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04 Jan 22:05

Imagine New York City With 3,000 Taxis Instead of 13,000

An experimental ride-sharing system could get everybody where they need to go with just a few thousand minivans and a willingness to share
Photo: Getty Images

Large-capacity ride-sharing services could replace 98 percent of taxi service in Manhattan, researchers report this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We could drastically reduce the number of vehicles” with a “minor impact to users,” says Javier Alonso-Mora, a computer scientist at Delft Technical University in the Netherlands, who worked on the project while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Today, there are about 13,000 taxis in use in New York City every day—but by design they usually pick up and drop off a single passenger or group. Some popular transportation startups, such as Uber and Lyft, offer ride-sharing options, but vehicles typically have space for only two passengers at most. 

Research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  in 2014 found that 80 percent of Manhattan taxi trips could be shared by two riders, but the work didn’t take into account new riders joining after a trip has already begun. In addition, the 2014 work and other studies of ride sharing either limit the number of riders or they don’t study the effects of letting customers choose different pick-up and drop-off locations from each other, Alonso-Mora says. So the real benefits for large-capacity vehicles haven’t been determined before. 

Using a randomly picked week of New York City taxi data as input, the researchers created a computer program that produces a route for ride-sharing vehicles that minimizes passenger delay—both the time riders spend waiting for a ride and the delay caused by deviating from their route so their vehicles can pick up new passengers. The program penalized requests not completed.

It works like this: After a set time interval such as 30 seconds, the program checks for a new ride request and adds the request to a queue. By considering unfulfilled requests and trips already in progress, optimization algorithms compute which passenger should be picked up by which vehicle and where each vehicle should go.

The researchers tested the simulation with vehicle capacities of one person (traditional taxi), two (UberPool or Lyft), four (car), and 10 (minivan)—stopping at that number because of the extra computational power needed for simulating even higher capacities. They used a maximum of 2 minutes of waiting with a 4-minute delay, 5 minutes of waiting with a 10-minute delay, or 7 minutes of waiting with a 14-minute delay—similar to the 5- to 10-minute wait it would take to park a car in a busy area like New York City, Alonso-Mora says.

They found that it takes only 2,000 ten-passenger vehicles or 3,000 four-passenger vehicles to meet 98 percent of Manhattan taxi demand every day. (The leftover 2 percent would be lost because of the set delay constraint.) The mean wait would be 2.8 minutes, and the mean trip delay would be 3.5 minutes.

“You allow drivers the possibility to make the same amount of money working less,” says MIT computer scientist and collaborator Daniela Rus. So, she says, instead of taking jobs away from taxi drivers, this would let the same number of workers make the same amount of money in fewer shifts. (The New York Taxi Workers Alliance did not respond to a request for comment.)

Alonso-Mora believes the work is evidence that companies should expand large-capacity ride-sharing options, or buses should switch to more flexible, on-demand schedules. (Which option is better isn’t quite clear yet, he adds.)

Alan Erera, an industrial engineer at Georgia Institute of Technology who was not involved in the research but studies ride sharing, writes in an email: “I am very optimistic about the tremendous value that real-time ride-sharing systems hold for dramatically improving roadway and vehicle fleet utilization for moving passengers.”

However, he says, “these results are optimistic, since they assume that everyone is willing to share rides with anyone else, and will sacrifice their own convenience for system optimality. In reality, some will always prefer to ride alone.” He adds that the calculations don’t take into account the extra waiting time it takes for each passenger to get in and out of the vehicle and the amount of time the car is idle, nor any variability in travel time, which “skews the results somewhat away from conservatism.”

“Building new forms of transit by extending the Uber/Lyft model with automated vehicles and/or better ride-matching optimization,” he writes, “will actually only increase congestion and total vehicle-miles travel unless we can find approaches that ensure many riders will pool together and share trips.”

Alonso-Mora says that to avoid riding with strangers, users could set a preference for that in a theoretical app. He also notes that the algorithm can be tuned to factor in extra waiting time and travel-time variability, but the group found only “small differences” in system performance with different travel times. To deal with another potential challenge—tariffs—drivers could estimate the savings from multiple passengers and incorporate them into calculations. 

He says the next steps could be to take into account predictions of future requests to improve the algorithms. They may also analyze more cities and explore the implications of autonomous vehicles in such a system. 

There are already several companies around the world offering large-capacity ride-sharing services.

“We absolutely can replace 98 percent of taxi service,” says Matthew George, CEO of Bridj, a Boston-based startup that offers 13- to 15-seater bus ride sharing services in several U.S. cities. In March 2016, the company began partnering with the local transport authorities to provide customized public transport in Kansas City, Mo: Unionized city employees are at the wheels of its buses. He says there is a waitlist of 30 cities that want to start a similar program. 

Instead of using bus stops, when a user requests a ride, algorithms consider all nearby requests for similarity. A driver goes to common pick-up and drop-off points within a 5- to 7-minute walk of all rider starting locations and final destinations, respectively.

He says that right now, the average user spends about US $85 a month on its services. He won’t disclose exactly how many users there are but only that buses have gone “millions of millions” of passenger miles—about 80 percent of customers use the buses as their main daily transportation. Some use them in place of taxis—and he expects those kinds of customers to increase in 2017.

03 Jan 16:53

Assess and Measure Competitiveness to Stay Strong

by Laura Patterson

A Harvard Business Review article reminds us that today businesses face an environment where operating margins are increasing and market leadership is precarious. Being able to quickly read market signals and adapt is essential to sustaining a competitive advantage. Capabilities that lead to a competitive advantage in the past, may not continue to do so as market conditions and competitors change. Your sustainable advantage depends on how well your company delivers real, measurable benefits to customers, and produces solutions that are difficult for competitors to copy. With rapidly changing market, staying strong depends on regularly assessing and measuring your competitiveness.

Assess Competitiveness

Regularly Audit Your Competitiveness to Overcome Gaps

An internal audit is a good way to begin to review your competitiveness. Internal assessments or audits help uncover and highlight asset and people relationships key to positively impacting customers’ results.

The purpose of the audit is to assess your organization’s resources and capabilities. A good competitive asset assessment methodology requires two key ingredients, a champion and a framework:

  • The champion is someone who has a vested interest in gathering information about the enterprises’ competitive assets. This person should be someone with no agenda with respect to the results and facilitates or monitors the process. It needs to be someone who can ask probing questions, and who can keep the process from getting derailed.
  • The assessment is a collaborative effort, so there needs to be a framework that people in the organization can use that makes it easy to understand, implement and highlights the direction the business is taking.

Any assessment can only be called successful when it results in implementing initiatives and action plans that produce better solutions that address your customers’ problems and needs and value for your company.

Put an Effective Competitiveness Audit Framework in Place

Design your audit to capture your strengths and weaknesses. Then, categorize these in terms of how they align with your organization’s resources and capabilities. Evaluate each to determine the potential implications to your competitive advantage. Develop action plans for the weaknesses that need to be shored up and for strengths that can be further enhanced.

At a minimum evaluate these five primary capabilities in your audit:Assess Competitiveness

  1. Your ability to create and commercialize new solutions
  2. Your ability to market and sell existing and new solutions to existing and new customers
  3. Your ability to retain and grow talent
  4. Your ability to use data and systems to make customer and market decisions
  5. Your ability to service and support customers

A consistent process is essential to make regular audits effective and efficient. Build a process that incorporates these five steps:

  1. Setup
  2. Evaluation
  3. Analysis
  4. Initiative Development and Planning
  5. Initiative Implementation

You’ve completed the internal audit, reviewed the results, identified some potential areas to address and are formulating an action plan. More than likely there are a number of areas to address. It may be easy to decide what to do first. If not, benchmarking can help bring focus by highlighting areas where you are close versus far off the mark.

How to Benchmark Your Competitiveness

Most companies do some elementary level of analysis and have a competitive database that includes, the similarities and differences between products/services, and a comparison of strengths and weaknesses of each of their products and services, and pricing. Some companies take competitive analysis so seriously they use benchmarks. Possessing both the comparable data and information about the drivers behind the performance generating the results can help you understand potential trade-offs.

Webster defines a benchmark as “something that serves as a standard by which others may be measured or judged.” Benchmarking is the process of identifying benchmarks to improve performance. Benchmarking is specific to products or processes that are currently in existence. There are many benefits and uses for benchmarking. One benefit is that benchmarking others performing similar activities helps you understand the possible range of performance. Another is that with benchmarks you identify where to improve and where to prioritize your efforts.

Good competitive benchmarking requires bringing companies together to share information with the promise that the measures will be shared. As result, a third party is often best for facilitating the benchmarking process.

