or opportunity that we can help them address, rather than rushing to offer our solution, we need to continue to explore the underlying circumstances and the consequences and implications of their current situation. In particular, we need to try and identify the other influential stakeholders that are likely to be impacted by the problem - and try and judge the relative importance of the issue.

BE PREPARED TO ADAPT

No matter how well and thoughtfully we prepare, we cannot always anticipate what direction the conversation may go in, and we always need to be ready to adapt to whatever useful information or insights we manage to glean from our contact, whilst still keeping our original aim in mind.

TEASE OUT A FUTURE VISION

It’s usually premature to propose a detailed solution during an initial discovery conversation - but what we can start to do is to help them visualise what they could potentially achieve with our help and contrast that positive future vision with the negative consequences and implications of sticking with the status quo.

CONFIRM A NEXT STEP

Assuming that both parties agree that the discussion has been positive, we need to agree a specific next step before we close and put the event in our respective diaries. Of course, this task is made significantly easier if we’ve already negotiated an upfront commit, but we can’t afford to be vague about this. It's often helpful to have thought through what our "best case" and "minimum viable" next steps are.

PREPARE FOR SUCCESS

It should be obvious that the essential foundation of effective discovery conversations is go into the exercise having thought carefully about what we want to achieve and coming up with a plan that we are then able to adapt as the discussion unfolds.

Investing a few minutes ahead of the discovery exercise to ensure we have a clear end in mind and an adaptable plan to achieve it can help us to avoid the pitfalls that are often associated with either a make-it-up-as-we-go-along or a follow-a-rigid-script approach to discovery.

But perhaps the most important thing we can do is to recognise that discovery is a two-way process that all the involved parties need to be able to look back on and agree that - whatever the outcome - it represented a good use of their time.


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DOWNLOAD: Our Guide to the Value Selling System

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Apollo_3_white_background_250_square.jpgBob Apollo is a Fellow of the Association of Professional Sales and the founder of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, home of the Value Selling System®. Following a successful career spanning start-ups, scale-ups and corporates, Bob now works with a growing client base of tech-based B2B-focused high-growth businesses, enabling them to progressively create, capture and confirm their unique value in every customer interaction.
27 Feb 16:55

We Won’t Get Value-Based Health Care Until We Agree on What “Value” Means

by Robert C. Pendleton
feb18-27-value-01
HBR STAFF

Some health care leaders view with trepidation the new, disruptive health care alliance formed by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase. But I’m excited because disruption is all about delivering a new level of value for consumers. If this trio can disrupt the United States’ health care system into consistently delivering high-value care, we will all owe them our gratitude.

First, their leaders — Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase — must think deeply about what “value” actually means for the companies and individuals they will serve and for the people and organizations they will engage to deliver care.

Then they need to consider how they will bridge the divergent interpretations of value. It turns out one reason there’s been such little progress in creating a value-based system is that the stakeholders in the U.S. health care system — patients, providers, hospitals, insurers, employee benefit providers, and policy makers — have no common definition of value and don’t agree on the mix of elements composing it (quality? service? cost? outcomes? access?).

That’s the big takeaway of University of Utah Health’s The State of Value in U.S. Health Care survey. We asked more than 5,000 patients, more than 600 physicians, and more than 500 employers who provide medical benefits across the nation how they think about the quality, service, and cost of health care. We focused on these groups because we feel their voices have not been heard clearly enough in the value discussion. What we discovered is that there are fundamental differences in how they define value in health care and to whom they assign responsibility for achieving it. Value, it seems, has become a buzzword; its meaning is often unclear and shifting, depending on who’s setting the agenda. As a result, health care stakeholders, who for years thought they were driving toward a shared destination, have actually been part of a fragmented rush toward different points of the compass.

But the Utah survey’s findings also suggest a straightforward (though not simple) way to overcome this confusion: stop, listen, and learn. The most effective thing that stakeholders can do to create a high-value health care system is to pause in their independent pursuits of value to describe to each other exactly what it is they seek. Jumpstarting this stakeholder dialogue will require real leadership from executives in business, health care delivery, academic medicine, and patient advocacy groups. They’ll have to muster the courage to say to their constituencies, “The path toward value that we charted may not have been the right one.”

Those dialogues should happen at three levels: nationally, among representatives of stakeholder groups; institutionally, among partners in the care delivery process; and individually — for example, between patients and their physicians, and between employer sponsors of health plans and their employee beneficiaries.

There are several examples of the fundamental value misalignments that could be starting points for these discussions. The first concerns the relative importance of health outcomes. For physicians like me, clinical outcomes are paramount; health improvement and high-quality care are essential components of health care value. And we assume that patients share that perspective. But, it seems, they don’t. When the Utah survey asked patients to identify key characteristics of high-value health care, a plurality (45%) chose “My Out-of-Pocket Costs Are Affordable,” and only 32% chose “My Health Improves.” (In fact, on patients’ list of key value characteristics, “My Health Improves” was slightly below “Staff Are Friendly and Helpful.”) Given the chance to select the five most important value characteristics, 90% of patients chose combinations different from any combination chosen by physicians. In general, cost and service were far more important in determining value for patients than for physicians.

Frankly, I was stunned by the degree of this misalignment between patients and physicians (and, by extension, the care delivery organizations the doctors work for). This disconnect alone could account for a substantial portion of the Sisyphean lack of progress we’ve seen. But there are plenty of others. Notably, the Value survey found a striking lack of consensus on who had responsibility for ensuring that health care embodies the desired high-value characteristics. Moreover, the survey’s respondents generally displayed limited understanding of how the health care system works more than a step or two beyond their direct experience. This led to responses at odds with reality — for example, only 4% of patients and physicians recognize that an employer’s choice of health plan affects out-of-pocket costs.

Both of these kinds of misalignment — regarding the relative importance of outcome, cost, service, and quality, and who is responsible for achieving specific value characteristics — demonstrate the core problem: Stakeholders have not communicated with each other effectively, at the macro and micro levels, on what value means to them. I have two thoughts on how to start the process of getting communications and information flowing.

At the micro level, we should leverage the growing power of physician- and hospital-review systems to gather more (and more-sophisticated) information on what is most valued by individual health care consumers. Our system alone collects more than 3,500 patient comments a week. Now we need to apply our growing computational capacities to deeply mine that data both within and among systems to create an enhanced patient experience that is informed by how they define value. And business leaders should expand their companies’ efforts to track and analyze — and educate their employees about — the multiple dimensions of value in the health benefit plans they offer.

At the macro level — national, regional, and inter-institutional — major organizations should step up to convene initial rounds of stakeholder dialogues. Academic medical centers (AMCs) such as University of Utah Health are well positioned to be conveners. (The Utah Value Forum this month brought together regional stakeholders to address the challenges we all face.) AMCs are also uniquely qualified to undertake rigorous research to better understand the misalignments and misunderstandings found in studies like the Value survey. In fact, more than simply being capable, I think the public service missions of AMCs virtually obligate them to be leaders in this essential effort.

But they are not obligated to lead alone, nor would their solo leadership be compelling enough to bring all stakeholders to the table. We need corporate health benefit plans, for-profit health systems, and insurers — at a minimum — to help lead this effort.

If Messrs. Bezos, Buffett, and Dimon really want to drive major change in the U.S. health care delivery system, they should help convene value-focused dialogues, providing the kind of political and economic cover necessary to bring stakeholder groups into these conversations. And they shouldn’t stop there: They’ll have to remind everyone that these conversations aren’t only about cost containment — that “value” means more than just what we pay. (Or, as Buffett put it in one of his famous chairman’s letters, “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”)

They should partner with providers, hospitals, and health systems to develop more-effective provider/hospital review systems and other methods of enhancing communication among parties in the care delivery process. They should seed pilot projects aimed at bridging the gaps in patients’, physicians’, and employers’ definitions of value. And being the smart, creative, bold people they are, they should help guide all stakeholders through the difficult compromises necessary to create a collective vision of a high-quality, patient-focused, cost-effective health care system.

That would truly be disruptive.

27 Feb 16:54

Elevator Speech Tips For Entrepreneurs

by Betsy Kent

ELEVATOR SPEECH TIPS

Have you ever become tongue-tied when someone asks, “So, what do you do?” Have you stumbled over your words then walked away feeling like you just botched a great business opportunity? In marketing-speak how you respond to that question is called your elevator speech. The only thing stopping you from taking advantage of those quick opportunities to get new business is preparation.

I’ve put together some elevator speech tips that will keep you from feeling like a bumbling idiot when what you really want is to hear: “OMG, I need you!” or “OMG, I know someone who needs you!”.

If you’ve already drilled down and created your ideal client prototype, this is pretty easy. But even if you haven’t, these elevator speech tips will still help:

  1. First, write down as many characteristics as you can think of about your ideal client. Your ideal client is the person who immediately sees value in what you have to offer and is willing and able to pay you for it.
    (You want more of them, right?)
    If you already have or have had a client that fits this description, use her as your model.
  2. Next, go to LinkedIn and find a photo of that client. If she’s not a real person then use a photo of someone who could be your ideal client. Tape the photo it to a spot where you can see it from your desk.
  3. Now, make a list of words that describe how your ideal client feels right now, as it relates to what you have to offer. In most cases, your list will include icky feelings like worry, frustration, fear, anxiety, scarcity, etc.While you’re doing this, keep glancing at your ideal client’s photo. and pretend she just asked you to tell her about your business.
  4. Next, make a list of how she wants to feel (or would rather feel) that relates to what you offer. Safe? Wealthy? Calm? Happier?
  5. Now, jot down what you do to get her there. Do you use a specific approach or therapy? Is there a course or program you offer? What’s your special sauce?
  6. Finally, put it all together and see what you come up with.

Use these elevator speech tips to create a couple different versions and practice them until they fall trippingly off your tongue.

Over time you’ll notice your elevator speech will change. It will morph and get even better. And you’ll learn how to quickly adjust it according to where you are and to whom you’re speaking.

Try it! You’ll be amazed at the reaction you get, especially from people who are just like your ideal clients.

27 Feb 16:53

Digital Marketing Tips for Start-Ups in 2018

by Megan Totka

Trying to run a start-up on a shoestring budget is tough. You need to keep costs down while capitalizing on successful digital opportunities so you can improve visibility. All of the weapons in the digital marketing arsenals are not equally effective, and the things you do to build your digital presence add up to help get your brand name out there. Take a look at these five tips for creating a successful digital marketing campaign.

Be consistent and post frequently on social:

Social media is one of the most lucrative and effective ways to market your business. Not only does it provide a platform conducive to growing your brand, it also offers a medium for customer service opportunities and product promotion.

The key to success on social media is to make sure you find your brand’s voice. Post regularly, and ensure there’s a unified identity to your posts. Make sure not to over post or sway away from the message you want to convey. According to the Buffer app, the optimal numbers of posts to Twitter is five tweets a day, Facebook is five to 10 times a week, and Google+ and LinkedIn is one time a day.

Remember that it’s not all about you:

Many brands turn to their social media accounts strictly to promote their business. This strategy will fail; it provides no value to followers.

Instead, make it a point to find and share information that your customers want and need to see. It’s okay to share some promoted content from time to time. If your plan is highly focused on self-promotion, reinvent your marketing plan so you can reach the minds of target buyers.

Focus on engagement:

Social media is a great way for your start-up to interact with its current and prospective customers. Do what you can to make sure your followers feel like valuable members of your brand.

While it may be tough, don’t shy away from social confrontation. Use customer complaints a chance to show off how well your brand can handle mistakes and you can grow your business quickly. It’s tempting to hide when you fail, but it’s better to face your failures head on. Struggles are an inevitable part of launching a start-up and the hurdles you face along the way are inescapable. Approach these situations as opportunities to learn.

Keep on treating content as the king:

When launching a start-up, content marketing is one of the most overlooked investments. You may wonder why it’s so important. The reason is that content is the vehicle that can convey your brand’s message when it’s well-written. If your content isn’t clear and your message isn’t concise and well formulated, you won’t find success. Think about the message you want to get across – content marketing isn’t about tossing around some ideas and hoping for the best. Engage in some industry research to formulate a plan and don’t focus solely on your features, but learn to sell the benefits.

Do outreach yourself:

One vital step to creating an effective content marketing strategy is promoting content. Once you produce an incredible piece of branded content, it’s time to amplify it as much as you can. Lean on your social media profiles, email experts in your industry and contribute to other sites your consumers may visit. If you can invest even a few hours each week to outreach, your start-up will start to gain momentum.

It’s a great achievement to dream big and launch a start-up. Give yourself a pat on the back and acknowledge that running a business on a limited budget is not an easy feat. Digital marketing is a powerful tool that can contribute to your online presence and positively impact your bottom line when you utilize it correctly.

27 Feb 16:52

Start ups looking to bring innovation to slow moving mining sector

by CB Staff

The mining industry has developed a reputation for being slow to change but a new wave of start-ups is helping push it into the digital age.

Four of those companies have been declared finalists in Goldcorp Inc.’s mining innovation competition, banking on the potential to replace cyanide, to use sound waves to see deep inside the earth, map mines in virtual reality and digitize trading.

The companies _ EnviroLeach Technologies Inc., Acoustic Zoom Inc., LlamaZoo Interactive Inc. and Open Mineral AG _ were chosen out of for more than 100 companies looking to bring new ideas to the industry.

The competition for new ideas comes as one of the world’s oldest industries continues to grapple with high costs and the need to improve performance.

“At the end of the day I just don’t think that mining as an industry has been as fast on the uptake of opportunities in the modern economy,” said Goldcorp chief operating officer Todd White.

That constraint comes in part from the high cost of equipment and the long timelines for getting them, he said.

“There’s a lot of risk to design and build a mine with new technology versus tried and true proven technology. So mining companies tend to be more conservative.

“Unfortunately, I think we’re leaving a lot on the table with that.”

The company started to sponsor the DisruptMining competition to help improve that record, said White. The competition will see the four finalists compete for a potential $1 million in funding from the miner at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada in March while another eight semifinalists will showcase at the conference.

EnviroLeach will be looking to claim the top spot with its lower-impact alternative to cyanide in separating gold from rocks.

“There’s a lot of projects that simply can’t get into production simply because they can’t get a permit for the use of cyanide,” said Duane Nelson, company CEO.

The challenge has been that alternatives have generally have been as bad or worse, relying on high-temperature acids or in the case of illegal gold miners, using mercury.

“There’s very, very few things, either man-made or in nature that will dissolve gold,” said Nelson.

EnviroLeach claims, however, that it has created a solution using five ingredients that are actually approved for human consumption, and then mixing them with water and applying an electrochemical process.

The mixture costs about five times more than cyanide, but can be used many times over, reducing the environmental footprint with no water effluents, off-gassing or issues with cyanide-treated tailings, said Nelson.

While EnviroLeach is looking to make it easier for companies to process minerals, Open Mineral AG wants to make it easier for companies to sell their product.

The company has developed a digital platform where mining companies can find buyers for their mineral production that still requires more smelting _ replacing the outdated habit of using traders to match buyers and sellers, said Boris Eykher, CEO of Open Minerals.

“We see a tremendous potential to decrease the amount of paperwork, simplify, streamline, add transparency, and most importantly, add profitability.”

Well aware of the reluctance for mining companies to change, Eykher said Open Minerals is looking to significantly undercut traders, who can take anywhere from two to 25 per cent from the sales.

“We are trying to provide overwhelming value, trying to help people digitize the documents, make things more efficient on the back office.”

The process of digitizing the specialized documentation and processes has been more complex than expected, but Eykher said that with around $60 billion in concentrated metals freely traded annually there is significant potential.

The digitization trend continues with the other finalists. Acoustic Zoom is promising to reduce surveying costs by 90 per cent with high-frequency seismic imaging that can map deep into the earth, while LlamaZoo Interactive Inc., is looking to create virtual reality mine plans for easier planning and execution.

The entrants follow the growing push for digitization across the industry because it’s much easier to test out than some of the major pieces of equipment involved in mining, said White.

“It’s faster to understand if it can work, it’s not nearly as much capital that you’re putting in place, and it’s addressing a lot of the key aspects for us, which is data processing,” he said.

“A lot of people would be very surprised at the amount of data that mines use on a daily basis, from geologic data to energy usage data, to the amount of data from milling operations.”

The post Start ups looking to bring innovation to slow moving mining sector appeared first on Canadian Business - Your Source For Business News.

27 Feb 16:52

How Salespeople Can Open Doors with Other People's Content

by Kylee Lessard
Yellow Exterior Door

It’s been said there are no new ideas, only new executions. The opportunities this axiom presents to sales professionals become more apparent when you consider Mark Twain’s full quote:

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” ― Mark Twain

Sales pros are constantly told to “deliver value,” which is easier to say than to do. Twains words free us from spinning our wheels – we don’t need to deliver value from scratch.

Twain’s belief that we can build on one another’s ideas for the benefit of us all is even more potent when you consider the community-building effects it can generate. The ideas that flow forth from content communities and social networks facilitate goal achievement for buyers and sellers alike.

This is great news for sales professionals because, chances are, your most helpful or persuasive content already exists – no need to spend hours creating original content from scratch to gain a prospect’s interest. In this post, we examine a few ways to use other people’s content (OPC) to fill your pipeline.

How to Use OPC to Fill Your Sales Pipeline

If you’re like most ambitious professionals, you already read other people’s content. Now it’s about making that reading time more purposeful. When reading other people’s content, try to learn about the subjects your prospects care most about. While doing so, view the information from the lens of your prototypical buyer. Doing so helps you gain a more balanced, more informed perspective about topics you’re sure to discuss, so seek out considerations that aren’t necessarily covered in your company’s sales literature.

By filling your own knowledge gaps, you are better positioned to add value to people who need it most, in a context they will be receptive to. Decision makers find LinkedIn the ideal platform to discover useful content, network, and get acquainted with other businesspeople. The use of existing content as a vehicle for relevant conversations, commentary, and questions opens a new road for delivering insight where it’s needed most. Here are a few ideas for finding and applying insights from other people’s content.

Follow People Your Prospects Follow, or Should Follow

Your prospects are pressed for time just like you and everyone else. Many don’t have as much time as they’d prefer to follow their industry high-level, let alone the more specific aspects your solution addresses. Just as a savvy seller connects each benefit with a broader business goal, you can connect the underlying messages from other people’s content to the future state you can deliver. In other words, you’re leveraging the credibility of established thought leaders to lend credence to your own story. Not only that, someone the buyer trusts more than you, and is not affiliated with your company, can help you establish context or urgency on your behalf.

Did you know you can follow non-connections on LinkedIn to get updates of their activity directly in your LinkedIn feed? And speaking of your feed, if you’d like to reduce the clutter, it’s easy to temporarily filter out updates that aren’t relevant to your goals.

Follow the Company Pages of Your Prospects

Company pages can be a good source for discovering recent news, employee contacts, and company growth trends. Many companies share blog content and big announcements on their LinkedIn Company Page, and when it comes to making a case, it doesn’t get much better than using a person’s or company’s own words in your argument. Additionally, it might be worth your while to check out how people interact with the company’s content on LinkedIn, and where applicable, use the interactions to discover people who may aid your efforts.

Build and Maintain Lists

This time-tested organization tactic of list making is a great way to organize other people’s content in a way that suits your objectives. For example, you may consider monitoring your targeted prospect list on LinkedIn daily, while monitoring Twitter lists such as “industry thought leaders” or “current customers” or “competitors” at whichever frequency you deem necessary.

When building thought leader lists, don’t just limit it to the people you follow, but the people your prospects are likely to follow as well. You may not agree with everyone on your lists, but if your prospects are plugged into them, it’s better to be aware. These people may be shaping your prospects’ perceptions, and you’ll want to be prepared with a well-informed counter-perspective.

Create Alerts to Know When Ideal OPC Exists

What type of messages best support your sales process? Is there a specific type of research or statistic that would give your claim much-needed weight? While you’d probably start by searching for this type of information, it’s also wise to create alerts for the exact information you’d like to see. For example, you might set a Google alert for “[Your Industry Name Here] survey” or “[Generic Category I sell] testimonial.”

Alerts are automated, so most of the work is done on the front end to establish your ideal notifications. Ask yourself: which third-party stats, research, and opinions would best validate my POV and encourage action? Give it some serious thought because this type of investment has the potential to pay for itself thousands of times over.

Your Content, Your Stage

Remember your own activity flows into the feeds of others. Share a mix of OPC and even some original content (which can include a reaction to OPC) through status updates. Call out connections who might have something relevant to add. You can boost engagement with your own posts when you attribute content to its source. Plus, giving credit where it’s due is another old idea that never goes out of style.

For more ideas that can help you win sales in the modern buying environment, check out our latest e-Book, The Future of Sales: Rise of the Strategic Seller.

27 Feb 16:50

Sales Prospecting Tips & Tools for a Better Prospecting Strategy

by Lilach Bullock

Are you struggling to find relevant sales prospects for your business? Or perhaps you’re looking for ways to improve your prospecting strategy – whatever the case may be, you’re in the right place. Sales prospecting might be a long and arduous process at times, but with the right tools and tips to help, you can make your job much easier. Read on for 5 useful sales prospecting tips and tools for a better prospecting strategy.

Here’s a quick look at what we’ll be covering in this article:

  • How to use LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator to improve your LinkedIn prospecting
  • How to discover a prospects’ direct contact details
  • How to use tools to identify your website visitors and discover prospects
  • Why and how to use video in your sales emails to increase your sales prospecting

Find better-targeted sales prospects and quicker with LinkedIn Sales Navigator

LinkedIn is an extremely powerful platform when it comes to sales prospecting; in fact, one might argue it’s one of the best tools for sales reps.

You can use it to research companies and their employees, discover new companies, and much more – but, to get the most out of it from a sales perspective, it’s worth investing in either one of the pro plans or better yet, in the LinkedIn Sales Navigator; not only will it help you be more productive with your time, but it will also help you discover more potential prospects:

  • Access to ‘advanced lead’ search for better, more targeted results. As you can see in the image below, you have access to all kinds of search filters, such location and even postal code, work title, security level, years at the current company, and much more:

Sales prospecting tips & tools for a better prospecting strategy

  • Organise your prospects with tags, leave notes, and integrate with your CRM tool to make sure all of your prospects are in one place
  • Get targeted lead recommendations based on your particular needs:

Sales prospecting tips & tools for a better prospecting strategy

  • Get real-time updates on all of your sales leads and prospects, such as any job changes
  • Other useful features include the ability to see who’s visited your profile in the last 90 days and the ability to send InMail messages, even when you’re not connected to the prospect

Reach your sales prospects directly with & get the right person on the line

While you can find and reach out to prospects on LinkedIn and other social media channels, it’s always better to contact them via their direct contact details, such as their phone number or regular email address.

And it’s not just social media contacts, of course; any time you reach out to a prospect, you have a better chance of getting a response back if you use the right contact information.

There are plenty of tools that allow you to search for people’s contact info, but Lusha is one of the best; that’s because it’s completely up to date (most other similar tools I’ve tried often have out-of-date contact details) and because it provides both email address and direct phone numbers.

Plus, there’s a Chrome extension that works with both Twitter and LinkedIn; once you’ve set it up, every time you browse a user on one of the 2 networks, you’ll be able to check whether Lusha has their contact information in their database:

Sales prospecting tips & tools for a better prospecting strategy

Then, simply click on ‘show’ to see their full details – you only spend a credit when clicking to view someone’s contact.

Identify your website visitors for better sales prospecting

The best prospects are those that come to you – however, it’s up to you in many cases to identify them.

Technology is now making this easier than ever as you can see in real time what companies are visiting your website.

One of the tools that does this beautifully is Hubspot; you can use it to track and identify your website visitors in real time:

Sales prospecting tips & tools for a better prospecting strategy

Plus, you get a lot of other useful information for each company, such as the number of page views, the number of people from the respective company that visited your website, and which pages they visited.

This presents a wonderful opportunity for sales reps and businesses, as it allows them to discover prospects that are showing real signs of interest. Not to mention, it allows you to focus on the best prospects so that you can get better results from your prospecting, and faster.

What’s more, you can also filter through all the prospects and visitors in your list using a variety of criteria, such as location, number of total visits, and the companies’ size. This, once again, helps you focus on the most relevant and promising prospects first.

Use more video in sales emails to improve prospecting

It’s no secret that video is huge right now (well, it’s always been huge – but now marketers and social networks are taking more notice of it than ever) and that it can help improve your results overall: from more engagement on social media to better conversion rates on your landing pages.

When it comes to sales prospecting, video can be highly effective. For example, studies have found that using the word ‘video’ in email subject lines can boost open rates by 19%; what’s more, adding a video to your marketing emails can boost your CTR by 200-300% and adding one to your landing page can improve your conversion rates by 80%.

Or, if these numbers aren’t enough to convince you, take a look at Hubspot’s case study to see how they quadrupled their sales opportunities by using video.

Clearly, video works and it works very, very well.

One of the ways that you can use video for better sales prospecting, is to create a personalized video for your top prospects. Basically, your video can say everything you would’ve said had you sent them a text-only video. Not only does it increase your chances of getting the email open (don’t forget to use the word ‘video’ in your subject lines!) but it also increases the chances that the prospect will actually take the time to listen to your message rather than having to read a long (and likely boring) email.

However, make sure you don’t overdo it – if your video is too long-winded or just simply boring, they’ll probably lose their interest very quickly. Keep things short and sweet and make sure you cover all the important points – basically, what you would’ve told them had you sent them a regular email.

Conclusion

Technology allows sales reps to do so much more now than they could just a few years back. To recap what we’ve discussed in this article, you can now:

  • Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find qualified sales leads and prospects more easily, so that you only spend your time on quality prospects
  • Use a tool to find direct contact information; this way, you can make sure you’re targeting the right person and that you’re reaching them via the contacts they actually use on a regular basis, therefore increasing the chances of getting a response
  • Use Hubspot or similar tools to track and identify the prospects that are visiting your website in real time. This increases the chances of converting these prospects into customers
  • And finally, last but not least, use more video in your sales prospecting strategy as numerous studies found it performs much better than text

What are some of your top sales prospecting tips? Which tools do you use to help with prospecting?

27 Feb 16:49

Slow Your Content Marketing Down

by Sarah Greesonbach

slow-down-content-marketing

More than 86 million blog posts are published on WordPress every month.

86 million. Every month.

Even the most digital literate, attentive, and committed customer probably only has the bandwidth to scan about 10 headlines and read one to two articles a day – and that’s being generous.

Where does that leave the millions and millions of other “content opportunities”? Floating limply in random distribution channels and woven throughout thousands of lackluster company tweets?

Innovative marketers are embracing a solution – the slow content marketing movement. Much as the slow food movement argues less-but-better food will deliver improved health results, the slow content marketing movement insists less-but-better content will deliver improved marketing results.

“When I first came into content marketing, fast content marketing was the way to go,” says Margaret Magnarelli, senior director of marketing at Monster and Content Marketing World speaker. “But over time, it’s struck me that there’s more value in doing fewer things. A longer piece might get fewer finishes because of its length, but it might have a greater impact on someone who ends up spending more time with it and builds greater affinity with your brand.

“If you’re working in a B2B business where your aim is to drive leads, you don’t need to make more content – instead you need to make more effective content.”


If your aim is to drive leads, you don't need to make more #content, just more effective content. @mmagnarelli
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The argument for slow content marketing isn’t just anecdotal. The concept of quality over quantity is a long-held business truth as proven with research:


Over 90% of its blog leads came from old blog posts via @HubSpot.
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  • An American Marketing Association study found that brand marketers increased their publishing by 800% over five years only to find engagement per post declined by 89%.

Brand marketers increased publishing by 800% over 5 years. Engagement per post declined by 89%. @AMA_Marketing
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  • Orbit Media research revealed that content creators who spend longer on each post see stronger results. Publishing frequency was not a differentiator.

Content creators who spend longer on each post see stronger results via @orbiteers. #research
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It’s only a matter of time before every content marketing strategy goes slow to ensure that the quality of its content going out in the world is high.


#Contentmarketing strategies should go slow to ensure the quality of content going out is high. @AwYeahSarah
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How to do slow content marketing

Slowing your content marketing doesn’t mean just pulling back on the publishing schedule. Invest the time and resources you otherwise would have put into high-frequency writing into making each article the best possible version. Though how you do that will vary depending on market conditions, here are five ways to do slow aka quality content marketing.

1. Hire better writers

Treat your audience like the humans they are – humans who want to read clear thinking. Push the upper limits of your budget to hire the best writer you can afford – one who specializes in your industry niche and speaks keenly to your target customer.

“The quality of your ideas gives you the right to produce less,” says Mary Ellen Slayter, CEO of Rep Cap Media and founder of ManagingEditor.com.


The quality of your ideas gives you the right to produce less, says @MESlayter.
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Talented writers can generate and execute quality ideas. But better writers don’t just make for better text, they also:

  • Have the necessary industry context to avoid content that your competition is publishing, to feature the latest high-quality research, and to highlight your brand’s value proposition with minimal onboarding.
  • Have influence and authority in your industry, as your audience may be familiar with their other content. They also can amplify interest in the content through their well-developed industry networks.
  • Know the best format, length, publishing schedule, and outreach efforts for your content and your audience.

Talented writers know best format, length, schedule, & outreach for content & audience. @AwYeahSarah
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2. Treat titles like the bait they are

Clickbait is a negative term, and rightfully so. Headlines that use tricks or lies to manipulate people into clicking are wrong. But the term “bait” applies to all titles by their nature – a little taste of what the content offers to entice a potential reader. If you don’t put time into creating the most accurate and alluring title, you compromise the reach of the article.