Here are few steps to help move your benchmarking process forward:

  1. Determine which functional areas are to be benchmarked
  2. Identify the key factors and variables with which to measure those functions — usually in the general form of financial resources and product strategy.
  3. Select the best-in-class companies for each area to be benchmarked — those companies that perform each function at the lowest cost, with the highest degree of customer satisfaction, etc. Best-in-class companies can be your direct competitors (foreign or domestic), or even companies from a different industry (parallel competitors with replacement or substitute products or services; latent competitors which might backwards- or forwards-integrate into your market; or, out-of-industry firms with whom you do not compete, but which have best-in-class areas to be studied such as FedEx or Wal-Mart in logistics).
  4. Measure the performance of the best-in-class companies for each benchmark being considered — search the SEC, the companies themselves, articles in the press or trade journals, analysts in the market, credit reports, annual report, suppliers, trade associations, the government or from interviews with other organizations willing to share their prior research or “swap” it with you.
  5. Measure your own performance for each variable.
  6. Begin comparing the results in an ”apples-to-apples” format to determine the gap between your firm and the best-in-class examples.

From this process you can identify the gaps between your company and the best-in-class examples. Once you have this information, develop an action plan that will enhance those areas that show the greatest opportunity to surpass the competition. Set specific improvement targets and deadlines. Establish a competitiveness metric. Monitor and report.

Create Your Competitiveness Metrics

Marketing dashboards are comprised of metrics that facilitate decisions and help you mitigate risk. We have a number of posts and articles on metrics and marketing dashboard, including the categories for your metrics. One of the categories you should include is related to competitiveness. A metric associated with competitive worth measuring and tracking is known as the Competitive Value Index (CVI).

A CVI provides a snapshot of your company’s competitive value picture. It defines your company’s position with regard to its ability to create and deliver competitive solution. A VI is founded on the idea that the reason customers buy from a company is based on the value they receive. Therefore, a CVI can be a useful metric for measuring your company’s ability to create and deliver the needed value. It can be used as a predictor of future growth because it explains a company’s competitive position.

Customers buy a product or service because they think it will be of value to them. How do we measure this value? A CVI attempts to provide insight into your customers’ value driver needs (represented by your company’s Value Proposition), your company’s ability to create that value, and your company’s ability to deliver the value.

Your particular CVI essentially measures the effectiveness of your value proposition. The components used to measure the CVI cover a wide range of business value drivers to create a complete picture of a company’s competitive value position.

Using primary research, you will need to establish the ideal performance for your attributes in three areas:

  1. Customers’ requirements
  2. Company’s ability to create value that satisfies the requirements, and
  3. Company’s ability to deliver that value

Through your primary research, capture your customers’ rating of your performance and your competitors for each of the components. You will use the results to create the index. As a result of the process you will know how you stack up against each component as well as your overall value index. By performing the process to get your CVI, you will a better idea as to which value components are strong and which need strengthening.

Creating your CVI depends on selecting the right competitive value drivers, or ”key success factors”, and their evaluation criteria. Choose drivers that cover customer needs – knowledge like quality goals, geographic considerations, and custom requirements, and knowledge about your company’s operations, e.g. project management skills, innovation process, communication tools, and resource and time management.

Picking the right questions can add to the usability of the measure. Here are 10 questions to get you started:

  1. How much competitive value do we have for the marketplace and how much do we want to have or want to keep?
  2. How much more value is out there that we can procure for competitive advantage? Where is it? And do we know what it looks like?
  3. Value wise, where are we now and where do we want to go? Do we have the right value strategies and tactics or do we need to change direction? What do we know about our company, its value assets, and what don’t we know?
  4. What value must be changed or eliminated? Have our current value sources worn out? Are we attempting to fit established products and services to contemporary problems?
  5. Do we have a viable value creation process (or system)? Knowing that value creation drives activities, are we collectively and constantly thinking about creating (new) value? Do we have value creation goals? How are decisions about value/value position made?
  6. Do we have enough resources to pursue opportunities?
  7. Is there a viable market for our new and existing products and services?
  8. Can we continue our success with the skills we have, or do we need to change or add to them?
  9. How do we prevent turnover within our core competencies?
  10. Are we delivering our products and services in a timely manner to meet our customers’ needs?

Once you’ve selected your value drivers, score each against three dimensions (you’ll need to set up a scoring methodology):

  1. Effort applied to make it successful.
  2. Compliance to the criteria.
  3. Value it adds to overall value position.

Then multiply the ratings that result from the assessment to determine your CVI.

Summary

Competitive advantage is fleeting. Regular assessments are needed to keep you focused on improving your competitive value in order to survive and thrive. Win/loss analysis and ecosystem maps provide insight into which competitors to include in your audits.

03 Jan 16:53

How to Use Built-In Social Media Analytics to Uncover Hidden Insights

by Gene Sobolev

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” management theorist Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying. This holds especially true for social media, where correct measurement is a non-trivial task.

Most professionals use tools such as Mention, SproutSocial or Hootsuite to monitor and analyze social media performance. There is, however, one significant problem: None of these tools, free or paid, gives you complete data, leaving many valuable insights hidden. On the bright side, you can get all the missing data at no cost by using the analytics tools that are built into the main social media networks.

What’s on the Market?

The market is saturated with companies who offer social analytics and monitoring solutions, either on their own or as a part of a larger suite. Some of the more familiar and accessible of these platforms are Hootsuite, SproutSocial, Mention, Audiense (formerly SocialBro) and SumAll. In the mid price range there are the likes of Simply Measured, Klear, Brandwatch and TalkWalker. And then there are the enterprise solutions from heavyweights such as IBM, Salesforce, Oracle, Adobe and SAS. For more information on these solutions, check this comparison.

These companies offer various aspects of data and levels of analysis. The main difference in price results from the ability of a tool to show complex metrics in an accessible way and use algorithms that offer predictive analytics. However, social media networks’ APIs make the exact same data available to all social analytics tools, expensive and cheap alike.

This means that when it comes to measuring your daily performance, these solutions have the same initial data to work with, regardless of the eventual presentation of these data. For example, the only engagement metrics that Twitter’s API provides are Likes and Retweet counts. If you are using a solution such as HubSpot which offers URL shorteners, then you can also get data about link clicks.

This is why most tools can’t provide a 360-view of your social reach and engagement. For daily tasks, it’s usually enough to know a basic trend but whenever you want to adjust core aspects of your social strategy, more care and data are required. Luckily, getting the additional data is very simple and absolutely free: it already comes packed with your social profiles. I’m talking, of course, about the analytics tools that are built into the various social media networks.

For a long time, social networks didn’t provide much data to their users but as they started to monetize their huge audiences, a need to to provide analytics to marketers rose quickly and most social networks were quick to implement some built-in solution. Some of these solutions have by now grown to be powerful tools.

What Important Data is Missing?

I like to divide social data into two kinds: descriptive and actionable (inferential). Descriptive data shows an existing status or a trend, but doesn’t tell you what causes the trend. For example, a metric such as a number of new fans or followers will tell you whether more or less people decided to follow you but it won’t tell you why they did so or which actions you should take to improve this metric. On the other hand, actionable data helps you to see beyond just a trend on a chart. It allows you to spot actual insights that can answer complex questions and be used to alter your social strategy.

Most social analytics tools lack actionable data because of the scarcity of metrics provided by the social networks’ APIs. The built-in analytics solutions provide more accurate and more complete data about your social media performance. Built-in analytics provide many engagement types beyond the well known Like, Reshare and Comment as well as context to those engagements. This is like looking through a microscope – a whole new world exists on this level of detail.

For example, with actionable data you can easily determine whether your content is truly engaging your audience by analyzing engagements in the context of impressions – did you need just a 100 impressions to generate 10 engagements or was it closer to 10,000 impressions? Without this context, engagements tell very little about the true interest of your audience in the content you are sharing. In another example, you could determine what type of media resonates with your audience by placing engagement in context with media types.

That being said, descriptive data is more useful on a day to day basis when you just need to know the current status and to be able to quickly spot emerging problems. The need in actionable data kicks in when you decide to change something.

Where to Find the Right Data?

Through the rest of the article, I will only discuss actionable data that you can find on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. More specifically, I tried to present a unified workflow that balances simplicity of analysis, impact and speed for the time-starved marketer. You can of course carry out more complex analysis to predict future trends, but I believe that the time to value ratio will diminish.

Which Data to Look for on Twitter Analytics?

You can access Twitter Analytics by visiting analytics.twitter.com and logging in with your Twitter account. After logging in, you will land on the “Home” tab where you have a quick overview of your main descriptive metrics. Skipping to the “Tweets” tab, you can see data about impressions, likes, retweets, replies and link clicks by day as well as data about individual posts.

Impressions chart in Twitter Analytics

Next to each individual post, you have the number of impressions, engagements and an engagement rate (engagements divided by impressions). Clicking on a specific post will show you a breakdown of the engagement types such as likes, replies etc. This data is interesting because it gives you the details and context.

Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t allow you to sort these posts, which makes it hard to uncover insights. On the bright side, Twitter allows you to export data which you can conveniently analyze in your tool of choice (e.g. Excel, Google Spreadsheets or various data analysis tools such as Pandas). To export data from Twitter, choose a time frame and click on the button labeled “Export data”.

Steps to export data from Twitter Analytics

In the exported data, each engagement type gets a column, which makes it easy to isolate engagements, timestamps, impressions and other data. You can easily aggregate data or analyze individual posts. This flexibility allows you to quickly discover valuable insights about the content types to share, when to share them, how to annotate and so on.