If you don't put time into creating accurate & alluring titles, you compromise article reach. @AwYeahSarah
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“We’re playing a game of headlines,” Margaret says. “Display copy is the only way you can get your content to register with someone, so you almost have to create a wolf in sheep’s clothing and do what everyone else is doing title-wise. But when a reader finally gets to the piece, it’s got to be good.”

Treat your titles with interest-grabbing, “I-have-to-read-this-now” bait by making them as robust as they can be:

  • Use a modified version of Jeff Goin’s formula for catchy headlines: number or trigger word + adjective + topic or audience keyword + benefit. Or use James Scherer’s tip for influencer titles: How (Familiar Brand) Is Doing (Something) to Achieve (Positive Result).
  • Use CMI’s 10-point checklist or these headline-generator tools.
  • Split-test your headlines using a plug-in or app on your blog and use different versions on social media.

3. Make use of your archives

Don’t underestimate the power of your previously published content. As the HubSpot example shows, old content can be a powerful driving force for customers seeking to educate themselves about your product, service, or industry. Look at your archives and update content to make sure it’s working for your brand 24-7.

“For B2B customers, it’s not just, ‘I came to your site, I clicked, and now I’m going to buy real quick,’” says Mary Ellen. “The decisions they make require thought and money, and the customers need to know who they’re dealing with. It’s important to think of your content as what Jimmy Daly calls a library of information – one you can go back and update to build that trust rather than a paper of record where content that was published three years ago must stay where it is.”

4. Segment your audience (and segment it again)

One outreach method you may not have fully investigated is customizing outreach with your audience based on unique segmentations such as:

  • People who didn’t click the article (or people who did)
  • People who share the newsletter (or people who don’t)
  • People who have not been active in the last five campaigns
  • People based on job title, gender, location, or device
  • People who subscribed to your list based on how they signed up (i.e., trade show vs. gated content)

You also can customize your content outreach while still staying within your established distribution frequency such as:

  • Adding a link to footers or round-up posts
  • Running promotions for readers who share or comment
  • Featuring a new quote from the article in a different email
  • Rewriting the email introduction to the article based on industry, job title, or scenario

Customize your #content outreach for audience segments following same distribution frequency. @AwYeahSarah
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5. Sharpen your distribution strategy

One of the biggest benefits of putting more resources into a single article is that it increases your odds of creating the kind of original and editorially sound content that opens the doors to content syndication, potentially introducing your blog (and site and product) to flows of traffic from sites like MSN, USA Today, Yahoo, AOL/The Huffington Post, LinkedIn, and more.

Conclusion

“There’s a sea of terrible content out there because sometimes we content marketers have just had to feed the distribution beast,” Margaret says. “Investing in one piece of content and making something special that you can publish everywhere is a higher ROI strategy because when an editor or customer sees your name in their feed they’ll know it’s worth reading.”

Like every other part of your marketing strategy, the decision to embrace slow content marketing or keep up last year’s pace will depend on your sales goals, your customers, your industry, your niche, and a million other details. But every marketing manager will find it’s worth stopping to ask, “What if we slowed our content marketing this year?”

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Discover how a “slow” approach also includes knowing how to develop a structured framework for your content. Make plans today to attend Intelligent Content Conference March 20-22 in Las Vegas. Register using code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post Slow Your Content Marketing Down appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

27 Feb 16:49

Why Tech Business Leaders Should Invest in Inbound Marketing Now

by Dave Orecchio

Virtually every sales and marketing professional is familiar with the proven sales process concept of “the funnel.” At its very basic construct, the funnel is simply a visual tool into which sales prospects are “poured” to begin the journey from prospect to customer.

Along the way, prospects interact at various stages with the seller, sometimes acting independently, other times interacting with sales and marketing personnel, depending on the stage.

Back in the days before the internet and even mass marketing, the funnel could be fairly narrow, with few prospects entering at the top, and a relatively similar number exiting at the bottom as customers. That’s because selling was a singular, face-to-face art – a highly personalized experience. Both parties had a pretty good idea about the other. Buyers may have had prior knowledge of the seller before contact, and sellers knew who could be a buyer based on their knowledge of the market and their product or service. Any unqualified prospect entering the funnel would be quickly culled out because they entered by mistake or would be identified as unqualified by the seller early in the process because personal contact would occur from the start.

business leaders invest inbound marketingThe main advantage of this early version of the funnel was its high-contact characteristic. Both parties engaged almost immediately and a rich, personal experience followed that would see the prospect rapidly leave the funnel — either as unqualified or uninterested, or as a customer. The downside was the amount of time both parties had to invest in the process, learning about each other and determining the opportunity to benefit from the other.

Enter mass marketing. Suddenly the funnel changed shape, becoming much wider at the top because it was now able to capture exponentially greater numbers of prospects through mass channels such as broadcast television and radio, and direct mail. The advantages of mass marketing sales were significant – buyers had exposure to a lot more brands and choices while sellers could generate greater awareness of their products or services and gain substantially greater numbers of prospects.

There were also some disadvantages, of course. Mass marketing is a less personalized approach providing less information early in the process, which could lead to buyer frustration. Sellers lack knowledge of individual buyers and have to wait until prospects contact them to engage. Sales would frequently complain that the leads that marketing provided were very poor quality, leaving them to fend for oneself.

With the advent of the World Wide Web, buyers not only gained more options, they gained a lot more information early in the process, enabling them to winnow down their choices on their own while gaining greater product understanding and negotiating power. Sellers gain more knowledge about buyers through access to Big Data, enabling them to sell more effectively. Sellers could also scale their efforts more rapidly and efficiently through the Web, as compared to traditional mass media campaigns.

The more marketing has evolved, the less influential salespeople have become.

So here’s the dilemma that faces internet-based marketers today: the greater the role the Web plays in their marketing strategy the less influence salespeople have over the buying process. This is because companies are prolific publishers of valuable content that helps buyers make decisions on their own. They fear that if the buyer does not choose them, they will lose the opportunity to sell.

Highly knowledgeable buyers no longer feel the need to engage with salespeople as much, especially early in the decision-making process. Likewise, because salespeople no longer have the opportunity to engage with prospects early on, they lack the time and engagement necessary to win trust and build influence with prospects.

The Solution: attract and influence prospects early with valuable content – a method called Inbound Marketing

In response to the changing sales and marketing environment, inbound marketing is helping brands win customers with valuable, targeted content designed to attract and influence specific prospects throughout the sales funnel journey.

What is inbound marketing? It is a digital marketing methodology and strategy that uses content in the form of blog posts, eBooks, social media messages, podcasts, whitepapers, executive guides, video and other content tools to engage prospects at various funnel stages to build trust, influence, and build a trusting relationship with the goal of turning them into customers. Done right, inbound marketing creates opportunities for dialog to deliver value to prospects early in their product research process.

To be effective, inbound marketing requires the development of an accurate “customer profile,” called a persona, that takes into account four primary factors:

  • Geography, if applicable, including cities, states, and regions, for example
  • Demographics including age, gender, occupation, and income level
  • Psychographics, such as lifestyle, personal values, and personality traits
  • Behavior including spending habits, preferences, and level of product/service knowledge, to name a few

Armed with this information, inbound marketers can craft highly-targeted, influential messages and content designed to attract the perfect prospects and provide them with the corresponding amount and level of information they need at each stage of their journey through the funnel.

High up in the sales funnel, a significant portion of this content can be delivered automatically using digital automation tools that respond to prospects’ early inquiries and click-throughs with carefully-integrated content that provides the right information at the right stage. For example, at the top of the funnel, a business would answer common questions that most prospects would ask early in the exploration process. When the prospect is in the middle of the funnel, companies would address typical objections to choosing them.

Inbound Marketing: Turning salespeople into trusted advisors

One of the many benefits of inbound marketing is its ability to reverse the trend of salespeople marginalization. As the firehose-stream of information on the Web has created more informed, knowledgeable buyers it has, in many cases, diminished the role of salespeople from influencers and guides to mere order-takers.

As a result, brands have run the risk of losing value and top-of-mind-recall with buyers because salespeople were marginalized, pushed out to the very end of the sales funnel where their influence on the purchase has been minimized and they were relegated to simply taking orders once buyers made up their minds.

With inbound marketing, content and automation can be combined with sales enablement tools and methods to more effectively engage prospects early in their research. Encouraged by what they’re discovering early in their sales funnel journey, prospects are now more likely to quickly turn to salespeople for more specific information and insights tailored to their unique needs.

Inbound marketing enables salespeople to convert more opportunities into sales by focusing on:

  • Buyer-centricity – inquiring about and listening to the buyer’s challenges and goals
  • Personalization – offering a carefully-tailored solution to each prospect’s problems
  • Advising – helping people make the right buying decision instead of simply taking their order

The need for knowledgeable, informed salespeople is nowhere greater than in technology-based industries. Buyers, buoyed by an often misplaced sense of confidence in their purchasing decision based on their research, may in fact not have a correct understanding of what they’re buying. The result is a wasteful and frustrating buyer experience that can lead to a lasting bad brand impression, through no fault of the brand.

However, inbound marketing enables salespeople to once again become trusted advisors, building relationships with prospects and customers to help ensure they make proper purchasing decisions. Now, instead of just creating a sale, they’re able to create a more satisfactory buyer experience that leads to customer loyalty, and that’s priceless.

To learn about how Inbound Marketing helps businesses attract the best leads, please download the eBook titled “The 8 Steps to Attract Qualified Leads for Your Business.”

Image Copyright: 123RF Stock Photo

26 Feb 16:59

Generating Real Estate Leads in 2022: 27 Tried and True Methods

by Meg Prater

Realtors need to maintain a healthy pipeline of leads. When interest rates are low and temperatures are beautiful, you might be flooded with clients. But there’s always a winter lull or market fluctuation around the bend to stop your momentum and, in turn, your commission checks.

Prepare for the unpredictable nature of real estate with an arsenal of fresh lead-gathering tactics. Here are some real estate lead generation ideas for thinking outside the mass mailer and ahead of the curve.

Free Resource: Real Estate Strategy Template

1. Build partnerships.

Network with other local businesses to form mutually beneficial partnerships. Try strategies like co-hosting happy hours, sending gifts to clients or leads, and forming local alliances. Here are a few industries where real estate agents can form productive partnerships:

  • Insurance companies - Homeowners insurance is a must, but some homebuyers are also looking to turn their new property into rentals, flip-homes, or businesses. Having the right insurance is key.
  • Personal bankers - A home is the largest financial investment many of us will ever make. Having a personal banker to run numbers by can be a huge help for buyers.
  • Commercial lenders - Loan officers are an integral part of the home buying process, but most buyers don't have one in their back pocket.
  • Bakeries - Whether you're sending pies to former clients to keep your real estate firm top of mind or ordering treats to make your open house extra sweet, connecting with a bakery is never a bad idea for a real estate agent — or anyone, for that matter.
  • Landscapers - There's an old adage in cooking that says, "The eye eats first." A similar principle applies to real estate. Landscaping is often the first impression potential buyers have of a home. Encourage your sellers to have their homes professionally landscaped to set them apart from the crowd.
  • Cleaning services - No buyer wants to enter a home that looks a little grimy around the edges. Partner with cleaning services to offer discounted house cleanings to your clients.
  • Staging experts - Very few of us have HGTV-worthy show homes, but an aspirational home is a home that sells. Build partnerships with local stagers to get your clients' houses under contract faster.
  • Title companies - A less glamorous but no less important partnership is the one you'll have with local title companies. Have a few go-to companies to recommend to your clients.

One way or another, find and connect with businesses with clientele relevant to your goals and preferences — and once you establish these partnerships, make sure to contribute your fair share. All parties involved stand to gain a lot from these kinds of relationships.

2. Throw a housewarming party

Did a well-connected client just move into their new home? Offer to cater their housewarming party, spring for an open bar, pay for the appetizers, or deck the place out with gorgeous flowers — and make sure to stop by to mingle. A little facetime can go a long way when leveraging this method.

It’s the perfect place to meet prospects in similar life stages who might be impressed by the home you’ve helped their friends buy.

Did they invite the new neighbors? Now’s the time to ask if they’ve considered selling. Neighborhood sales usually generate fresh homeowner interest, and a housewarming party can turn cold leads to hot.

3. Become a restaurant regular.

Meeting clients at a restaurant or local coffee shop to discuss terms? Consistently schedule these kinds of meetings at the same restaurant.

You’ll build clout with the wait staff, gain access to the best tables, and appear popular and plugged into your community. You might even get to know the other regulars — making you the perfect person for them to contact when they’re ready to buy.

4. Send a handwritten note.

Pick up a pen, paper, and an actual stamp — then, send a note to a past or present client. Thank them for choosing you as their realtor, and remind them you’re available to answer questions, suggest a reliable moving company, or send important documents for tax season.

A handwritten note goes a long way to express your appreciation. And it keeps you from becoming yet another unread subject line in your clients’ inbox. Feeling confident? Pick up the phone a few days later and ask for a referral.

5. Leverage the internet to advertise.

Invest in paid online advertising. Websites like Zillow offer advertising options for realtors — a smart move since the share of home buyers who used the internet to search for a home increased to an all-time high of 97% in 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Here are some of the better ways to market yourself as a real estate agent:

  • Run Facebook ads
  • Run LinkedIn ads
  • Answer real estate questions on Quora
  • Run Google ads
  • Blog for local or national real estate websites

Here's what an effective Facebook ad might look like.how to generate real estate leads via Facebook ads

Image Source: Zillow

6. Advertise through more traditional media.

Sometimes, the best avenues to get your brand out and attract new clients are a little more old-school. Media like billboards and print ads can be excellent resources to grab prospective clients' attention and keep your services top-of-mind when they're looking for their next real estate agent. And don't be reluctant to get creative with your advertising — a little humor or eye-popping visuals can help you stand out.

how to generate real estate leads via traditional advertising

Image Source: Fit Small Business

7. Build your own website.

Your brokerage will likely give you a page on their website, but it’s important to create your own web presence. This allows you to build a personal brand, showcase your specialties, and share reviews from satisfied clients. It also ensures you have a cohesive presence in the local market — even if you switch brokerages.

Pro-Tip: Don’t forget to optimize your site. Write blog posts tackling common questions or challenges clients confront during the buying process. Create and share helpful how-to videos. And capture email addresses by having a newsletter signup.

8. Develop a niche.

Do you specialize in a certain neighborhood, historic homes, or helping clients find their perfect apartment? Lean into it! Find your niche and become an expert. This allows you to focus your marketing efforts on a specific group and develop a reputation as the go-to realtor for these buyers and sellers.