Useful Insights to Look for on Twitter

  • Impressions and engagements per hashtag – find your best performing hashtags by retrieving the hashtags from the post texts and using them to group engagements
  • Impressions and engagement by time – convert the timestamps from UTC (Twitter default) to your local time zone and find out when people interact with your content
  • Impressions and engagement by day of the week – convert the dates to week days and check if there are some days when you should be posting more
  • Impressions and engagement by post length – sort posts by number of characters or words to find out the optimal length for your annotations
  • Impressions and engagement by media type – isolate tweets with image URLs from those without and combine with the media column to sort engagements by media type
  • Organic vs paid engagment – compare organic engagement against paid to determine how much to invest and where the balance lies
  • Best performing posts – sort posts by engagement rate to find the ones with the most engagements per impression. These posts engage a large portion of the people they reach and are therefore a solid guideline for deciding which content to share more of.

The great thing about exporting this data is that you have the flexibility to mix metrics to discover really interesting insights. For example, maybe some times are better for posting specific media types than other times. Maybe posts with more than 100 characters should have 3 hashtags and those with less only 2 hashtags. Or perhaps posting towards the beginning of each hour is more likely to reach your audience.

The chart below is an example of a visualization of how on average tweet length influences impressions. The chart is based on our own posts at inboundli and uncovers an interesting insight – while many marketers argue that Twitter annotations should be kept short, we consistently found that longer tweets work better for B2B companies (data from 12 million B2B posts). This doesn’t necessarily contradict the commonly accepted truth because the longer tweets had hashtags, mentions and images. These make posts longer without touching the annotations while increasing reach and engagement.

A chart showing impressions by post length

Twitter has a well-balanced analytics platform with plenty of insightful and interesting data that are a great addition to whichever analytics solution you are using.

What Data to Look for on LinkedIn Page Analytics

Access LinkedIn Page Analytics by first clicking on your LinkedIn photo at the top-right corner of the navigation bar. From the dropdown menu that appears, locate the section titled “Company Page” and click on “Manage”. On the company page, click on the tab labeled “Analytics” under your company’s logo.

Steps to access LinkedIn page analytics

The data that LinkedIn provides is scarce, but it’s nevertheless useful. The actionable metrics on LinkedIn are found at the very top in a section called “Updates”. Here you can see individual posts with data about impressions, clicks (clicks on content, company name or logo), interactions (likes, comments and shares), new followers on sponsored updates and engagement ratio.

LinkedIn currently doesn’t provide a way to export this data. One way around this is to download an extension such as Export Linkedin Analytics. However, the data exported with the extension is not organized in an optimal way. Another way is to manually select and copy the data and column headers in the Updates section (you will need to click on “See more” several times until you see all the data you want to select). When you paste the data in a program like Excel, the copied values will be placed in columns and cells with the headers correctly corresponding. Although it’s a manual process, it hardly ever takes more than 5 minutes to get all your data ordered in a spreadsheet.

Steps to copy LinkedIn metrics

Useful Insights Unique to LinkedIn

  • Follows from sponsored updates – it’s hard to get followers on LinkedIn, which is why it might make sense to sponsor content that can drive followers for your company page

Of all the main social networks, LinkedIn offers the least data via its API. The additional data from the built-in analytics is a welcome addition to the analytics solution that you are using to monitor LinkedIn.

What Data to Look for on Facebook Insights

To access Facebook Insights click on the down arrow at the top-right corner of your account and select “Manage Pages” from the dropdown menu that appears. From a list of your pages, select the Facebook Page you would like to manage and select the “Insights” tab once on the Page.

The menu with the most actionable data is titled “Posts” and has a section called “All posts published”. This section has data about each post in your Facebook feed. The data includes a timestamp, the post text, type (link, image etc.), geographic targeting, reach and engagements (clicks, likes, reactions, comments and shares). The great thing about this section is that Facebook allows you to sort the data by various properties, making the analytics interface more flexible than the ones offered by Twitter and LinkedIn.

Sorting data in Facebook Insights

Exporting data from Facebook Insights will give you even more flexibility and easier access to insights. Click on the button labeled “Export” from the top-right corner of the “Overview” menu. Select to export “Post Data”, a time range, a file format and you are ready. The exported report offers the same flexibility as Twitter’s export.

Steps to export data from Facebook Insights

Useful insights unique to Facebook

  • Impressions and engagement by time* – convert the timestamps from Pacific Time to your local time zone.
  • Engagement by content type** – sort engagements by media type.
  • Impressions vs. reach*** – determine how many unique people your post reached and how many times a unique person was served your post.
  • Engagement from people who like your Page – check whether your page has the right following and whether your content is reaching them
  • Negative feedback – check if your posts are steering any negative emotions
  • Engagement by video length – find the optimal length of videos to post

* Unlike Twitter, the default time in Facebook is Pacific rather than UTC.

** Unlike Twitter, Facebook provides a dedicated column for media types so you don’t have to compile data from various columns.

*** You can read this post if you would like to know more about the distinction that Facebook makes between reach and impressions.

Similar to Twitter, you can mix metrics to get a better sense of what to improve. Facebook has a lot of useful metrics and makes it very easy to optimize posts for your specific audience.

Benchmarking Social Networks

Many of the metrics are compatible across social networks. I recommend using these metrics to do an in-depth comparison of your performance on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Engagement rate, media types and days of the week are among the many compatible metrics. One important feature is that the exported data allows you to differentiate between organic and paid engagement, which gives you an important segmentation ability. For example, you might find out that Twitter has much more impressions than Facebook, but if you compare organic and paid engagement, you might discover that promoted posts on Facebook are more engaging – an insight you could have otherwise overlooked and decided to scale down your Facebook activity.

You might find out that each platform has different optimal times and days for engagement, which can lead you to optimize your content calendar. You might find out that different post lengths perform differently on the social networks and optimize annotations for each network.

How to Make it Manageable

As a fellow marketer, I know how time-stranded you are and it might seem overwhelming to do the analysis I described routinely. Luckily, the analytics solution you are using is most likely enough for periodical measurement needs and is probably more convenient for that task as it hopefully aggregates data from all the networks in one place.

The analysis I suggested is required when you need to see beyond a trend or current status. I recommend doing the analysis I described every half a year (which should provide you with enough fresh data to notice changes). This will help you to discover the reasons behind emerging trends in your weekly reporting and allow you to tweak or pivot your strategy. Other occasions when you might want to go deeper with your social metrics are when you spot a bad trend in your weekly reporting or if you are planning a strategy shift.

Conclusion

There are plenty of good social analytics tools on the market, but the free and built-in analytics tools of various Social Media offer great additional data which is reliable (coming from the source) and easily accessible. By exporting data from these analytics applications, you can build the most flexible and comprehensive workflow to discover insights beyond the usual reporting metrics that can state the status quo but have little other use. Not using the built-in solutions means passing on the vast majority of insights related to your social media strategy. With a routine check and clearly defined metrics and goals, the possibilities are nearly unlimited.

 

03 Jan 16:51

Content Creation Considerations: 9 Key Steps When Going From Concept to Content

by Jessica Mehring

Coming up with an idea is the easy part. But it’s only one small piece of the pie.

The biggest challenge is often taking that brilliant concept and turning it into content.

You’ve been there. I know you have, because we all have. You get a brilliant, game-changing idea for a piece of content that will shoot you (and your company) into content-marketing superstardom.

Your audience will go crazy for it! Sales will skyrocket! Your boss will give you a raise!

And then the wheels start moving. Different team members get involved. Some details are overlooked. The content is created, but it’s not exactly on point; it just doesn’t quite flourish.

There are a lot of reasons for why a once-seemingly-great idea can turn out to be a flop, one thing is for sure:

Going from ideation to creation to delivering results is rarely as easy as it should be.

But you can fix that. You can keep up your momentum, and keep you and your team moving forward confidently toward content creation success.

You just need to take that nugget of brilliance and create a strategy to take it from concept to alignment then to content.

Here are the 9 key things you need in your content strategy to keep quality content flowing.

1. A Content Marketing Goal

Think about your major content marketing goals right now. How does this piece of content align with one (or more) of those goals?

This might seem obvious, but people often overlook this in their excitement about an idea.

Keep a list handy – put a sticky note on your monitor if you need to – of your content marketing goals. Consider lead generation, brand awareness, thought leadership, customer retention, etc.

Now, line up your new content idea with one of those goals, and make sure your team is on the same page about what your desired outcome is.

2. Audience

Will this content appeal to your target audience?

Pull up your target buyer persona and look at where they are in the buying cycle. Make sure this content’s subject, tone, and style will resonate with the target buyer where they’re at.

Take a look at the content you’ve previously created for that stage of the buying cycle. What worked? What didn’t?

Based on your success history, does this new piece of content have a good chance of being successful? Or are you making the same mistakes you’ve made before?

3. The Value of the Content

Any successful piece of content, no matter where it falls in the buying cycle, will have value to your audience. It will solve a problem, provide important information, inspire, or be uniquely entertaining.

Does this new piece of content provide real value to your target audience?

If you’re not sure, you might want to ask someone in your target audience if they find your idea appealing. This honest feedback may give you a more realistic perspective, and it may help you pivot your idea to be more effective.

Here’s a high-value example from BuzzSumo. Their audience is content creators and marketers, especially those using influencer marketing. This piece of content is going to get saved, linked to, shared, and referred to heavily because it’s so incredibly useful to the BuzzSumo audience.

ViralContent.jpg

4. If (and How) the Content Aligns With Sales and Product Management

Is your company launching a new product? Is there a sale coming up? Will this piece of content align with that and support it … or will it conflict or simply appear misaligned?

It’s easy to keep the marketing blinders on when you’re in the throes of content creation exhilaration. But you need to make sure your content strategy is in alignment with the plans of your sales and product teams or it simply won’t perform as well as it could.

Misalignment between marketing, sales, and product management comes through in how customers perceive your brand – and how they receive your content.

5. Your Content Writer

Who will write your content?

Make sure you have this key team member lined up before you pull the trigger on your content project – because scrambling to find them when the clock has already begun ticking toward your deadline is a recipe for disaster.

Because the writing is most often the first real milestone for any content project, not having a writer in place at the outset will hang up the entire project. Get this duck in a row, first and foremost.

6. Research

Will any research be necessary beyond the standard “do a Google search for related articles?” Will your writer need to interview subject matter experts or customers? Will they need to comb through feedback surveys or investigate your competitors?

An experienced content writer knows that research can sometimes be more time-consuming than the writing itself. So consider it in your content strategy – and discuss it with your writer before creating your project timeline.

7. Content Type

What format will your content be produced in? Will this be a blog post, a white paper, an infographic, a video … ? Would it be even better if it was interactive? (Yes, you can make all of those content types I just mentioned interactive!)

When many people think “content marketing,” they think “blog post.” There are so many other content types to choose from – many of which might be so much more effective for your specific audience!

So don’t just stop at creating a blog post. Think about the content types that would work best to convey the subject and engage your audience.

Here’s an example of an interactive video from Vidyard to stir your imagination …

InteractiveVideo.jpg

8. Design, Distribution, and Promotion

How will your audience find your content? How will they interact with it?

This might be the most important step after assigning a writer. How you design, distribute, and promote your content will directly impact its effectiveness. No matter how great your content is, if no one finds it, you just wasted your time and budget.

  • Identify the important keywords your audience will use to find your content, and make sure they are incorporated into the copy.
  • Make sure the design provides a great user experience that is also consistent with your brand.
  • Figure out your promotional strategy. Do you need a landing page? What about social channels, paid media, or an email blast? All of the above?

9. Details, Details, Details

Meet with your team and make sure you have accounted for all the logistics of content creation and publication. Agree on a timeline, make sure all roles are assigned, and secure any additional resources you may need (like coders, software, and photography).

You don’t want to start creating a piece of content only to discover later that you don’t have the resources or personnel to get you across the finish line.

Your Content Strategy Is Now Complete

These 9 steps encompass a basic content creation strategy that any team can use to go from concept to content.

I strongly suggest you document the strategy so you can repeat it for future pieces of content. Throw it into a PDF and keep it in a cloud folder for your team to refer to. If you use a task management tool like Asana or Trello, create a template you can copy and reuse.

Pretty soon, your content creation process will be as easy as falling off a log.

03 Jan 16:51

What So Many Strategists Get Wrong About Digital Disruption

by Freek Vermeulen
jan17-03-497317217

“Digital is coming and it’s coming fast”; “No industry sector is immune to disruption”; “One thing is certain about digital transformation: It will be a big change for your entire organization”; “Digital will disrupt your industry.”

Judging by the headlines and opening lines of recent articles and business books, digital is about to disrupt your industry and you with it – unless you act now (and buy the book).

And, in fact, I don’t disagree – at least not entirely. It would be terribly naïve to assume that nothing in your business will need to change. However, some of the most common beliefs about how this will happen, repeated by conference speakers, self-proclaimed gurus, and consultants, have been oversimplified, misunderstood, or misapplied. In most “normal businesses,” the impact of digital will be different than for digital behemoths like Amazon, Google, and Facebook. Here are four to watch out for.

1. Network effects: The winner does not always take all.

The first common misconception is that in a digital world, the winner takes all. Many business models that make extensive use of digital technology have network-type properties. This means that the more users and content-providers you sign up, the better the business model will work. People flock to Facebook, for example, because most of their friends and family are on it, which in turn allows Facebook to collect a large amount of data about us, and attract advertisers. Given these network effects – as many proclaim – markets get “winner takes all properties”: the largest network will win, crowding out the remaining competitors (like MySpace and Google+). That’s the reason a company like Uber needs to grow big, fast – and why it’s investors didn’t worry about losing money early on. And they are losing money: Uber’s losses in just the first half of 2016 totaled over $1.27 billion.

That logic sometimes holds, but more often it does not. That is because networks are rarely exclusive. Travel to Singapore, for example, and you will see why. Every taxi driver has at least two mobile phones in her window: if a ride comes in on one network, she will click “accept” and turn the other off. Taxi drivers are invariably part of multiple competing networks. Similarly, most riders have at least two apps on their smartphone. When they require a ride, they will quickly check both apps and then use the one where a taxi is available quickest and at the best rate.

It is a misconception to think that network effects inevitably and always lead to a winner-take-all market. Sometimes that may be true, but there are at least as many network-type markets that can easily sustain a variety of players.

2. Complements are not substitutes.

A second misconception about digital disruption is that new technology will inevitably substitute old technology, rendering it obsolete. And indeed, we have witnessed e-mail replace the fax machine, flash memory supersede diskettes, and Wikipedia supplant the Encyclopaedia Britannica. However, industries with perfect substitutes are the exception to the rule; more often than not, digital will offer a new complement, rather than be a substitute. And this leads to a very different dynamic in the market.

Consider my own field of higher education. Many have been proclaiming that online learning will render lectures obsolete, that physical colleges will be replaced by online universities, and that MOOCs will be the new norm. However, this is not what seems to be happening, any more than the invention of the printing press supplanted in-person sermonizing in the 15th century.

Business models and competitive advantages are complex systems. This means that they consist of multiple elements – some of them tangible; some intangible – which interact with one another, meaning that it is their combination that makes it work. In many markets, digital will just add one new factor to the mix or replace one element, but not often all of them. This means that in many businesses, digital technology will complement and alter the incumbents’ existing resources and capabilities, but it certainly won’t always entirely replace them altogether. Therefore, when making strategy, the focus should be on identifying complements, rather than assuming complete substitution.

3. Geography (still) matters.

A third common misconception about how digital disrupt is the assumption that geographic distance has lost relevance since we can now communicate instantaneously with anyone, anywhere around the world. Closeness still matters, however, even though we may not realize it (research tells us, for instance, that people tend to underestimate the value of face-to-face communication).

Consider the management consulting industry. It has been a stable and quite homogeneous industry for many decades. The top firms have been doing pretty much the same type of thing for many years: matching consultants with clients. As a firm, McKinsey finds consulting projects and then matches them with people they have recruited and trained. And that’s how they have always done it.

Recently though, some new companies have figured that, in today’s digital age, there are other and perhaps more efficient ways of matching clients with consultants: online, through search terms, and by building rich databases. Some started digital platforms where supply and demand could match themselves. Others began databases of freelance consultants where they searched for suitable people for the projects they secured. However, most of these upstarts haven’t been able to scale. What they have underestimated is the relevance of human interaction. In consulting work, the ability to read each other’s emotions, intentions, and personalities is paramount, not only in terms of how consultants work with clients, but also for who gets matched with whom. In fact, you cannot successfully do consulting without them.

A company that understood this well is Eden McCallum. They too developed a business model based on a pool of freelance consultants, but rather than rely on a database, a matching platform, or some other digital search function, they understood that in their business – high end strategy consulting – there was no substitute for really knowing people. Therefore, they made the strategic decision to not rely on digital technology, but rather invest heavily in old-school getting-to-know-people: they developed a team of about 20 partners who maintain relationships and interact on a regular basis with about 700 consultants and over 300 major clients. They have opened up offices in London, Amsterdam, and Zurich and were recently highlighted in the Harvard Business Review by Professor Clay Christensen as the prime forerunner of a pending wave of disruption in the consulting industry – albeit with a completely non-digital business model. Eden McCallum shows that not all disruption need to be digital. Digital technology is more likely to make headway in industries and parts of your industry’s value chain where face-to-face interaction is less relevant.

4. Speed? Not so fast.

One of the characteristics of the digital era, people continue to say, is that change is fast. And because the world is changing so fast, companies have to change fast too.

The first part of this claim – that the world is changing faster than ever – is in fact already dubious. Academic research suggests that the rate of change has not been increasing at all. Yet, even if your business is undergoing rapid change, this does not mean your company also has to change rapidly – quite the contrary probably.