Here are a few common real estate niches:

  • Historic homes
  • Mid-century modern homes
  • Luxury homes
  • Neighborhoods
  • Student rentals
  • School district
  • City or town
  • First-time homebuyers
  • Condominiums or apartments
  • Distressed properties
  • Senior homes
  • Vacation homes
  • Land
  • Commercial real estate
  • Industrial real estate
  • Property rights
  • For Sale By Owner (FSBO) properties

You don't have to be an expert immediately. Decide which niche interests you and immerse yourself in it. For instance, if you want to develop a niche in helping seniors find their perfect retirement homes, learn what their needs are, research local senior centers and senior-friendly neighborhoods, and work with financial planners who understand the unique home buying requirements of the seniors in your area.

9. Use "Coming Soon" signs.

"Coming Soon" and "Sold" signs are a tried-and-true way to generate interest in your properties and expertise. "Coming Soon" signs build anticipation before a home even hits the market.

And "Sold" signs are effective at gathering leads from buyers who missed out on a property — and want you to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

10. Head to an open house.

Not hitting up open houses to harvest new leads? You’re missing out. Many buyers (or soon-to-be buyers) drop in without having an agent. It’s the perfect time to introduce yourself and offer to help them navigate the market.

Pro-Tip: If you decide to go this road, don't be too pushy or aggressive. Shameless self-promotion at someone else's open house is never a good look.

11. Generate leads on LinkedIn.

Join LinkedIn groups you know your target audience frequents. That could be something like a group for local real estate investors or one for first-time homebuyers. Find the groups your buyers are spending time in, and contribute to the conversation before making a professional pitch.

Once you’ve built rapport, follow up with interested prospects, and offer to discuss their questions further on a call.

Pro-Tip: If you’re posting in a real estate investment group, consider sharing a blog article about up-and-coming neighborhoods in your city. If someone in your first-time homebuyers group asks a question about interest rates, provide a knowledgeable answer in the comments.

12. Organize educational events.

Host educational events in your community. By teaching local consumers about buying their first home, what the market’s like now, or what to look for in a rental property, you’ll build your personal brand and drum up new business at the same time.

Pro-Tip: Try partnering with local businesses to host home buying seminars over lunch. Or co-hosting events with mortgage lenders to broaden your base and increase lead potential.

13. Don’t neglect leads.

Did you show a prospect three properties before they realized they weren't ready to buy? Don’t throw their number away. Send them postcards sharing developments in the market, keep them on your email list, and leave the occasional voicemail reminder you’d love to help them find that perfect home when they're ready.

Sales pro Jeff Hoffman offers great tips for salespeople trying to bring stalled deals back from the dead. His biggest piece of advice? Don't repeat your close. "If the prospect gave you a soft yes — and then nothing — or a firm no, never follow up with the same close. Your next request should be different."

So, instead of following up with your stalled buyer a few months down the line with a "Ready to buy yet?" try asking, "Would you be interested in joining our seminar for first-time homebuyers?

This is an easier close and will keep your prospect from feeling cornered or pressured.

14. Target "For Sale by Owner" listings.

According to the National Association of Realtors, only 3% of FSBO listings sell within the desired time — and a mere 18% reported receiving the right price. Find these listings on Craigslist or other real estate sites, and offer to help them get the most from their property listing.

Share a blog post or a few bulleted stats about why working with an agent is beneficial to the seller, and ask if they’d be interested in learning more.

15. Reach out to expired listings.

Pull lists of expired listings from the MLS. Be sensitive to the fact these sellers are likely frustrated with their current realtor, discouraged they haven’t sold their home, and under a lot of stress.

Open the conversation by explaining you understand their frustrations, and share a few ways you’d do things differently to sell their home fast.

16. Generate referrals from satisfied clients.

Positive word of mouth is a major plus for virtually all kind of sales efforts — and real estate sales are no exception. It's estimated that 40% of buyers used an agent who was referred to them by a friend, neighbor, or relative. And 91% of buyers would use their agent again or recommend them to others.

Your previous and existing clients can be excellent lead-generation resources. That's why it serves you to remain in contact with them and keep yourself top-of-mind — and when you're working with them, give it your all.

Make sure you're providing them with thorough attention and exemplary service. If you can build trust and develop a productive relationship with your clients, you'll be in a solid position to capitalize on their referral potential.

17. Work divorce leads.

Divorce leads are as potentially productive as they are uncomfortable to think about. You'll be hard-pressed to find leads with more urgency behind them — a court order to sell your home tends to have that effect.

Divorced leads require some finesse and compassion. As you can imagine, these kinds of clients probably aren't too thrilled about being in the position they're in. But if you can find and appeal to them, you'll set yourself up with a base of extremely motivated clients.

Pro-Tip: Consider getting certified as a Real Estate Collaboration Specialist - Divorce (RCS-D) if you want to make the most of this method.

18. Leverage predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics — a technique that considers both real-time and historical data to predict future outcomes — can be leveraged to help generate real estate leads. Different AI programs allow you to gather and break down relevant data points, helping you pinpoint houses that are likely to be sold in your area. With that insight informing your efforts, you can reach out to prospective sellers and generate quality leads.

19. Bolster your social media presence.

As a real estate agent, you are your brand. And as with any other brand nowadays, you need a sound social media presence if you want to stay afloat. Make sure you have profiles across multiple platforms, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — anywhere you can connect with buyers and sellers.

All of these applications give you space to promote yourself and your listings. They give prospects a concrete reference point where they can get a sense of who you are and what you have to offer. They also help you project legitimacy and add a human element to your professional persona.

But the value of these platforms extends beyond conventional promotion. We touched on the merit of leveraging forums like LinkedIn groups to reach prospects earlier in this article — that also applies to Facebook groups, Twitter threads, and Instagram comment sections. You can use these avenues to establish yourself as a knowledgeable, helpful, consultative resource for prospects and generate leads.

20. Dig for especially old expired listings.

We talked about reaching out to expired listings earlier on in this article, but this point goes a little deeper. Sometimes, recently expired listings might not be sufficient when trying to generate leads — you might find some extra value by looking way back.

Several realtors look for newly expired listings, but very few think to check in with sellers whose listings went dark over a year ago without relisting. These potential clients might have run into issues like inopportune timing or relationships with ineffective realtors — and just because they were discouraged doesn't mean they can't be persuaded to sell.

21. Network at non-real estate events.

As you can probably assume, real estate events are going to be full of real estate professionals — people who do what you do, all looking for vying for attention from the same potential clients. They don't give you much space to stand out.

That's why non-real estate events present unique opportunities for you to connect with prospects without being surrounded by your competition. Local community get-togethers and recreational meet-ups offer you casual forums where you can connect with potential clients.

Pro-Tip: Avoid being too aggressive or salesy if you go this road — people don't go to these events to meet real estate agents. Try to keep your interactions as organic as possible.

22. Try going door-to-door.

Sometimes, going back to basics is your best option. Door-to-door sales is one of the most fundamental, effective ways to connect with prospects in any context — and real estate is no exception.

This strategy can be a little imposing for some, but if you're willing to put your head down and stomach some face-to-face rejection, you can put yourself in a solid position to generate some high-quality leads.

23. Join your local chamber of commerce.

Your local chamber of commerce can provide several valuable resources and opportunities for generating leads. Having your brand listed in newsletters and websites offers some valuable exposure and projects legitimacy to prospective clients. It also gives you a network of solid business connections you can lean on to help put you in touch with prospects.

24. Use Instagram stories.

One of the better ways to spice up your social media presence, capture potential clients' attention, and generate leads for your real estate business is by running Instagram stories. Posting something like a quick tour of a listing or images of interesting properties can be an excellent way to showcase your portfolio and drive quick engagement on your profile.

25. Cold call.

Sometimes, rolling up your sleeves and taking a tried-and-true approach to lead generation is your best bet. Sure, cold calling is inherently uncomfortable and generally low-converting — but it's also one of the better ways to cover a lot of ground, connect with potential clients, and ultimately generate leads.

26. Contribute to industry publications.

Potential clients want their agents to be knowledgeable and competent. They want someone who understands the ins and outs of real estate. Contributing to industry publications, like magazines or blogs, is one of the better ways to demonstrate that kind of expertise.

If you can connect with reputable publishers and put thoughtful content together, you can establish yourself as an authority in your space and gain some valuable exposure. With that kind of momentum, the leads are bound to follow.

27. Connect with estate liquidators.

Estate liquidators can be valuable resources for real estate lead generation. These professionals have consistent intel on a steady stream of sellers — and if you can establish a productive relationship with them, you can tap into that base and generate quality leads.

Leads are the lifeblood of the real estate industry. Give these tactics a try and see how they benefit your business.

Editor's note: This post was originally published on April 26, 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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26 Feb 16:59

21 Books About Starting a Business You Can’t Afford Not to Read

by Meg Prater

Books About Starting a Business

  1. The Founder's Dilemmas
  2. In the Company of Women
  3. Start with Why
  4. The Power of Broke
  5. The Four
  6. Side Hustle
  7. Crushing It!
  8. The Lean Startup
  9. Be Obsessed or Be Average
  10. Profit First
  11. Passive Income Streams
  12. Behind the Cloud
  13. Will It Fly?
  14. Lucky or Smart?
  15. The Barefoot Executive
  16. The Art of the Start 2.0
  17. The E Myth Revisited
  18. Rework
  19. Escape from Cubicle Nation
  20. Built to Last
  21. The $100 Startup

Think you don’t have time to read? Consider that Bill Gates reads 50 books every year, Mark Cuban reads for three hours each day, and Elon Musk -- when asked how he learned to build rockets -- said, “I read books.”

Reading is a crucial part of becoming an entrepreneur and building your first business. But knowing which books to start with can be overwhelming. So, I’ve pulled a list of today’s most inspiring and informative books about starting a business. Pick a few, or read them all, and take a giant step toward making your entrepreneurial dreams come true.

21 Books About Starting a Business

1. “The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup” by Noam Wasserman

Do you need co-founders? When should you hire your first employee? Should you have investors? Wasserman’s popular book examines which early decisions make or break your startup and how to anticipate, avoid, or recover from disastrous mistakes.

Review excerpt: “This book consolidates information backed by research, and provides a more comprehensive and unbiased picture on the subject than any resource you can find.”

2. “In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from Over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs” by Grace Bonney

Learn how 100 female business leaders embraced creativity, moved past their toughest days, and sparked a global movement. Need motivation to get through the sleepless nights and lonely days of starting your own business? Reach for this book.

Review excerpt: “Beautiful book that makes a great gift for the driven women in your life. Inspiring art and stories that should be propped up on display for all to read.”

3. “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek

Sinek’s book explores how the world’s most influential leaders think, act, and communicate similarly. He calls the idea, “The Golden Circle,” and shares this framework to build businesses, lead movements, and inspire.

Review excerpt: “I've read and studied a lot of material over the last two years to find answers for my life and business. What I didn't realize is that I was looking for this book.”

4. “The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage” by Daymond John

The Fubu Founder and “Shark Tank” star shares how he turned a $40 budget into a $6 billion-dollar global brand -- and how he couldn’t have done it without starting broke.

Review excerpt: “This book should be required reading in business schools as the first 43 pages alone blow away most business books out there.”

5. “The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google” by Scott Galloway

When building your own business, it’s probably a good idea to learn about the most successful companies in the world -- and how they climbed to the top. Whether you want to work with these companies or disrupt them, Galloway’s book gives you strategies to use immediately.

Review excerpt: “Excellent analysis on how each of these companies have grown so successfully, as well as commentary on their future staying power.”

6. “Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days” by Chris Guillebeau

Have you been daydreaming about quitting your job to start a business? Guillebeau outlines a roadmap for turning that dream into reality, starting with a viable side hustle. How? Generate income immediately, and give yourself the options you’ve always wanted.

Review excerpt: “Thoroughly enjoyed this clear, concise layout of the step-by-step process to find a side hustle, with plenty of examples of real people who've done it.”

7. “Crushing It! How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence -- and How You Can, Too” by Gary Vaynerchuk

Learn from the godfather of hustle, Gary Vee, about what it takes to create a vibrant personal brand -- and why it’s key to building a successful business.

Review excerpt: “Must-read for anyone aspiring to pursue their passions or use social media for business.”

8. “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” by Eric Ries

Ries argues every company has a common mission: To chart a successful path to sustainable business. Learn to stop wasting time building elaborate business plans in favor of testing your vision continuously and adapting before it’s too late.

Review excerpt: “This is an amazing book on innovation and getting your ideas into an MVP quickly. It provides great insights into how to create innovative space within an organization while staying accountable to stakeholders.”

9. “Be Obsessed or Be Average” by Grant Cardone

Learn how business giant Grant Cardone clawed his way from broke, jobless, and drug-addicted to millionaire entrepreneur. Discover how to set and meet crazy goals each day, spend money on the right things, and use your detractors as fuel for your success.

Review excerpt: “Throw away your excuses and get obsessed. This book is real and raw. It will offend you and excite you, call you out, and open your eyes.”

10. “Profit First: Transform Your Business From a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine” by Mike Michalowicz

Discover four principles for simplifying accounting and making it easier to manage a profitable business. Michalowicz touts the virtues of small-but-profitable businesses and their likelihood of achieving long-term growth.

Review excerpt: “This book is a must-read for anyone interested in starting a business. Heck, this book will help you even if you use it for your personal finances.”

11. “Passive Income Streams: How to Create and Profit from Passive Income Even If You’re Cash-Strapped and a Little Bit Lazy (But Motivated)” by Kristi Patrice Carter J.D.

Incorporate passive income streams into your livelihood, and break free of traditional work models while continuing to earn a healthy living. Carter’s book shows you how to make money in a way that suits your lifestyle -- without requiring 40 hours a week.

Review excerpt: “The author does an excellent job in simply pointing out some of the solid but underrated alternatives of making passive income instead of just working an office job.”

12. “Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company -- and Revolutionized an Industry” by Marc Benioff and Carlye Adler

Learn how salesforce.com grew from a startup in a rented apartment to the world’s fastest-growing software company in under 10 years. From surviving the dotcom implosion to becoming a standout entrepreneur -- Benioff shares his secrets to success in this bestselling book.

Review excerpt: “Highly recommended! An entrepreneur's journey from idea inception to implementation.”

13. “Will It Fly? How to Test Your Next Business Idea So You Don’t Waste Your Time and Money” by Pat Flynn

Before you invest time and money into your idea, find out whether it has merit, if it can succeed, and whether it’s the right idea for you. This book is full of practical suggestions your business plan will benefit from today.

Review excerpt: “Highly recommended for anyone thinking about starting a business (especially an online business), or if you already have a business and want to make sure you're on the right track.”

14. “Lucky or Smart? Fifty Pages for the First-Time Entrepreneur” by Bo Peabody

Peabody became a multi-millionaire at 27. The co-founder of five companies, in a variety of industries, he shares his recipe for success by asking, “Is your work innovative?” “Is it morally compelling?” and, “Is it lucky or smart?

Review excerpt: “Bo Peabody is an extraordinary individual with a remarkable grasp on business startups and venture capital.”

15. “The Barefoot Executive: The Ultimate Guide for Being Your Own Boss and Achieving Financial Freedom” by Carrie Wilkerson

Should you monetize who you are and what you know? Wilkerson says, “Absolutely,” then shows you how. This book will help you discover what you already have to offer, who your audience should be, and how to accelerate your success.

Review excerpt: “If you’re a new business owner and want to have an online presence, Wilkerson will give you lots of tips -- and she really does a good job of simplifying the concepts without dumbing them down.”

16. “The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything” by Guy Kawasaki

Ever felt paralyzed by all the information available on starting your own business? Kawasaki thinks that’s no way to begin. In this book, he distills decades of experience into an essential guide for effectively deploying today’s newest business tools, from social media to building your infrastructure on the cloud.

Review excerpt: “If you are planning on starting your own business, you need to read this book. Extremely informative and very well written.”

17. “The E Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” by Michael E. Gerber

Cut through the myths surrounding starting your own business. Gerber walks his readers through the steps of entrepreneurial infancy, through growing pains, and, finally, to becoming a mature, long-lasting business.

Review excerpt: “This book should be on everyone's list before starting a business.”

18. “Rework” by Jason Fried and David Hansson

This anti-establishment book explains why business plans are actually harmful, you don’t need outside investors, and it’s crucial to ignore your competition. If you’ve dreamed of owning your own business, “Rework” shares an unconventional roadmap to get there.

Review excerpt: “This book makes sure you’re grounded in the simplest but most effective principles. These do not only apply for starting a business but also in improving life in general.”

19. “Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur” by Pamela Slim

Slim shares everything you need to consider before making the decision to become self-employed. Explore the nuts-and-bolts of starting your own business and the surprisingly emotional decision to leave your traditional corporate job. Need a cheerleader as you take the leap? Slim’s book delivers.

Review excerpt: “Slim doesn't pull any punches about the good, the bad, and the ugly of making that leap of faith from a ‘secure job’ to life as an entrepreneur. As someone who has done both, I loved her candid approach.”

20. “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras

This book distills a six-year Stanford research project into a holistic look at 18 exceptional, long-lasting companies. Find out what each business struggled with -- from startup to corporation -- and build your own framework for success.

Review excerpt: “This is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read. I teach these lessons to my business students. It really puts them a step ahead of other students who haven't read this book.”

21. “The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future” by Chris Guillebeau

Guillebeau lands a second spot on this list with “The $100 Startup,” a book that follows 1,500 business owners that invested $100 or less to start their businesses. The author pulls out the most pertinent lessons from each, including the importance of being a strong salesperson and why action is always better than planning.

Review excerpt: “This is a must-read book for every entrepreneur. He has such a great way of presenting ideas and systems. This book just makes you want to start something new today!”

Think you’re ready to take the plunge and start your own business? Reach for a few of these books, and learn from the people who have done it successfully.

HubSpot Free Sales Training

26 Feb 16:59

To Be Great – Hire A Coach

by Douglas Wick

"It's not how good you are now; it's how good you're going to be that really matters,"

26 Feb 16:53

Why Financial Statements Don’t Work for Digital Companies

by Vijay Govindarajan
feb18-26-steven-moore-recession final
steven moore for hbr

On February 13, 2018, the New York Times reported that Uber is planning an IPO. Uber’s value is estimated between $48 and $70 billion, despite reporting losses over the last two years. Twitter reported a loss of $79 million before its IPO, yet it commanded a valuation of $24 billion on its IPO date in 2013. For the next four years, it continued to report losses. Similarly, Microsoft paid $26 billion for loss-making LinkedIn in 2016, and Facebook paid $19 billion for WhatsApp in 2014 when it had no revenues or profits. In contrast, industrial giant GE’s stock price has declined by 44% over the last year, as news emerged about its first losses in last 50 years.

Why do investors react negatively to financial statement losses for an industrial firm but disregard such losses for a digital firm?

In the 2016 book The End of Accounting, NYU Stern Professor Baruch Lev claimed that over the last 100 years or so, financial reports have become less useful in capital market decisions. Recent research lets us make an even bolder claim: accounting earnings are practically irrelevant for digital companies. Our current financial accounting model cannot capture the principle value creator for digital companies: increasing return to scale on intangible investments.

This becomes clear when you look at a company’s two most important financial statements: the balance sheet and the income statement. For an industrial company dealing with physical assets and goods, the balance sheet presents a reasonable picture of productive assets and the income statement provides a reasonable approximation of expenses required to create shareholder value. But these statements have little salience for a digital company.

Let’s first look at the balance sheet. Assets reported on a balance sheet have to be physical in nature, have to be owned by the company, and be within the company’s confines. However, digital companies often have assets that are intangible in nature, and many have ecosystems that extend beyond the company’s boundaries. Consider Amazon’s Buttons and Alexa powered Echo, Uber’s cars, and Airbnb’s residential properties, for example. Many digital companies have no physical products and have no inventory to report. Therefore, the balance sheets of physical and digital companies present entirely different pictures. Contrast Walmart’s $160 billion of hard assets for its $300 billion valuation against Facebook’s $9 billion dollars of hard assets for its $500 billion valuation.

The building blocks for a digital company are research and development, brands, organizational strategy, peer and supplier networks, customer and social relationships, computerized data and software, and human capital. The economic purpose of these intangible investments is no different from that of an industrial company’s factories and buildings. Yet, for the digital company, investments in its building blocks are not capitalized as assets; they are treated as expenses in calculation of profits. So the more a digital company invests in building its future, the higher its reported losses. Investors thus have no choice but to disregard earnings in their investment decisions.

Our research has found that intangible investments have surpassed property, plant, and equipment as the main avenue of capital creation for U.S. companies – which further suggests that the balance sheets has become an artifact of regulatory compliance, with little or no utility to investors. The balance sheet has also become less useful for banks’ lending decisions because banks rely on asset coverage to calculate their security. Curiously, companies are allowed to report purchased brands and intangibles as assets on balance sheet, creating distortions between earnings and assets of digital companies that rely on organic growth versus acquisitions.

As digital companies become more prominent in the economy, and physical companies become more digital in their operations, income statements too become less meaningful in investors’ decisions. In another study, we show that earnings explains only 2.4% of variation in stock returns for a 21st century company — which means that almost 98% of the variation in companies’ annual stock returns are not explained by their annual earnings. Earnings also seem to matter less for CEO pay: companies are reducing profits-based cash bonuses and shifting toward stock-based CEO compensation, partly to keep opportunistic managers from cutting back on valuable investments as a way to report higher profits.

The current financial accounting model fails today’s companies in yet another respect. In a previous HBR article, we argued that, in contrast to physical assets that depreciate with use, intangible assets might enhance with use. Consider Facebook: its value increases as more people use its product because the benefits accrue to an existing user with the arrival of each new user. Its value growth is powered by the network in place, not by increments of operating costs. Therefore the most important aim for digital companies is to achieve market leadership, create network effects, and command a “winner-take-all” profit structure. Facebook’s gross margin of 76% on its 2017 revenues of $46.5 billion illustrates this reaping of rewards — every additional dollar of revenue creates almost equivalent value for shareholders. (You can contrast this to Twitter’s and Yelp’s 2017 revenues of $2.4 billion and $0.8 billion, respectively, as both companies have yet to reach the winner-take-all profit stage.)

Yet there is no place in financial accounting for the concept of network effects, or the increase in the value of a resource with its use. This actually implies negative depreciation expense in accounting parlance. So the fundamental idea behind the success of digital companies (the increasing returns to scale) goes against a basic tenet of financial accounting (assets depreciate with use).

It’s important to note that companies like professional services firms are also built on intangible assets like human capital. But accounting challenges for modern, digital companies are more severe, as they have increasing returns to scale on their idea-based platforms. For example, Google can service billions more clients with the same office just by adding to its server capacity. But for an audit firm to drastically increase clients, it would likely need more manpower and office space. Furthermore, costs of services for professional services firms, mainly wages, are matched to current revenues. So their income statements accurately reflect surplus created in that period, similar to industrial companies. But for digital companies, the bulk of the cost of building an idea-based platform is reported as an expense in its initial years, when they have little revenue. In later years, when they actually earn revenues on an established platform, they have fewer expenses to report. In both phases, the calculation of earnings does not reflect the true costs of revenues.

This brings us to another question: If earnings are so meaningless, then why do investors react positively to rumors concerning a digital company turning profitable? For example, when Twitter reported its first profits, its share prices jumped 20%. The same thing happened to Yelp. One plausible reason could be that this news has an important signaling effect – that the company might have crossed its initial investment phase, that it might now break even, or that it might catapult into a trajectory where it can reap winner-takes-all rewards. This conjecture challenges our overall argument that earnings have no information; another challenge could be that initial losses of digital firms convey risks involved in purchasing their stocks.

As balance sheets increasingly fail to reflect the value of the company’s resources and the income statements increasingly fail to capture the value created by the company, CEOs are now wondering what to do. They often ask us: What does preparing and auditing accrual-based financial statements achieve? Wouldn’t digital companies be better off by simply reporting a summary of their cash transactions? What can digital companies do to enhance the informativeness of their financial statements?

The answers are not yet clear. It is unlikely that accounting standards will change in the near future to allow digital companies to capitalize their intangible investments. (And even if digital firms capitalized their intangibles, the recalculated profits or assets would come nowhere close to justifying their current market values.) But there are things companies can do to convey their real worth to investors. Our work has found that investors look for certain cues about the success of a company’s business model, such as acquisition of major customers, introduction of new products and services, technology, marketing, and distribution alliances, new subscriber counts, revenue per subscriber numbers, customer dropouts, and geographical distribution of customers. Companies can disclose these items in the Management discussion and analysis section of their annual report. (For example, see Item 7 of Facebook’s annual report.)

Any significant, value-relevant development must be immediately disclosed rather than waiting for the annual report. We have demonstrated in other research that disclosures on network advantages, such as web traffic and strategic alliances, are considered highly value-relevant by investors. When combined with these nonfinancial indicators, financial performance measures become more value relevant. In addition, companies can provide detailed information on intangible investments made by the company – even if that information is not vetted by the auditors – by reporting these investments in three categories: customer relationship and marketing, information technology and databases, and talent acquisition and training.

To summarize all this, as firms become more digital and spend more on intangible investments, and as digital companies come to represent the new face of corporate America, they will also have to dramatically alter the manner and ways by which they convey their value to outside investors.

26 Feb 16:52

How B2B Marketers Can Prove Their Effectiveness to the C-Suite

by Wayne St. Amand

Free-Photos / Pixabay

Business-to-business (B2B) marketers are under constant pressure to prove the impact of their investments to the C-Suite. When an organization’s sales are slumping and spending needs to be cut, marketing has historically been an easy target. But in more recent times, cuts to the marketing department have become a harder decision to make – especially when marketing and advertising efforts can be directly tied to business results and, more specifically, sales success and profitability. The more that marketers can prove that their efforts are producing desired business outcomes, the harder it is for their budgets to be cut and difficult personnel decisions to be made.

With the advent of digital, there’s ample technology at marketers’ fingertips that enable them to linearly measure their contributions to business success. Rising consumer expectations are causing marketers to rethink traditional approaches to marketing and advertising, and technology can be leveraged to navigate those expectations. As empowered B2B customers have brought their consumer buying behaviors into the business world, it’s also become increasingly important for marketing to work closely with sales to understand their needs and preferences. Those who aren’t using technology or working with sales to better engage and convert new customers are behind the times – and at greater risk for old school cut backs.

So, how can B2B marketers show the C-Suite that their efforts are aiding in the organization’s success? They need to prove they are contributing to the top and bottom lines.

The Top-Line: Working Closely with Sales

An organization’s top line is all about growth, both in terms of revenue as well as in net new customers. In order to produce top-line growth, B2B marketers must have a strong relationship with the sales team.

Most marketers tend to think in terms of features and benefits, but buyers think in terms of capabilities. The better a marketer understands prospective customers, their industry, and the challenges they face, the better they can communicate with them in meaningful ways. Working closely with sales helps marketers determine what drives new customer wins as well as what deters them. Focus groups and social listening can supplement sales learnings with deeper insight into what customers and prospects want.

Leveraging this insight, marketers can equip the sales team with the tools and resources that make them more efficient, and ultimately improve sales execution and revenue. Tailored sales enablement tools, such as case studies, videos, whitepapers and more, provide the sales team with the collateral and content they need to facilitate the buyer’s journey. It also drives more qualified opportunities that improve their productivity and closing ratio.

The Bottom-Line: Leverage People-Based Martech/Adtech to Be Effective

While the top line is all about growth, an organization’s bottom line is about profitability and centers around creating efficiencies. Marketers can ensure bottom-line success by creating effective and efficient marketing and advertising programs with a high return on ad spend (ROAS), but this can be difficult without the aid of martech/adtech.

Research shows that 56% of consumers feel more loyal to brands who “get” them and show a deep understanding of their priorities and preferences. Insights from the sales team can help inform marketing strategy, but marketers can’t curate the right experiences for the right audiences if they can’t measure the influence of each touchpoint along the path to conversion, or understand which creative messages, offers, content, and other tactics drive the best results.

Technology that enables marketers to target, measure and optimize their efforts by audience is the heart of creating better experiences, and a better return. With a holistic, people-based view of the consumer journey and insight into the channels and tactics that influence their desired audience, marketers can orchestrate better experiences and optimize their budgets to drive greater efficiencies and bottom-line business results.

Fusing the Top and Bottom Line to Demonstrate Value

To truly showcase value, marketers must create an attractive bottom line while helping to drive a more substantial top line. Success requires a close relationship with sales and the help of technology. The blending of these two elements is what leads to efficient growth, driving B2B marketers’ success and enabling them to prove their true value to the entire C-Suite.

26 Feb 16:45

Drama-Free Artificial Intelligence

by Mic Locker and Jeff Loucks

Depending on who’s listening, the current discussion involving the growing role of Artificial Intelligence in business inspires a range of dramatically divergent emotions. There’s often fear, because of what some believe to be AI’s vaguely sci-fi vibe and dystopian possibilities. Among business people, there is also confusion, on account of the inability of most laypeople to separate AI hype from AI fact. Apprehension also looms large, usually from managers who sense that a great wave of technology disruption is about to hit them, but who feel utterly unprepared for it.  

But from our experience with Fortune 500 companies, we’ve come to believe that the proper response by business leaders to AI should be more benign: appreciation. Whatever anxieties it might produce, the fact is that AI is ready today to bring a trio of new efficiencies to the enterprise. Specifically, scores of companies have learned how AI technologies can transform how they process transactions, how they deal with data and how they interact with customers.