If in a fast-changing industry you change equally fast, you’re likely to be jumping onto all sorts of fads. Remember  “Second Life”? The virtual world in which people could live through an avatar? It was supposed to be the next big thing. Dutch bank ING decided to act swiftly, and rapidly assembled a large team of dedicated executives who would explore the new technology, develop applications, and market its products in the virtual world. ING was determined to not miss the boat. But the boat never took off; Second-Life turned out to be a short-lived fad, which disappeared again after a few bleak years; and ING’s big investment came to nothing.

Sometimes it is better to deal with contextual change and uncertainty by not changing at all – at least not immediately – but by giving things time to play out. If your company is in an environment in which new technologies come and go quickly, you may need to slow down rather than speed up. Given the level of market uncertainty, you will really only be able to distinguish the fads from the more substantial developments after some time has passed. It may sound paradoxical, but in an environment of rapid change, sometimes trying to match that speed can backfire.

Digital is changing the nature of competitive advantage in many businesses – just like major technological developments have done before. However, the change will not be uniform across all industries. Digital technology is affecting and will affect different businesses in different ways. Miss these nuances and your strategic decisions could lead you seriously astray.

03 Jan 16:49

4 Must-Haves for Any Digital Business Set On Booming Growth

by Lucas Miller

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The Internet is a massive place.

How massive, you ask? Well, as of 2014, Google had indexed an estimated 10 to 15 million Terabytes (TB) of data. To better put this kind of technical mumbo-jumbo into perspective, one TB equals about 1,000 Gigabytes (GB) of digitized information.

Pretty crazy, huh? That’s not even the half of it, though …

Take into account the fact that 16 years of video is uploaded to YouTube on a daily basis, and the expansiveness of the World Wide Web is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

Anyway, the Internet is gigantic—you get the point.

Because of this, though, for digital businesses set on big-time growth, it’s not only spacious, it’s downright scary. And while the sheer size of the Internet might very well indicate never-before-seen potential, it also means that it’s incredibly hard for online companies to see success …

No worries—below, I’ve listed four must-haves for making it happen.

By no means do they contain the entirety of what’s needed to make it big, but if you’re able to do each of them at least moderately well, you’ll find yourself lightyears ahead of the competition:

1) Buyers Need to Know You Exist

Basically, your business needs visibility—makes sense, right?

It doesn’t matter if you’re pushing products, services or downloadable items, if prospective buyers haven’t heard of you, how on earth are they going to hand over their hard-earned dollars?

To increase visibility, consider each of the below marketing methods:

      • Social Media Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn—they’re all fair game.
      • Content Marketing Blogging is big for a reason—great content attracts buyers.
      • Digital Public Relations If your audience is small, grow it with the help of influencers.
      • Search Engine OptimizationVisibility means building rapport with search engines.
      • Paid Advertising For relatively little money, earn game-changing results.

Let’s talk about that last one for a quick minute, shall we? Don’t get me wrong—organic traffic is ideal, but even in a space as unfathomably large as the Internet, overcrowding is a problem …

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Whether it be on a social network or search engine, this is where the “pay-to-play” mentality comes into focus. Allowing businesses to produce immediate results, it’s no wonder pay-per-click specialists like DigiMar refer to the practice as marketing’s “speedy and expansive” solution.

Whatever you decide to do, actively cover all of your marketing bases to increase visibility.

2) Conversion Can’t Be Overlooked

In the world of online marketing, the term “conversion” refers to transforming site visitors into paying customers. It seems simple enough, but it’s something next to nobody is doing well …

From homepages to landing pages, it’s one thing to attract visitors, it’s yet another to get them to buy into what you’re selling. To do this, make certain you’re doing each of the following:

  • Headlines To convert site visitors, yours must be both clear-cut and benefit-driven.
  • Supporting Headline Here, provide context as to the message your headline transmits.
  • Hero Image or Video The human brain processes visual information faster than text.
  • Customer Testimonials The more social proof you provide, the better off you’ll be.
  • Mention Core Benefits – Instead of selling a mattress, sell a good night’s sleep.
  • Call-to-Action If you don’t ask for people to buy, they won’t—it’s simple, really.

You’ve heard of Princeton’s famous KISS principle, haven’t you?

Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the popular, makeup-drenched 80s band …

KISS stands for “Keep It Simple Stupid.” Though not always applied directly to marketing means, you’d be wise to keep any and all conversion-focused materials simple.

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Easier said than done, practice is what will ultimately lead to perfection.

3) Order Values Must Be On the Up and Up

As an online entrepreneur, it’s your job to get the most out of each and every customer.

And no, before you bludgeon me over the head with a billy club of nasty comments, I’m not suggesting you swindle site visitors. What you should do, however, is build a few well-timed up-sells or cross-sells into your brand’s ever-expanding sales funnel to maximize customer value.

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For example, let’s say that you’ve got a knack for creating one-of-a-kind Halloween costumes.

Instead of simply selling all-inclusive packages, cross-sell costume upgrades, additional makeup kits and professional-grade wigs to help buyers improve their looks come the big day.

Regardless of entrepreneurial niche or area of expertise, by so doing, you’ll more regularly increase order values. After all, it’s “Booming Growth” we’re after with these strategies.

4) Repeat Business Means More Money Coming In

Thus far, we’ve covered three key e-commerce items:

      • Visibility
      • Conversion
      • Maximizing Orders

Things get better, though …

The real beauty behind each of the first three points? When given the time and attention they deserve, they keep customers coming back to you on a routine basis—automatically.

sales-funnel

That being said, to further increase the likelihood of customers coming back for more time and time again, offer mouth-watering sales promotions, build and maintain authentic relationships with buyers, and when the moment is right, make them related offers they can’t pass up.

Be Honest—Are You Missing Anything?

For this final subheading, I chose my words carefully: “Be Honest.”

If you’re anything like me, when it comes time to take a good, hard look at each phase of the Internet business you’re building, it can be hard to admit when there are clearly holes to fill

Luckily, if it’s a good starting point you’re in need of, use this post as a checklist of sorts.

Yes, the Internet is humongous, but that’s no reason to feel as if your online shop can’t bring in big money—regularly call upon the powers of the above, four-faceted list to make it happen.

03 Jan 16:49

15 Sales Email Templates Perfect for the New Year

by afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost)

The beginning of the new year is a fantastic time to reach out to buyers. Your prospects are focused on starting fresh, driving change, and setting yearly goals -- if you reach out with a relevant suggestion or compelling value proposition, they'll be primed to respond. Double down on this effect by referencing the holiday in your message.

Adding some humor and levity to your sales emails will improve your response rates as well. Most messages are relatively cut-and-dry, so prospects are usually surprised and impressed by anything with a little personality.Turn your best and most repetitive sales emails into templates you can  personalize, optimize, and share with your team.

Use the New Year-themed sales email templates below to connect, follow up, and close the loop with prospects -- and start 2019 off strong.

Prospecting Email Templates

These prospecting email templates will start off your year of prospecting on the right foot.

1. "Don't drop the ball ... "

Why this works: To motivate your prospect to respond, remind them of a timely opportunity and offer your expertise.

[Prospect name], how are you handling [challenge]?

Hi [prospect name],

The ball might've dropped in Times Square, but I'm guessing you don't want to drop the ball on [initiative, recent company announcement, industry shift, likely challenge].

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I have a few suggestions on [improving/addressing business challenge]. Are you free on [date and time] to discuss them?

Best,
[Your name]

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2. "I can't do this alone ... "

Why this works: The self-deprecation will give your recipient a chuckle and make you seem more human and relatable. In addition, they'll appreciate your focus on their goals.

[Prospect name], I need your help

Hey [prospect name],

This year, I'm resolving to help you [solve X challenge, accomplish Y goal, pursue Z opportunity]. Oh, and [work out more often, eat less dessert, get organized] … but I'm less confident about that one.

Will you help me keep at least one of my resolutions? If you're available on [date and time], I have X suggestions that may help in [business area].

Thank you,
[Your name]

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3. "New year, new you ... "

Why this works: This email is short, easy to read, and engaging. If your prospect has already started thinking about the trend you mention, they'll be impressed by your timing. If they haven't started thinking about it, they'll be eager for your help and insights.

New year, new [prospect's company]?

Hi [prospect name],

Thanks to [trend], [business area, strategic focus] will be a major focus in 2019 for companies of [prospect's size] in [prospect's space]. How does [prospect's company] plan to capitalize on this change?

Best,
[Your name]

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4. "Congratulations ... "

Why this works: Show your prospect you've done your research by referencing company news. And because your prospect simply needs to say "yes" or "no," responding will feel nearly effortless.

Cheers to [prospect's company]

Hello [prospect name],

Most people are still toasting to the new year, but I'm lifting a virtual glass to [prospect's company] in honor of [recent announcement].

giphy (3).gif

Typically, businesses who do X [struggle with A, pursue B next, double their return by investing in C, minimize risk with D strategy]. Have you considered this approach?

Best,
[Your name]

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5. "Time is of the essence ... "

Why this works: The cheeky subject line will entice your recipient to open the email -- and its helpful, relevant, non-pushy contents will prompt them to respond.

[Prospect name], I've waited all year to send you this

Hi [prospect name],

To be fair, since it's [date] 2019 I've only waited X days … But when it comes to [likely challenge, opportunity, industry shift], time is of the essence.

How is [prospect's company] planning to [deal with challenges, capitalize on X opportunity, respond to industry shift]? This [blog post, podcast episode, white paper] has some interesting tips.

Cheers,
[Your name]

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6. "First of your kind ... "

Why this works: Your prospect is far likelier to respond to an offer to help than a request for their time. Once you've added value to their life, they'll be eager to learn how your offering can help them even more.

[Prospect name], I want to be the first ...

… to wish you a Happy New Year, that is.

Now that we've gotten the last scraps of confetti out of our hair, I have a serious question. Would you be interested in [an introduction to a helpful person, a feature in a post I'm writing on X, a recommendation on achieving Y]?

[Your name]

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7. "Proton pack weapon not included ... "

Why this works: Who doesn't love a Ghostbusters reference? This creative email shows off your personality while demonstrating what you can offer.

 

happy_new_years_ghostbusters.gif

I might not have a proton pack weapon, but I do have a few suggestions for [solving pain point]. Is that a challenge [prospect's company] is currently dealing with?

[Your name]

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8. "Most expensive breadsticks ever ... "

Why this works: The unexpected subject line is guaranteed to boost your open rate. And the punch line is memorable, which means your prospect will be thinking about your email all day.

Would you pay $400 to eat at Olive Garden?

Hi [prospect name],

That's how much the restaurant's Times Square location charged people to attend its New Year's Eve party last year.

But whether you ate lots of pasta this New Year's or settled for good old-fashioned libations, I'm sure you're thinking about how to [solve X likely challenge]. I have some ideas -- want to hear them?

You can book a meeting with me here: [Link to meetings tool.]

- [Your name]

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Follow Up Email Templates

Is your prospect ghosting on you? Use these follow up email templates that are sure to get a response.

1. "If at first you don't succeed … "

Why this works: Your honesty will impress the buyer and help you earn their trust. Even if they're not currently dealing with the pain points you've included, they may be impressed enough with your straightforward approach to respond regardless.

Turning the page

Hi [prospect name],

I've reached out to [prospect's company] a few times over the past [X months, year] but haven't heard back. What I talked about clearly didn't resonate. In honor of the new year, I'm refocusing on your needs.

The companies I work with in [prospect's industry] of [prospect's size] typically struggle with these challenges:

  • [Challenge #1]
  • [Challenge #2]

Are you experiencing either of these?

Best,
[Your name]

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2. "Looking forward ... "

Why this works: "Prediction" articles are a dime a dozen around this time. Find one that applies to your prospect's industry, geographic territory, product space, target demographic, and/or internal policies and pass it along. They'll be grateful for your helpfulness, likely leading to an opportunity to present your solution down the line.

[Prospect name], have you seen this?

Hey [prospect name],

I came across this post on [2019 predictions for prospect's industry or market] and thought of you. The author thinks [X event] is highly likely -- does [prospect's company] have a plan in place for [responding to, minimizing the impact of, profiting from] this change?

Best,
[Your name]

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3. "No sales pitch, guaranteed ... "

Why this works: If you've been unable to get a prospect on the phone, this template may do the trick. The unexpected approach will surprise them and pique their interest. In addition, they'll feel like you're doing them a favor rather than the other way around.

I have an interesting New Year's Resolution

Hi [prospect name],

In honor of the new year, I'm doing something that might sound crazy: I'm giving my time away for free.

The last time we spoke, you [expressed concern, demonstrated interest] in [business area related to rep's expertise]. If you want a no-strings-attached [15-minute, 20-minute, half hour] consultation on [rep's area of expertise], just [book a slot on my calendar, respond with your preferred date and time] -- no sales pitch, guaranteed.

There's no catch -- I'd rather commit to this resolution than try to exercise more (and fail for the third year in a row).

Looking forward to discussing [how to solve X, drive Y results],

[Your name]

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A note of caution: Don't bait-and-switch anyone who takes you up on the offer. Buyers will get annoyed if you turn your consultation into a sales pitch -- and rightfully so. Once you've spent 15 to 30 minutes helping them, request another meeting to talk about your product's ability to help them with the same goals.

4. "I'm not giving up on you ... "

Why this works: It cheekily references the number of people who abandon their resolutions a few months out -- then shows you've got more stamina.

80% of people do this by February

[Prospect name],

Can you believe most resolutions are abandoned by the second week of February?

I'm not giving up on you so easily. Let me know if [addressing X, doing Y] is still a priority in Q2.

-[Your name]

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Breakup Email Templates

If your prospect just doesn't seem interested, send them a message using a breakup email template.

1. "Not just because it's New Year's ... "

Why this works: This classic line from When Harry Met Sally will elicit a smile from your recipient. Meanwhile, hearing this is their last opportunity to work with you will incite some much-needed urgency.

Times are changin'

Hello [prospect name],

I promise I'm not just reaching out because it's New Year's ...

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I'm reaching out to ask if you're still interested in [driving X results, investing in Y business area, fixing Z issue]. If this is no longer a priority, do I have permission to close your file?

Thanks,
[Your name]

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2. "Reevaluating your strategies ... "

Why this works: This short and sweet message gives buyers one last chance to respond before you professionally move on.

[Prospect's company] 2019 [business area] plans?

Hi [prospect name],

As [prospect's company] enters the new year, you might be reevaluating your strategies for X. Are you still interested in discussing [solutions to/opportunities in] X for [prospect's company]?

If not, please let me know so I can stop reaching out.

Best,
[Your name]

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3. "We don't talk anymore ... "

Why this works: Playfully put yourself back on the buyer's radar without guilt-tripping them.

It's been a while

Hi [prospect name],

We don't talk anymore, like we used to … But it's a new year, and I'm ready to try one last time.

When we last spoke, we discussed [pain] and how [product] could help [drive X results]. Are you still interested in continuing that discussion? If not, please let me know so I can stop playing this song.

Best,
[Your name]

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These templates will make it easier to hit your first quota of the year. Now that deserves a toast.

Looking for fresh real estate email templates for the new year? Look no further.

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03 Jan 16:49

Our Top 10 Blogs of 2016 at a Glance

by Elaine Ip
best marketing content 2016

Author: Elaine Ip

Every time the new year comes around, I clean. That’s not to say I don’t clean on a regular basis throughout the year, but there’s something about getting a fresh start that makes you want to clean all the nooks and crannies that get ignored on your busiest days (which, let’s face it, is almost every day). Plus, I know future me will appreciate it when those busy days roll around again in the new year.

During my annual deep cleanings, I find tons of “buried treasure” hiding in plain sight, under piles of other stuff. It reminds me a lot of the great content I’ve seen and haven’t seen. With so much information out there, it can be hard to keep tabs on what to keep tabs on throughout the year.

At Marketo, we get the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in our industry—both within and outside of our company—and our content team works hard to bring you their insights. We measure each and every one of our assets to continually optimize our editorial calendar and provide you with more of what you want—blogs being one of them. We look at metrics like page views, organic traffic, time-on-page, shares, engagement, and conversions to understand which topics and blogs are the most relevant for our audience. However, because we publish our blogs every weekday, we understand that it can be hard to read every piece we publish.

To make things easier, I’ve compiled a Cliff Notes version of our top performing blogs. Just like Cliff Notes, this is meant to be more of a guide than an in-depth overview, so be sure to click through to read the full blog if you’re interested!

Here’s a list of our top 10 performing blogs for 2016, brought to you by me and unsuspectingly chosen by you:

Measure the ROI of Digital Advertising Beyond Revenue Impact

ROI of digital ads
Measure the ROI of Digital Advertising Beyond Revenue Impact

When it comes to measuring ROI, many of us think about the numbers that impact the bottom line—pipeline, opportunities, and revenue won. However, most sales don’t happen overnight and, as such, late-stage metrics take time to mature. Even if you’re a consumer marketer, people do research on your company and products long before they decide to make a purchase.

For digital marketing especially, your buyers are perusing different channels to make informed decisions on whether they should purchase from you, let alone click on your ad. To understand their buyer’s journey and prove your ROI, it’s important to track early-stage metrics as well—brand impressions, impressions, website visitors, and downloads—to gauge the early impact of your campaigns and course-correct if needed. Read this blog from Mike Tomita, Director of Online Marketing at Marketo, to learn how to track important soft metrics for three popular digital ads: mobile video, native, and programmatic.

You’ve Got Mail: 5 Things Your Subject Lines Are Missing

email subject line tips
You’ve Got Mail: 5 Things Your Subject Lines Are Missing

While it’s true that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, your subscribers are definitely judging your email from its subject line. Finding the perfect subject line to use in your email can seem downright impossible, but luckily, there’s a method to the madness. Mike Madden, Demand Generation Program Manager at Marketo, shares five tried-and-true tips on how to improve your subject lines and ultimately your open rates: front-load the important words, ask a question, use numbers, get personal, or use rhymes, alliteration, and puns. Why? You’ll need to read his blog to find out!