Better still, they have been able to take advantage of this AI triad without turning themselves into an Internet Giant and hiring huge new teams of hard-to-find, and not to mention expensive, data scientists. AI products are available now in nearly turnkey form from a growing list of enterprise vendors. True, you and your IT staff will need to do a certain amount of homework to be able to evaluate vendors, and to make sure product implementations map on to your precise business needs. But doing so isn’t a heavy lift, and the effort will likely be rewarded by the new efficiencies AI makes possible.

Companies are benefiting from AI right now, in ways that are making a difference on both the top and bottom line.

“Robotic and Cognitive Automation” is the name we at Deloitte give to AI’s ability to automate a huge swath of work that formerly required hands-on attention from human beings. The most popular form of R&CA involves gathering data from disparate sources and bringing them together in a single document. An invoice, for example, usually cites a number of sources, each of which stores relevant information in slightly different formats. An R&CA system has the intelligence necessary to transcend the usual literal-mindedness of computer systems, and process the information it needs despite the fact that it might have different representations in different places.

As AI techniques have become more robust in recent years, so too have the capabilities of R&CA packages. Now, instead of simply pulling spreadsheet-type data from sundry sources, they can process whole passages of text. Not as well as a human being can, for sure, but enough to get a general sense of the topics that are being covered. As a result, there are now R&CA systems that can “read” through emails and flag those that might be relevant to a particular issue. Such systems are now commonly found, for example, at large law practices, which use them to search through huge email libraries to discover which materials might need to be produced in connection with a particular bit of litigation. This is the sort of routine work that previously required paralegals.

Another cluster of AI applications involves the ability to make better use of a company’s data; these go by the name of “Cognitive Insights.” These tools allow companies to manage the flood of information they collect every day, from business reporting tools to social media accounts. More importantly, it gives businesses the ability to use that information to generate real-time insights and actions.

Consider just one area in which these new AI capabilities can be useful: digital marketing. Staffers running email campaigns can now improve click-through rates by using their AI-acquired knowledge of each customer’s personality to determine which words or phrases in the subject line might be more likely to get the person to read the email. Small changes can make a big difference; reports of double-digit increases in opened emails are common with AI.

Finally, AI is fundamentally changing the way companies work with their customers. This is occurring everywhere, but is most common with interactions with millennials. This cohort grew up with texting on their mobile phones, and is often more comfortable interacting with an app than with a human being.

As a result, millennials are extremely receptive to a new breed of automated customer service applications that AI is making possible. (These are vastly superior to the rudimentary “chatbots” that some companies used in the early days of the Web.) With advances in the AI field known as Natural Language Processing, computers are now able to deal with the sorts of real-world questions that customers are likely to ask, such as “Why is this charge on my credit card statement?” Deploying computers for these types of routine inquiries allow companies to deliver a uniform, high-quality customer experience while simultaneously improving the value of your brand.

You’ve probably noticed that while AI is often described as the equivalent of “thinking machines,” all of the tasks described above are relatively discrete and well-defined. That’s because for all the progress that’s been made in AI, the technology that still doesn’t come close to being able to match human intelligence. AI products perform specific tasks just fine, but don’t expect them (yet) to handle everyday human skills like professional judgment and common sense.

What’s more, AI can’t be used to paper over inefficiencies in a business, whether they be strategic or operational. If the processes you’re using AI for aren’t fundamentally sound to begin with, the new technology won’t be of any help, and may exacerbate problems by hiding them behind added layers of software. You’ll need to use some old-fashioned intelligence to take a good, hard look at your organization before trying to take advantage of the new, artificial variety. It will, though, be well worth the effort.

Jeff Loucks is the executive director of the Deloitte Center for Technology, Media and Telecommunications. In his role, he conducts research and writes on topics that help companies capitalize on technological change. An award-winning thought leader in digital business model transformation, Jeff is especially interested in the strategies organizations use to adapt to accelerating change. Jeff’s academic background complements his technology expertise. Jeff has a Bachelor of Arts in political science from The Ohio State University, and a Master of Arts and PhD in political science from the University of Toronto.

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Mic Locker is a director with Deloitte Consulting LLP and leader of its Enterprise Model Design practice. With more than 15 years of consulting experience, and more than three years of operations experience, she specializes in leading organizations through transformational changes ranging from business model redesign and capability alignment, process reinvention, operational cost reduction, and new business/product launches.

26 Feb 16:45

The Myth of Growth Hacking

by Anthony Iannarino

The idea behind growth hacking is speed to results and lower costs of client acquisition. There is nothing wrong with these goals as stated, but there is also nothing new here, with the exception of the strong desire to move to more transactional models. And here is why the idea of “hacking,” or shortcuts to producing results, runs face first into reality.

But first, a word of explanation. If your business is transactional, by all means, transact, and transact like the devil. If, however, your business is more relational, more strategic, and one in which you are required to create greater value, the idea of shortcuts that speed things up and make them cheaper are more likely to work against you.

The growth of a business comes in one of three ways. The first way to increase your revenue is to raise your prices. More revenue from every sale will most assuredly increase the size of your business. The second way to grow your business is to sell more to your existing clients. Increased wallet share, all things being equal, and accounting for churn, your business will become larger. The third and final growth strategy is to acquire more clients.

The idea of optimizing growth by tweaking marketing isn’t a new idea. It’s an old idea applied to new mediums. The strong desire to focus on the transactional interactions one has with prospective clients using email and social channels trades a focus on efficiency over a focus on effectiveness, which is to trade more for better. And when it comes to client acquisition specifically, better is almost always better than more (minus the circumstances where one is guilty of being lazy and having too little activity).

If you are going to iterate, tweak things, and improve the speed of your growth in a more complex, business-to-business sale, you are going to want to look at the only three ways to grow a business and work backward from there.

The post The Myth of Growth Hacking appeared first on The Sales Blog.

26 Feb 16:45

The Non-Ideal Customer Profile: How knowing who not to sell to can save your company

by steli@close.io (Steli Efti)
McLovin-min.jpg

Picture this: You’re the founder of an early stage SaaS company. You’ve been prospecting and going after your first few clients, when all of a sudden, a massive enterprise company starts waving cash in front of you. They found you and they want to buy what you’re selling.

But wait. You didn’t build your tools for these kinds of companies. Hell, you’ve never even sold to an enterprise client before. But the money’s just sitting there, waiting for you to reach out and grab it.

So, what do you do?

If you’re like most founders, you’re going to take the money. The problem is, this is one of the biggest mistakes you can ever make.

Taking money from the wrong clients is a death sentence for your company. And I should know.

Want more advice on growing your B2B SaaS? Get a free copy of my book "From 0 to 1,000 Customers & Beyond", which I wrote together with my friend Hiten Shah, Cofounder of CrazyEgg, KISSmetrics, Quicksprout and ProductHabits.

How selling to Google and Oracle almost killed my startup

Back in 2007, a senior manager at Google reached out about a startup I was working on. Even though we knew our product wasn’t built for enterprise clients, the money was just too tempting. So we took it. And within a few weeks, we were running trials with not just Google, but Oracle and Intuit as well.

I thought I’d hit the goldmine. Not only were we selling to some of the world’s biggest companies, but they seemed like easy customers. They kept telling me they didn’t need any special treatment or changes to the product.

The thing is, they were all lying.

Fast forward a year and all the deals had fallen flat. Our product hadn’t been built for clients that big, and of course they had needs we couldn’t meet. We’d sold to our non-ideal customer, and it almost killed us.

You need to chase the smart money. Not just the most money.

Especially in the early days, turning away sales is difficult. But no amount of cash can make up for selling to the wrong customers.

If you get someone to purchase your product who isn’t your ideal customer—meaning they won’t get value or see success from using it—they’re going to destroy your business. They’re going to:

  • Create an insane amount of support needs and noise
  • Bombard you with feature requests and try to influence your product roadmap in a direction you shouldn’t take
  • Complain and add a lot of negativity to your culture and team

Inevitably, they’re going to churn. And worst of all, they’re not going to go quietly. They’re going to tweet about you, write a blog post about their bad experience, and tell anyone who will listen how terrible your product is.

I feel like I need to say it again before we move on: Taking money from the wrong customer can kill your company and your brand.

How to define exactly who your non-ideal customers are

To understand who your non-ideal customers are, you need to be super clear on all three types of customers your business is going to come across:

  1. Ideal customers: Customers you built your product for and know intimately
  2. Secondary customers: Customers who you’ll sell to and make a bit of money, but you aren’t really focused on
  3. Non-ideal customers: Customers you don’t want and have to actively stop from buying your solution

At Close.io, we started out knowing we were committed to SMBs—the small and medium businesses. They were our ideal customers and we knew they’d get huge value and see massive success from using us.

Then, there were our secondary customers: freelancers and independent users. We hadn’t built our tool directly for them, but we wouldn’t stop or prevent them if they really wanted to buy.

Lastly, there were our non-ideal customers: enterprise companies and government agencies. We hadn’t built our tools for them and their needs and we knew they wouldn’t see success using us.

No matter how much money they waved in our faces, we knew we had to tell them no. We didn’t build our tools for you and we don’t want your money. If you still want to purchase, you’re going to be treated like an SMB and that’s going to be a very bad experience for you.

Use this information to create a Non-Ideal Customer Profile (NICP) for your entire team

Once you know who your non-ideal customer is, you need to make sure your entire team knows them too. Just like you should have a one-page summary that spells out who your ideal customer is, do the same thing with your non-ideal customers.

This summary can be as simple as you want, as long as it says:

“Here is the type of customer we don’t want to sell to. They’re not ideal for our business and we can’t deliver value to them. In every possible situation, we should turn them away.”

If you can create that level of clarity in your team—especially sales and marketing—they're going to be laser focused and be able to move much faster and see bigger results.

Turning down your NICPs creates powerful referrals

What? How does turning down customers bring in more customers?

Well, there’s a beautiful dynamic that happens when you tell a prospect, “based on what you’re told me, this is not the right solution for you.”

Potential customers aren’t used to hearing no. They’re going to fight you on it and try to get you to change your mind. But you’re not going to.

Because when you’re authentic and transparent like this, people will remember you forever.

They’re going to tell other people about you. Not only that, but they’re going to tell the right people about you. When you told them they weren’t your ideal customer, you were also telling them exactly who your ideal customer is. And because you built that trust by being transparent and open, they’re going to refer the right people your way any chance they can.

Marketing against your NICP keeps them from adding noise to your pipeline

When you know who your non-ideal customer is, you can also actively tell them in your marketing “this isn’t for you.” You can disqualify them before they even send you a message and muddy up your pipeline.

Here’s an example. Let’s say we’re writing an ad for Close.io. Instead of saying:

“The best inside sales CRM in the world.” (Which would potentially bring in a huge range of prospects).

We could say:

“The best inside sales CRM for SMBs.”

All of a sudden, we’re telling enterprise and larger companies “Don’t click here.” We’re cleaning out the noise.

And what if we’re getting clients without enough budget or who want a free tool? We could switch our ad to:

“The best inside sales CRM. Starting at $65/month.

Now, those people looking for a free tool aren’t going to click. They know it’s not for them.

All these negative qualifiers prevent non-ideal customers from coming through your funnel and creating noise. But you can’t do this unless you know exactly who those customers are.

But Steli, what if I don’t know who my ideal and non-ideal customers are yet?

If you’re just starting out, you might not know who your ideal customer is. Or maybe you’re seeing a lot of demand from customers you didn’t expect. This is fine. Sales is all about listening and learning.

Look at the prospects you have coming in and start asking:

  • Why is this organization looking at us?
  • How did they even find us?
  • What are their alternatives?
  • What is the pain point they have that is so big that they searched a tool like ours out?
  • How much budget do they have?
  • What is their decision-making process?

If you ask these questions to 20–30 people and find a pattern, now you know you’ve got an opportunity to chase.

Never sell in a knee-jerk reaction. Instead, take your time, and listen and learn from your non-ideal customers. Serving the right customers in the best way it will be the difference between moving fast towards success and zig-zagging to nowhere.

Tell me your NICP stories

Have you had bad customers almost crush your business? Let me know what happened and how you dealt with your non-ideal customers in the comments. 

Want more advice on getting more & better customers? Grab a free copy of "From 0 to 1,000+ Customers & Beyond", a book I co-authored with Hiten Shah.

Download our Customer Aquisition Book

26 Feb 16:44

Time Management vs. Attention Management: What’s the Difference?

by Rick Goodman

geralt / Pixabay

When you think about it, “time management” is sort of an odd phrase. Time always marches forward, and we all have the same number of hours in each day. You can control how you use those hours, but ultimately, time isn’t something we can truly harness.

That’s why a number of leaders and productivity experts have shifted their focus to a new concept—attention management. But what’s the difference between these two concepts, and how might attention management impact your own work life?

What is Time Management?

First, a couple of definitions are in order.

When we talk about time management, we’re talking about your ability to plan out your day, your week, and your month, scheduling your time, prioritizing your responsibilities, and being as productive as possible. Again, you can’t actually create more time for yourself; time management merely seeks to be a responsible steward of the time you’ve been given.

What is Attention Management?

Attention management, on the other hand, is all about examining the amount of attention you give to certain tasks or concerns. The point of attention management is to ensure that you’re focusing on the things that really matter—things that are urgent, important, or ideally both—without being distracted by things of less relevance.

It’s no great surprise that attention management has become so popular in recent years. After all, its emphasis is on avoiding distraction—and we live in an era where distractions are abundant! Email, Twitter, Facebook, breaking news headlines—they’re all there, all the time, fighting for our attention and keeping us from the tasks that matter most. Attention management seeks to put them in their place.

Why Does Attention Management Matter?

If you’ve ever met anyone who complains about not having enough hours in the day, yet also finds the time to update Facebook seven times in the span of an afternoon, well, then you see why attention management can be so beneficial—and how it provides an alternative view of time management. It effectively redeems your time by freeing it from the things that don’t offer real value.

Attention management comes with some basic tenets that you can implement today:

  • Spend some device-free time at the start of each day.
  • Always focus on the highest value activities first.
  • Avoid multi-tasking and task-switching; commit to a project, and finish it.
  • Take some down time for yourself!
26 Feb 16:44

Bank branches remain relevant despite closures

by Rachel Green

major us bank branch networks

This story was delivered to BI Intelligence "Payments Briefing" subscribers hours before appearing on Business Insider. To be the first to know, please click here.

Despite continuous new innovations in digital banking technology, 60% of US consumers would still prefer to open a new checking account at a bank branch, rather than digitally, according to a study by consultancy firm Novantas, reported on by Reuters

That consumer preference comes from the ability to see an employee about any issues that might arise when opening an account, which isn’t possible with digital banking. 

This study comes during a time when branch closures are at an all-time high. More than 1,700 bank branches in the US closed in the 12 months ending in June 2017, demonstrating the biggest annual decline on record. Those firms are able to maintain their deposits by simultaneously closing branches and investing in digital channels. Wells Fargo, which used to operate the largest branch network in the US, began shuttering branches in 2016 and plans to close 800 more by 2020, for example.