3 Strategies for Maximizing Email Deliverability

improve email deliverability

3 Strategies for Maximizing Email Deliverability

Did you know that worldwide, 21% of permission-based emails get sent to a spam folder or go missing? This means that for every five emails you send, one of them never even gets to your subscriber due to spam filtering and low engagement. What’s an email marketer to do against these unfavorable odds? Here’s another great blog from Mike Madden that explains how you can improve your email deliverability. His recommended tactics? Set low bounce thresholds to keep your lists fresh, don’t ever buy lists, and stagger your email sends based on engagement.

10 Ways to Engage Your Audience with Interactive Content

interactive content
10 Ways to Engage Your Audience with Interactive Content

Content is king, but engagement is queen. To reach your audience, you need to provide them with educational, interesting, or entertaining content, which is affected by the format it’s in. Interactive content is a great way to engage your audience, presenting information in an easily digestible way. Katherine McAdoo, Senior Web Designer at Ion Interactive, shares 10 different ways that you can turn your content interactive. These formats include quizzes, rating systems, assessments, incentives, animations, visualizations, sneak peaks, tabs, charts, and carousels. Check out her blog to learn how you can transform your content into these interactive formats.

5 Lifelong Business Lessons I Learned from Nordstrom

life lessons from Nordstrom
5 Lifelong Business Lessons I Learned from Nordstrom

If you’ve ever shopped at Nordstrom before, you may have realized how it’s the epitome of world-class customer service. There’s even a book on this, titled The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence: The Handbook For Becoming the “Nordstrom” of Your Industry. So it’s no surprise that we have a lot to learn from the department store, especially when you consider that marketing is becoming more customer-centric.

In this blog, Alexandra Nation, Solutions Consultant at Marketo, reveals five important business lessons that she learned during her time working for the retailer. These values have stood the test of time and stick with her to this day:

  • Praise your employees and colleagues publicly and often
  • Focus on the customer and the money will follow
  • Balance great products with great people
  • Act like it’s your name on the door
  • Lead by example

How Brands Can Create Lasting Relationships on Social Media

create lasting relationships on social

How Brands Can Create Lasting Relationships on Social Media

Connecting with people on social media as a brand is no different than connecting with them as a friend, family member, or colleague. Okay, so maybe it’s a little different (you probably don’t want to see my cat memes every day), but the concept is the same. Marketers, just like people, should use social media to first and foremost build relationships. Marketo’s Senior Social Media Manager, Lisa Marcyes shares four ways to create lasting relationships with your audience on social media: establish your voice; initiate, respond to, and contribute to conversations; share relevant content; and address both positive and negative feedback.

4 Reasons Why Marketing Automation Fails

why marketing automation fails

4 Reasons Why Marketing Automation Fails

If the picture above seems all too familiar, you’ve probably experienced an epic fail at least once in your life. Was it a marketing automation fail? Marketing automation empowers marketers to connect with their potential and existing customers on a 1-to-1 basis—at scale. If that sounds too good to be true, consider that there are entire companies that exist solely to provide the most sophisticated marketing automation platform to support this (shameless plug). But even with the right tools, marketers still need to have a sound strategy in place. Jamie Lewis, Principal Solution Consultant at Marketo, reveals four common pitfalls he’s seen when it comes to marketing automation, which include not treating your audience as individuals, not using behaviors to target your audience, not designing your campaigns to meet business objectives, and not being on the right channels (i.e. the ones your buyers are on).

5 Ways to Boost B2B Sales Through LinkedIn Social Selling

social selling on LinkedIn
5 Ways to Boost B2B Sales Through LinkedIn Social Selling

With more than 400 million members in over 200 countries and territories, LinkedIn is an effective way to reach an audience with a business mindset. However, this doesn’t only impact B2B social media marketing. LinkedIn is also a great channel for sales teams to drive revenue with.

Russell Banzon, Demand Generation Manager at Inkling, covers five ways that sales can use LinkedIn for social selling. These methods include connecting with prospects and engaging with their content, leveraging shared connections for a warm introduction, using their Sales Navigator tool to build lead lists for your target accounts, creating CRM contacts using a lead’s LinkedIn information, and measuring your success with their Social Selling Index. Interested in putting these strategies to work? Read Russell’s blog for the low-down.

7 Marketing Automation Predictions: A SiriusDecisions Roundup

marketing automation predictions from SiriusDecisions
7 Marketing Automation Predictions: A SiriusDecisions Roundup

Our blog provides recaps for some of the biggest industry events to provide you with key takeaways from ones you couldn’t attend or to serve as a refresher for the ones you did. The annual SiriusDecisions Summit was no different, and one particular session that generated a lot of buzz was Marketing Automation: What the Future Holds.

Charm Bianchini, Senior Director of Marketing at Marketo, attended the summit and covered this session in detail, sharing SiriusDecisions’ seven predictions for the future of marketing automation. The common themes? An increased focus on the buyer’s journey, rising expectations for personalization, a shift to data-informed programs and predictive modeling, advanced analytics and attribution, and marketing automation as the foundation of an organization’s tech stack.

Get Scrappy: 7 Tips for Smarter Digital Marketing

scrappy digital marketing
Get Scrappy: 7 Tips for Smarter Digital Marketing

I think it’s safe to say that we could all use some tips on how to get things done with resource or budget constraints or, as Nick Westergaard puts it, “get scrappy.” As a strategist, speaker, author, and educator, Nick definitely knows how to do more with less and is well-suited to explain how to create a smarter digital marketing strategy.

In his blog, he answers the most common questions that were asked during his webinar, Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. Some of his insights? Starting with a strategy is an important first step for all marketers, but the longer the sales cycle, the longer we’re responsible for keeping buyers engaged throughout their customer journey, which is where scrappy marketing comes into play. At the very minimum, scrappy strategies need to answer the why, what, when, where, who, and how for each of your audiences. Additionally, look beyond other industries for inspiration and leverage one of your biggest assets: your people. For the rest of his answers, read his blog to learn how to establish your top digital marketing priorities, his best social media tips, and more.

That wraps up our top 10 blogs for 2016. I hope you enjoyed this list and dive deeper into each of the blogs above. Did we miss any of your favorites? Share them below!

marketo-summit-december-promotion

 


Our Top 10 Blogs of 2016 at a Glance was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

The post Our Top 10 Blogs of 2016 at a Glance appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

03 Jan 16:48

Three Ways to Wow B2B Buyers with Account Support

by Gerhard Gschwandtner
According to the 2016 AskForensics B2B Sales Analysis, 64 percent of buyers ranked account support as the top influencer when making a purchase. These results are based on data collected between 2013 and 2015 from 137 Fortune-level accounts, totaling more than $2.3 billion in total contract value. As B2B purchases tend to be long-term and complex, the relationship is not only about an individual sale, but also about ongoing usage and consistent quality. Buyers want to deal with people who can guide them through the sales process and champion their needs with the vendor.
03 Jan 16:48

4 Lethal Startup Pitfalls for CEOs and Boards to Avoid

by Lisa Fernow

The other day I was listening to a colleague describing the difficulties one of his portfolio company CEOs was having with their Board. The CEO wanted to go one way. The Board wanted to go another way. If they didn’t resolve their differences the CEO would have to go. Nobody wanted that.

It occurred to me that these tensions aren’t unusual. In fact, they are common and can become startup pitfalls.

Since many of you who thrive on innovation may at this point in your careers be considering starting your own companies―or joining a startup board―I thought it might be useful to get some advice on what can go wrong between CEOs and their Boards so you can avoid these common startup pitfalls.

I turned to a colleague who has seen these issues from multiple sides. In his 30+ year career, Robert Bismuth has served as CEO of five startups, as a Board Observer or Board Member of seven startups plus four major industry consortiums, and advised about a dozen others. He currently serves as VP of Business Development and Strategy for STOIC, a software company based in Palo Alto, and as Director General of its hardware spinoff, SAS Fermat, based in Paris.

Bismuth was kind enough to document some of his favorites pitfalls below. Names have been omitted to spare all concerned.

Four Lethal Startup Pitfalls

  • “Helping” the CEO
  • Controlling the “Baby”
  • Cult of Personality versus Cult of Vision
  • Dilution, Crushing and Crafting the Exit

“Helping” the CEO

Frequently members of a board will decide to “help” a CEO in her or his decision making, hiring, strategic direction, sales pipeline, brand, technical development, or any of the multiple dimensions all startups struggle with as they establish themselves. Sometimes help is truly needed―even asked for. Sometimes it is not.

For example, a board may decide that a sales pipeline needs to be more robust and the issue is recruiting a VP of Sales to help the CEO develop customers. If the company’s products or services are at a suitable state of maturity, then such a hire can be very useful. Typically, this would be after initial proof of concept customer engagements have led to production deployment and initial revenue.

If, however, the maturity of the company and its product or services is not yet established, this move is generally not good. It burdens the company with a significant cost in terms of executive compensation and introduces a cultural change. Frequently such a badly timed move is interpreted negatively by the CEO who takes the incoming executive as the “board’s person” and therefore trust issues develop between the CEO and his or her board.

I have seen this type of “helping” activity destroy more than one company. In one prime example, the Board decided that in order to avoid losing time in the market, the company needed to develop an enterprise sales and consulting organization so that when its product was ready, it could hit the ground running.