But this study demonstrates that consumers aren't ready to let go of bank branches and turn to digital for every banking function just yet. 

  • Banks shouldn't underestimate the value of branches. Half of the consumers surveyed feel that online-only banks are ‘less legitimate’ than those with branches. So it's important for firms to find ways to maintain their branch networks, even in spite of cost-related challenges. JPMorgan Chase could be doing this the old-fashioned way, with plans to build 400 new branches as part of a five-year, $20 billion investment plan. But there are also opportunities for innovation, like the humanless hybrid branches that Bank of America is testing to continue to engage these consumers without spending as much. The study indicates that branches are a key onboarding tool, so finding ways to keep branch numbers high enough to satisfy consumers could be a major acquisition win for banks. 
  • And digital-only banks need to know which consumers to target in order to effectively coexist with legacy banks. Digital-only banks could be at risk here, so they should focus on customer segments that are more inclined to use online-only banks. This could include young, digital-savvy customers or higher income consumers who are seeking the highest deposit rates for secondary accounts, rather than people setting up primary accounts for daily use. These banks should continue to thrive as the number of younger customers who regularly rely on digital banking continues to grow. But until more young people start using banking functions, it'll be important for these players to build up legitimacy to attract the right customer types. 

Dan Van Dyke, senior research analyst for BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service has written a detailed report that explores the digital payments ecosystem today, its growth drivers, and where the industry is headed. The report also: 

  • Traces the path of an in-store card payment from processing to settlement across the key stakeholders.  
  • Forecasts growth and defines drivers for key digital payment types through 2021.
  • Highlights five trends that are changing payments, looking at how disparate factors, such as surprise elections and fraud surges, are sparking change across the ecosystem.

Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:

  1. Subscribe to an All-Access pass to BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and over 100 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn More Now
  2. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. >> Purchase & Download Now

Join the conversation about this story »

26 Feb 16:43

Generating Real Estate Leads in 2022: 27 Tried and True Methods

by Meg Prater

Realtors need to maintain a healthy pipeline of leads. When interest rates are low and temperatures are beautiful, you might be flooded with clients. But there’s always a winter lull or market fluctuation around the bend to stop your momentum and, in turn, your commission checks.

Prepare for the unpredictable nature of real estate with an arsenal of fresh lead-gathering tactics. Here are some real estate lead generation ideas for thinking outside the mass mailer and ahead of the curve.

Free Resource: Real Estate Strategy Template

1. Build partnerships.

Network with other local businesses to form mutually beneficial partnerships. Try strategies like co-hosting happy hours, sending gifts to clients or leads, and forming local alliances. Here are a few industries where real estate agents can form productive partnerships:

  • Insurance companies - Homeowners insurance is a must, but some homebuyers are also looking to turn their new property into rentals, flip-homes, or businesses. Having the right insurance is key.
  • Personal bankers - A home is the largest financial investment many of us will ever make. Having a personal banker to run numbers by can be a huge help for buyers.
  • Commercial lenders - Loan officers are an integral part of the home buying process, but most buyers don't have one in their back pocket.
  • Bakeries - Whether you're sending pies to former clients to keep your real estate firm top of mind or ordering treats to make your open house extra sweet, connecting with a bakery is never a bad idea for a real estate agent — or anyone, for that matter.
  • Landscapers - There's an old adage in cooking that says, "The eye eats first." A similar principle applies to real estate. Landscaping is often the first impression potential buyers have of a home. Encourage your sellers to have their homes professionally landscaped to set them apart from the crowd.
  • Cleaning services - No buyer wants to enter a home that looks a little grimy around the edges. Partner with cleaning services to offer discounted house cleanings to your clients.
  • Staging experts - Very few of us have HGTV-worthy show homes, but an aspirational home is a home that sells. Build partnerships with local stagers to get your clients' houses under contract faster.
  • Title companies - A less glamorous but no less important partnership is the one you'll have with local title companies. Have a few go-to companies to recommend to your clients.

One way or another, find and connect with businesses with clientele relevant to your goals and preferences — and once you establish these partnerships, make sure to contribute your fair share. All parties involved stand to gain a lot from these kinds of relationships.

2. Throw a housewarming party

Did a well-connected client just move into their new home? Offer to cater their housewarming party, spring for an open bar, pay for the appetizers, or deck the place out with gorgeous flowers — and make sure to stop by to mingle. A little facetime can go a long way when leveraging this method.

It’s the perfect place to meet prospects in similar life stages who might be impressed by the home you’ve helped their friends buy.

Did they invite the new neighbors? Now’s the time to ask if they’ve considered selling. Neighborhood sales usually generate fresh homeowner interest, and a housewarming party can turn cold leads to hot.

3. Become a restaurant regular.

Meeting clients at a restaurant or local coffee shop to discuss terms? Consistently schedule these kinds of meetings at the same restaurant.

You’ll build clout with the wait staff, gain access to the best tables, and appear popular and plugged into your community. You might even get to know the other regulars — making you the perfect person for them to contact when they’re ready to buy.

4. Send a handwritten note.

Pick up a pen, paper, and an actual stamp — then, send a note to a past or present client. Thank them for choosing you as their realtor, and remind them you’re available to answer questions, suggest a reliable moving company, or send important documents for tax season.

A handwritten note goes a long way to express your appreciation. And it keeps you from becoming yet another unread subject line in your clients’ inbox. Feeling confident? Pick up the phone a few days later and ask for a referral.

5. Leverage the internet to advertise.

Invest in paid online advertising. Websites like Zillow offer advertising options for realtors — a smart move since the share of home buyers who used the internet to search for a home increased to an all-time high of 97% in 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Here are some of the better ways to market yourself as a real estate agent:

  • Run Facebook ads
  • Run LinkedIn ads
  • Answer real estate questions on Quora
  • Run Google ads
  • Blog for local or national real estate websites

Here's what an effective Facebook ad might look like.how to generate real estate leads via Facebook ads

Image Source: Zillow

6. Advertise through more traditional media.

Sometimes, the best avenues to get your brand out and attract new clients are a little more old-school. Media like billboards and print ads can be excellent resources to grab prospective clients' attention and keep your services top-of-mind when they're looking for their next real estate agent. And don't be reluctant to get creative with your advertising — a little humor or eye-popping visuals can help you stand out.

how to generate real estate leads via traditional advertising

Image Source: Fit Small Business

7. Build your own website.

Your brokerage will likely give you a page on their website, but it’s important to create your own web presence. This allows you to build a personal brand, showcase your specialties, and share reviews from satisfied clients. It also ensures you have a cohesive presence in the local market — even if you switch brokerages.

Pro-Tip: Don’t forget to optimize your site. Write blog posts tackling common questions or challenges clients confront during the buying process. Create and share helpful how-to videos. And capture email addresses by having a newsletter signup.

8. Develop a niche.

Do you specialize in a certain neighborhood, historic homes, or helping clients find their perfect apartment? Lean into it! Find your niche and become an expert. This allows you to focus your marketing efforts on a specific group and develop a reputation as the go-to realtor for these buyers and sellers.

Here are a few common real estate niches:

  • Historic homes
  • Mid-century modern homes
  • Luxury homes
  • Neighborhoods
  • Student rentals
  • School district
  • City or town
  • First-time homebuyers
  • Condominiums or apartments
  • Distressed properties
  • Senior homes
  • Vacation homes
  • Land
  • Commercial real estate
  • Industrial real estate
  • Property rights
  • For Sale By Owner (FSBO) properties

You don't have to be an expert immediately. Decide which niche interests you and immerse yourself in it. For instance, if you want to develop a niche in helping seniors find their perfect retirement homes, learn what their needs are, research local senior centers and senior-friendly neighborhoods, and work with financial planners who understand the unique home buying requirements of the seniors in your area.

9. Use "Coming Soon" signs.

"Coming Soon" and "Sold" signs are a tried-and-true way to generate interest in your properties and expertise. "Coming Soon" signs build anticipation before a home even hits the market.

And "Sold" signs are effective at gathering leads from buyers who missed out on a property — and want you to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

10. Head to an open house.

Not hitting up open houses to harvest new leads? You’re missing out. Many buyers (or soon-to-be buyers) drop in without having an agent. It’s the perfect time to introduce yourself and offer to help them navigate the market.

Pro-Tip: If you decide to go this road, don't be too pushy or aggressive. Shameless self-promotion at someone else's open house is never a good look.

11. Generate leads on LinkedIn.

Join LinkedIn groups you know your target audience frequents. That could be something like a group for local real estate investors or one for first-time homebuyers. Find the groups your buyers are spending time in, and contribute to the conversation before making a professional pitch.

Once you’ve built rapport, follow up with interested prospects, and offer to discuss their questions further on a call.

Pro-Tip: If you’re posting in a real estate investment group, consider sharing a blog article about up-and-coming neighborhoods in your city. If someone in your first-time homebuyers group asks a question about interest rates, provide a knowledgeable answer in the comments.

12. Organize educational events.

Host educational events in your community. By teaching local consumers about buying their first home, what the market’s like now, or what to look for in a rental property, you’ll build your personal brand and drum up new business at the same time.

Pro-Tip: Try partnering with local businesses to host home buying seminars over lunch. Or co-hosting events with mortgage lenders to broaden your base and increase lead potential.

13. Don’t neglect leads.

Did you show a prospect three properties before they realized they weren't ready to buy? Don’t throw their number away. Send them postcards sharing developments in the market, keep them on your email list, and leave the occasional voicemail reminder you’d love to help them find that perfect home when they're ready.

Sales pro Jeff Hoffman offers great tips for salespeople trying to bring stalled deals back from the dead. His biggest piece of advice? Don't repeat your close. "If the prospect gave you a soft yes — and then nothing — or a firm no, never follow up with the same close. Your next request should be different."

So, instead of following up with your stalled buyer a few months down the line with a "Ready to buy yet?" try asking, "Would you be interested in joining our seminar for first-time homebuyers?

This is an easier close and will keep your prospect from feeling cornered or pressured.

14. Target "For Sale by Owner" listings.

According to the National Association of Realtors, only 3% of FSBO listings sell within the desired time — and a mere 18% reported receiving the right price. Find these listings on Craigslist or other real estate sites, and offer to help them get the most from their property listing.

Share a blog post or a few bulleted stats about why working with an agent is beneficial to the seller, and ask if they’d be interested in learning more.

15. Reach out to expired listings.

Pull lists of expired listings from the MLS. Be sensitive to the fact these sellers are likely frustrated with their current realtor, discouraged they haven’t sold their home, and under a lot of stress.

Open the conversation by explaining you understand their frustrations, and share a few ways you’d do things differently to sell their home fast.

16. Generate referrals from satisfied clients.

Positive word of mouth is a major plus for virtually all kind of sales efforts — and real estate sales are no exception. It's estimated that 40% of buyers used an agent who was referred to them by a friend, neighbor, or relative. And 91% of buyers would use their agent again or recommend them to others.

Your previous and existing clients can be excellent lead-generation resources. That's why it serves you to remain in contact with them and keep yourself top-of-mind — and when you're working with them, give it your all.

Make sure you're providing them with thorough attention and exemplary service. If you can build trust and develop a productive relationship with your clients, you'll be in a solid position to capitalize on their referral potential.

17. Work divorce leads.

Divorce leads are as potentially productive as they are uncomfortable to think about. You'll be hard-pressed to find leads with more urgency behind them — a court order to sell your home tends to have that effect.

Divorced leads require some finesse and compassion. As you can imagine, these kinds of clients probably aren't too thrilled about being in the position they're in. But if you can find and appeal to them, you'll set yourself up with a base of extremely motivated clients.

Pro-Tip: Consider getting certified as a Real Estate Collaboration Specialist - Divorce (RCS-D) if you want to make the most of this method.

18. Leverage predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics — a technique that considers both real-time and historical data to predict future outcomes — can be leveraged to help generate real estate leads. Different AI programs allow you to gather and break down relevant data points, helping you pinpoint houses that are likely to be sold in your area. With that insight informing your efforts, you can reach out to prospective sellers and generate quality leads.

19. Bolster your social media presence.

As a real estate agent, you are your brand. And as with any other brand nowadays, you need a sound social media presence if you want to stay afloat. Make sure you have profiles across multiple platforms, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — anywhere you can connect with buyers and sellers.

All of these applications give you space to promote yourself and your listings. They give prospects a concrete reference point where they can get a sense of who you are and what you have to offer. They also help you project legitimacy and add a human element to your professional persona.

But the value of these platforms extends beyond conventional promotion. We touched on the merit of leveraging forums like LinkedIn groups to reach prospects earlier in this article — that also applies to Facebook groups, Twitter threads, and Instagram comment sections. You can use these avenues to establish yourself as a knowledgeable, helpful, consultative resource for prospects and generate leads.

20. Dig for especially old expired listings.

We talked about reaching out to expired listings earlier on in this article, but this point goes a little deeper. Sometimes, recently expired listings might not be sufficient when trying to generate leads — you might find some extra value by looking way back.

Several realtors look for newly expired listings, but very few think to check in with sellers whose listings went dark over a year ago without relisting. These potential clients might have run into issues like inopportune timing or relationships with ineffective realtors — and just because they were discouraged doesn't mean they can't be persuaded to sell.

21. Network at non-real estate events.

As you can probably assume, real estate events are going to be full of real estate professionals — people who do what you do, all looking for vying for attention from the same potential clients. They don't give you much space to stand out.

That's why non-real estate events present unique opportunities for you to connect with prospects without being surrounded by your competition. Local community get-togethers and recreational meet-ups offer you casual forums where you can connect with potential clients.

Pro-Tip: Avoid being too aggressive or salesy if you go this road — people don't go to these events to meet real estate agents. Try to keep your interactions as organic as possible.

22. Try going door-to-door.

Sometimes, going back to basics is your best option. Door-to-door sales is one of the most fundamental, effective ways to connect with prospects in any context — and real estate is no exception.

This strategy can be a little imposing for some, but if you're willing to put your head down and stomach some face-to-face rejection, you can put yourself in a solid position to generate some high-quality leads.

23. Join your local chamber of commerce.

Your local chamber of commerce can provide several valuable resources and opportunities for generating leads. Having your brand listed in newsletters and websites offers some valuable exposure and projects legitimacy to prospective clients. It also gives you a network of solid business connections you can lean on to help put you in touch with prospects.

24. Use Instagram stories.

One of the better ways to spice up your social media presence, capture potential clients' attention, and generate leads for your real estate business is by running Instagram stories. Posting something like a quick tour of a listing or images of interesting properties can be an excellent way to showcase your portfolio and drive quick engagement on your profile.

25. Cold call.

Sometimes, rolling up your sleeves and taking a tried-and-true approach to lead generation is your best bet. Sure, cold calling is inherently uncomfortable and generally low-converting — but it's also one of the better ways to cover a lot of ground, connect with potential clients, and ultimately generate leads.

26. Contribute to industry publications.

Potential clients want their agents to be knowledgeable and competent. They want someone who understands the ins and outs of real estate. Contributing to industry publications, like magazines or blogs, is one of the better ways to demonstrate that kind of expertise.

If you can connect with reputable publishers and put thoughtful content together, you can establish yourself as an authority in your space and gain some valuable exposure. With that kind of momentum, the leads are bound to follow.

27. Connect with estate liquidators.

Estate liquidators can be valuable resources for real estate lead generation. These professionals have consistent intel on a steady stream of sellers — and if you can establish a productive relationship with them, you can tap into that base and generate quality leads.

Leads are the lifeblood of the real estate industry. Give these tactics a try and see how they benefit your business.

Editor's note: This post was originally published on April 26, 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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26 Feb 16:43

How B2B Salespeople Can Optimize Their LinkedIn Profile to Engage Buyers in 2019

by Alex Hisaka

Here at LinkedIn, we’re celebrating the holidays by bringing you 12 days of awesome sales content. Today, we're offering our tips for optimizing your LinkedIn profile for selling. Ready to gain maximum visibility and drive the most qualified traffic? Then read on! 

Spruce up your sales with 12 days of content: Day 2

In our ongoing quest for qualified leads, we search, research, size up, and scrutinize. We examine the digital clues at our disposal and then ask ourselves, is this prospect worth my time?

What we tend to overlook, is, B2B buyers do the exact same thing to us. They evaluate our credibility, experience, connectedness, approach, demeanor, and any other factor that helps them answer: Is this salesperson worth my time?

When buyers pull up your LinkedIn profile, one of two things will happen: They will gain confidence in you, or they won’t. This post contains advice on getting your LinkedIn profile to perform meaningful work, even when you’re not.

Ways to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile to Meet Your Sales Objectives

LinkedIn profile optimization boils down to a basic concept: Present the digital version of you that will be useful and meaningful to the buyer you hope to attract.

In the IDC white paper, Social Buying Meets Social Selling: How Trusted Networks Improve the Purchase Experience, analyst Kathleen Schaub notes that 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level executives use social media when making purchase decisions. They’re looking for ideas, answers, and a trusted partner to take them where they need to be. Will they find what they’re looking for in your profile?

How to Turn Your LinkedIn Profile into a Magnet for Buyers

Headline: A concise summary of who you help, and how can be much more powerful in this field than a simple job title. A well-crafted headline implies that you’ve taken time to make the rest of your profile more enjoyable, too.

Photo: Choose a photo that gives off a warm, genuine vibe. Shoot for approachable, but not too casual. We’re drawn to faces so be sure yours is in focus and in full view.

Contact Info: Check to see that all fields contain your current information. Pay close attention to spelling and number sequence to ensure inadvertent transposed numbers or misspellings don’t keep someone from getting in touch.

LinkedIn URL: A personalized URL is memorable, easily linkable, and will help distinguish you in search. Aim for your name, or a close variation with middle initial.

Connections: Your network reflects the quality of your professional relationships. Be thoughtful about making connections. The invitations you issue should convey your interest in connecting, and the value you intend to offer. Personalize each connection request by giving the recipient a compelling reason to accept. If you have trouble coming up with a compelling reason, it may be best to wait until you have one.

Summary:  Think about what information could be most influential in getting someone to read more. A brief, meaty data point or area of professional pride might entice someone to dive deeper into your profile. Concentrate on answering the question, what’s in it for my ideal buyer?

Articles & Activity: This section is a brief recap of your personal activity on LinkedIn. If you publish on the LinkedIn platform, post an update, or interact with the content of others, that activity will appear in the LinkedIn feeds of your connections. These actions can demonstrate how you conduct yourself, contribute to solving the problems of others, and how you introduce your own solution into discussions.

Rich Media Content: In-profile media gives a reader more context about your skills and experience. Be selective about what you post and check to see how the image renders to make sure you’re happy with it. Consider periodically rotating or refreshing rich media content to avoid looking stagnant.

Experience: The experience section resembles the layout of a resume. While it’s appropriate to list your title, company, and tenure, this area shouldn’t read like a list of your duties and responsibilities. Those items might interest a recruiter, but don’t hold value for buyers. Instead, emphasize the results you helped clients achieve and the methods you used to serve them. When you showcase client successes, the implication is you were instrumental to the process.

Honors and Awards: Think about how your achievements might be relevant to a prospective buyer. Personal honors are acceptable here, too. If you’re committed to a cause or organization, others may admire your other-centered spirit and deduce you’ll go the extra mile for them, too.

Publications: Does your company have a case study that highlights a satisfied client of yours? Do you maintain a blog? Showcase your critical thinking and writing skills in this section. As with all the areas of your profile, periodically check back to confirm all looks as you’d like it to. If you link to your blog, keep it current. Jill Rowley’s profile serves as an example of how to keep your profile fresh and compelling.

Education: List any degrees, as well as any coursework or certifications that demonstrate your qualifications and credentials.

Groups: Your participation in groups can be good way for a prospective buyer to learn about your offering and discover how you work with people. List the groups you’re a member of to make it easy for buyers to find you at your consultative and conversational best.

Recommendations: Third-party recommendations carry a lot of water with B2B buyers. A recommendation should come from someone who can directly speak to your characteristics and strengths. Ideally, they should also be able to mention specific benefits from their association with you, either in terms of a statistic, dollar figure, or achievement. Recommendations increase your credibility and are quick trust-builders, but you already knew that.

Your LinkedIn Profile is the Sales Tool That Works When You’re Not

As you conduct your due diligence, so will buyers. Take care to craft a LinkedIn profile that impresses the buyers you’d like to attract.

For more ways to accelerate your sales this year, download our latest eBook, Read Me If You Want to Create an Effective Sales Profile on LinkedIn.

26 Feb 16:43

ABM Key Marketing Metrics to Track at Every Stage of the Funnel

by kniemisto

The rate at which marketers have moved towards an account-based marketing (ABM) model is quite surprising. I remember when ABM was the ultimate buzz word at the Marketing Nation Summit a couple years ago. Many of us were wondering ‘Will this thing stick?’ or ‘Is this just a fad that will go away by next year?’ But it’s 2018 and ABM has become even more popular in the B2B world as marketers are seeing value in targeting accounts, not just leads. In fact, in recent research from SiriusDecisions, “93% of marketers consider account-based marketing (ABM) extremely important or very important to their overall organizational success.”

With any marketing strategy, the number one question you are going to be asked is what the performance of your campaign is. And for any marketer who has built an ABM strategy from the ground up, you know that it takes time for the programs to get up and running—let alone start showing ROI.


With any marketing strategy, the number one question you are going to be asked is what the performance of your campaign is. And for any marketer that has built an ABM strategy from the ground up, you know that it takes time for the…
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This is why you need to track different metrics at each stage of the funnel to start showing success—even if you’ve just started.

Here are some key marketing metrics I like to track at each stage of the funnel to measure or predict success.

Top-of-Funnel

Engagement by account: Tracking the rate at which leads within the accounts you are targeting are completing a specific action. This action could be coming to your website, opening your emails, engaging with your social posts, receiving and responding to direct mail, the list goes on. You’ll be able to identify which accounts may be closer to buying if they have increased engagement—or find the accounts that might not have any idea who your company is with little to no engagement—so you can tailor your marketing and messaging.

White space: Where are you lacking contact information or engagement within your accounts? Set a goal of how many relevant contacts you want within each account to start tracking this. Ultimately, your goal will depend on size of company and number of personas you are targeting. Being able to fill in the blanks of those key contacts within your buying committee will set your entire sales cycle up for success.

Middle-of-Funnel

Meetings within your accounts: Are your marketing campaigns creating enough engagement and interest within your top accounts where your sales team has productive meetings or engagements? At this stage, you’ll start measuring the success of your marketing campaigns by moving leads quickly to sales. You’ll also want to be measuring the quality based on how those meetings or engagements go—and if they move along to the next stage.

Bottom of Funnel

ASP: One of the main benefits of implementing an ABM strategy is a higher average selling point (ASP) because you are honing in on and providing a more personalized journey to higher-value deals. This is an excellent place to do a quick gut check on whether or not you’ve done a good job at choosing the right accounts to target with your marketing activities. In addition to ASP, you should see a higher close rate within ABM accounts. In the same recent SiriusDecisions report, “89% of respondents have increased their close rate using ABM, and one in four increased their closed deals by more than 50% for ABM accounts versus non-ABM accounts.”

Customer

Churn rate: If you are focusing your ABM strategy on your post-sale audience (which I totally recommend), an important metric to track is churn rate. How many of your target customers are churning? Is that at a slower rate than your baseline? It should be! As you all know, ABM is less about the number of accounts or leads you are reaching and more about the quality of the relationship you have with fewer accounts. You’ll generate a better understanding of your customers by creating a more meaningful relationship, thus decreasing churn rate.

On top of all of these funnel metrics, another important thing to measure is conversion rates. If you are targeting the right accounts (and the right person within that account), with the right content at the right time, you should see an accelerated journey through the funnel or buying journey. It’s important to set a baseline ahead of time so you can see this increase in velocity.

What are your key marketing metrics to track when running ABM campaigns? Comment below!

The post ABM Key Marketing Metrics to Track at Every Stage of the Funnel appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

26 Feb 16:43

How Organic and Paid Content Distribution Can Rejuvenate Your Reach

by Kelsey Meyer

How Organic and Paid Content Distribution Can Rejuvenate Your Reach

Does it ever feel like all of your time creating content amounts to simply shouting into the void? Gone are the days when simply writing and publishing an astounding article attracted thousands clamoring to read it. (But really, was that ever a thing?)

In the cold, harsh reality of a content marketer, it’s never enough to just create amazing content. You also have to get that amazing content into the hands of the right people, at the right time, in a resource-efficient way. This is why a content marketing distribution plan is such a central piece of your strategy.

Every Strategy Has Its Limits

Before going any further, let’s quickly break down the two most common strategies in a content distribution plan: organic and paid.

Organic distribution is any distribution you’re not paying for. In my experience, it often ranges from the organic reach of guest posting content in online publications to search engine marketing to the social shares of people who love your content and can’t wait to pass it along.

Organic strategies do have their limits, though. Organic reach on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram is getting tougher to achieve. Even if hundreds like and share your content, there’s still much more to be done to drive meaningful results.

Enter paid distribution. Like its organic counterpart, this strategy can include a lot of different tactics, but it frequently looks like Google AdWords spend and paid promotion on various social networks.

If organic distribution is the match that gets your content marketing fire going, paid distribution is the lighter fluid. And as with lighter fluid, you have to use it carefully. Without adequate direction or preparation, you could burn through your resources too quickly to keep the momentum going, and your whole strategy could suffer.

4 Steps to Building a Better Content Distribution Plan

Your content marketing program is only as valuable as its ability to influence positive action. Without a two-pronged distribution plan, your content is going to have a hard time reaching, let alone influencing, your audience. Here are four steps to building a distribution plan that works.

1. Know Your Audience Like the Back of Your Hand

It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to reach as many people as humanly possible. This is especially true when social shares or article views are such low-hanging fruit, and you’re looking for something to quickly demonstrate ROI.

But imagine you’re physically mailing your content to potential customers. Are you going to pat yourself on the back just for sending out 1,000 mailers? Of course not.

Instead, focus on your target audience and what you know about them to determine where you distribute your content. Answer questions like, “Who are my clients?” “How did they learn about my company?” “What content did they interact with, and where did they discover and consume it?”

It sounds simple, but it’s critical: Distribute your content where your audience is and where they want to engage with your brand. My team has found success promoting content on LinkedIn because our audience of B2B marketers spends time on the platform and enjoys consuming our content there. Social media platforms are typically great about helping you dig deep into demographic data and target specific personas.

Distribution is about more than just reaching the right audience, though—it’s about reaching the right audience at the right time. For example, to get in front of our audience when they’re in the decision-making stage of their journey, we target specific keywords on AdWords.

Before you take another step in your plan, ensure you know exactly who your audience is, where they live online, and what they need to make their decisions.

2. Use Organic Distribution as a Litmus Test for Your Paid Promotion

Don’t jump headfirst into spending a ton of money on distributing or promoting every piece of content. For one thing, that approach will drain your budget in no time, and for another, it’s not effective.

Instead, distribute your content organically first. Track its performance for a couple of weeks, and then put some spend behind the pieces you’ve identified as high-performing. Determine what action you want people to take after reading your content, and promote the posts that drive the most people to take that action.

Similarly, monitor organic performance on social media, and pay to boost the posts with high engagement rates. Social networks like Facebook reward engagement, so promoting a post that is already doing well organically will save you money and keep your content working for you.

Think of your organic distribution as a test: It doesn’t really cost you anything extra, and you can gain insight into the topics and platforms that resonate most with your audience before you spend a dime on promotion.


Promoting a post that's already doing well organically saves you money.
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3. But Promote Cornerstone Pieces Right Away

There is one exception to the organic-first rule. That’s when you’ve put in all the resources to develop a truly stellar piece of content. This piece of content is so highly valuable to your business and your audience that you’ll be building links to it and creating a lot of other content around it to offer even more value. We call this a cornerstone piece of content.

This cornerstone piece could be a comprehensive 2,000-word blog post on a topic in your industry. It could be a 20-page proprietary research report with data your audience would benefit from. Whatever shape it takes, you know when you’ve created a foundational asset. And when you have, put spend behind it right away.

This can help your content get some early traction, which can then catapult the organic distribution as well. And when the cornerstone piece performs well, the surrounding content that links to it can earn a performance boost, too.

4. Look Beyond Traditional Channels

Outside of go-to tactics like social and AdWords, you can test alternative methods such as paying a site to “host” content and contracting with a demand-generation service. My team has tried these tactics in the past, and they’ve worked well for promoting some of our whitepapers.

When a publication hosts a piece of your content, it promotes it on its site for a period of time and sends you a list of potential leads based on the readers who downloaded your content offer. Many online publications offer content-hosting services in their media kids, so identify the publications your audience visits and see if this service is an option.

You can also work with a demand-generation service to develop detailed targeting criteria. The service will then use those criteria to promote your cornerstone pieces of content to new audiences through outbound demand generation.

Take it all a step further by rethinking your organic tactics, too. Don’t rely on social shares alone to get content to your audience. Use your content for sales enablement, influencer outreach, and account-based marketing to get your work into the hands of the people you want to see it.

Don’t waste another minute shouting into the void. You can maximize the value of the amazing content you’re creating, improve the lives of your audience, and drive meaningful results for your company—and it all starts with a better content distribution plan.

The post How Organic and Paid Content Distribution Can Rejuvenate Your Reach appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.