What the Board didn’t realize was that the cost of those organizations would significantly impact the overall spending of the company which forced the CEO to reduce spending on engineering. The spiral that resulted eventually caused conflict: the Board blamed the CEO for overspending while the CEO distrusted the Board because it had pushed forward expensive executive hires. The CEO left the company and the Board eventually sold the company for pennies on the dollar.

Controlling the “Baby”

Investors typically look for companies that have a great team, excellent idea (the best being disruptive to their target markets), and a somewhat believable path to market that will eventually produce meaningful financial projections allowing an eventual exit for early investors with a healthy return on their investment. One of the dimensions and potential startup pitfalls that is critical in evaluating the probability of success is the passion behind the company―particularly the passion of the CEO. Is she or he willing to sacrifice everything to see their “baby” born and then continue to sacrifice as the “baby” matures and develops?

That level of passion is truly like the passion a parent has for his or her child. Imagine a parent being told that they are doing something wrong raising their child―or worse, being threatened with having that child given to a foster parent. Good parents will do anything and everything they can to cling on to the child and bring it up “their way.”

That’s exactly the issue that rises in a company with a truly passionate founder CEO when her or his board tries to interfere with his or her vision, strategy, or tactical decisions. Sometimes that interference is justified as the CEOs can―and do―lose sight of their responsibilities to their investors. After all, it is not the CEOs money that is on the line and the board represents the investors.

In many companies the battle for control truly wreaks havoc. The board of a company holds the ultimate power in that struggle and often agonizes over whether to step in and exert control over a company that is not moving forward as expected. Sometimes the board is correct in doing that. Sometimes the board is not. A misjudgment can have disastrous results, ultimately destroying shareholder equity in what becomes a non-recoverable death spiral.

A board exerting its control of a company is never a good sign. It means something has broken in one or more areas―strategy, customer engagement, product development, fiscal responsibility, etc. Unless the board is particularly good at diplomacy, it almost always results in a breakdown in trust between company management and its board. This typically leads to two outcomes: replacing the management or selling the company.

In either case, the value of company decreases precipitously.

It is easy to spot companies that have endured this type of control issue: just look for companies that have had a remarkable number of CEOs within a relatively short period of time. One example is a public company which is current being sold by its board. With ten or so years that company has had around five CEOs including its founder, who was brought back. The founder and his Board could not decide who had control and so he left again. The current CEO is clearly not experienced enough for the job though the Board tried to pull back and let the CEO manage the company.

The result was a continued decrease in the company’s market share while burning through cash reserves. Eventually the Board stepped in but left the CEO in place while they proceeded to get a buyer for the company. This was actually one of the few times they should have replaced the CEO but they became trapped in a logic put forward by that CEO: best leave me in place to do the deal or it will be worth less than if an acting CEO were put in place.

Again, control was muddled: sometimes the CEO has been in control and sometimes the board. In reality, when the latest CEO failed so badly, the board should have removed the CEO and put in place a temporary CEO with one goal: sell the company thereby providing the buyer with a much cleaner purchase since the buyer would not have to pay out a severance package to a poor CEO who could not successfully deal with the control issues that resulted from the board’s activities.

Cult of Personality versus Cult of Vision

Often times a founder CEO is so passionate about her or his vision that she or he drives the formation of the company through the very force of her or his personality. The initial team are frequently skilled professionals who know the CEO quite well and almost worship his or her personality. That personality becomes stamped on the initial culture of the company.

If the CEO comes in conflict with his or her Board, the cult of personality issue becomes one of the potential strategic pitfalls and problematic: taking steps to control, aid, limit or even replace such a CEO is very risky as the entire start-up workforce is essentially there because the CEO talked them into joining and any admission of fault or shortcoming on behalf of the CEO becomes a personal issue for workers. Boards which take action against this cult of personality do so at great peril to the company and the shareholders they represent.

Many of the largest, most successful companies in the world were born of a cult of personality around the founder CEO―Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and even old school companies such as GE, IBM, FEDEX, UPS, Intel, etc. However, in all these cases, the cult of personality successfully transitioned to the cult of vision. In some cases, this happened very smoothly (GE, IBM, Microsoft, or Intel for example) and in some cases the transition was extremely bumpy. Apple is a prime example of a difficult transition which eventually happened but had several false starts over the preceding decades.

A good CEO seeks to move his or her company into a cult of vision. This is the only way a succession plan, or exit plan for the investors, can reliably work. If a CEO does not accept that goal or if a board moves before the goal is achieved, the result is a waste of shareholder value and ultimately the demise of the company.

I know of one start-up in which the major shareholder lost faith in the CEO and decided to remove the CEO too soon. What that shareholder failed to understand was that the majority of the company was in the mode of working for the CEO and not for the vision that the company was working to achieve. When the CEO was escorted out of the company, both the engineering and financial teams resigned completely within a week. The shareholder was left with a company that did not have a completed product and without any sense of the company’s financials.

Needless to say, that company never recovered and its assets, such as they were, disintegrated before they could even be sold.

Dilution, Crushing, and Crafting the Exit

At any stage in the development of a start-up, the issue of funding, investment, and exits are always on the table for a company’s current investors and represent potential startup pitfalls. When will more cash be needed? Will the company manage that through free cash flow? If more investors are needed, what terms and valuation would be offered up for attracting their capital? What’s the eventual exit strategy?

Each class of investor (Angel, VC, Corporate, etc.) has different priorities in all these (and other) dimensions. A company’s CEO also has his or her own priorities, usually starting with trying to minimize any dilutive impact on her or his equity position. CEOs who focus on that issue will sooner or later find themselves at odds with their boards if they fail to be flexible. At the end of the day, it is a company’s board that will make such decisions and not the CEO. Company management may advise or offer opinions but the end decisions around funding, exit, etc. will be in the hands of the external directors―many of whom will possess special rights based on when and how they became an investor.

CEOs frequently get into trouble with this―particularly if they have a deteriorating relationship with their Boards. I had sat on a Board of a company whose Board had lost faith in the CEO. This was mirrored as the Board was doing its best to give the CEO as much chance as possible to turn the company around. The CEOs solution was to solicit an acquisition offer from a private equity firm which, if accepted, would have taken out the Board.

The CEO was fired and a new turn around CEO brought in. It was painful for all involved. Ultimately that company was merged into a much larger concern and the investors walked away with a reasonable return.

The CEO was never able to raise sufficient investment capital for any future venture and left the private sector.

These are just some of the issues I have seen as a CEO, as a board member, and as a strategic advisor to both company management and boards.

Being a CEO is a tricky thing: you have to balance your daily single minded commitment or passion for your current direction with an ability to take input and work collaboratively with those trying to help you.

And Advice to New CEOs and Board Members

I found it fascinating to hear Bismuth’s take on this subject because usually I only get to hear from one side or the other. Here are the lessons I took from his examples―I’m sure you’ll take others as well.

When you become a CEO:

  1. Understand you’ll be working for your Board and manage up accordingly.
  2. Choose your Board members carefully. Go beyond looking at their skills and networks and check out what their communications styles. Do they have a track record of working well with their CEOs? How have they handled conflicts with the CEOs they have worked with in the past?
  3. Check yourself out using the same criteria. Consider getting a coach if you have any concerns about your soft skills.
  4. Check your ego at the door but not your passion.
  5. Actively work to build trust with your board. Determine in advance, together, how you’ll resolve your differences.

When you become a Board member, the mirror image of these points applies:

  1. Understand startup CEOs may think their company is their baby and will sometimes be blinded by this. Understand how well they collaborate with others, how well they listen to advice.
  2. Choose the boards you serve on carefully. How well do they function today? What conflicts are they wrestling with?
  3. Think when and how to give advice, when to suggest versus when to push.
  4. Actively work to build trust with your CEO and your other board members so when conflicts arise you can have safe discussions.

As Bismuth commented, many companies succeed with flexible CEOs who have managed growth well, taken their boards’ advice, and allowed their “babies” to grow in paths they did not expect. Other CEOs fail in conflict with their boards.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

03 Jan 16:47

Sales is Not Binary

by Blake Bartlett

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of an interview with FullStory’s Scott Voigt. You can read the first part on how to create Magic Moments for your customers here.

You either love or hate sales. You can go all-in on self-service and let the machine handle customer acquisition. Or you can hire an army of reps and let the humans sell. There is no in-between.

This commonly held view of sales is wrong. Sales is not binary.

FullStory’s Scott Voigt says the answer is a bionic approach to sales. Man plus machine. Human, but more than human.

Empathy and Clarity

Two of FullStory’s guiding principles – empathy and clarity – led them away from sales early on.

“A lot of people don’t enjoy being sold to, including the folks at FullStory,” says Voigt. “As a company, we are super leery of anything where we have to talk to someone in order to see the product.”

Having to talk to someone suggests that something needs to be hidden – most likely the product’s cost or complexity. “We just want to cut to the chase and quickly understand the product and pricing.”

Valuing empathy leads to the Golden Rule. If FullStory doesn’t like being sold to, it would be weird if they turned around and aggressively sold their product to others.

Valuing clarity leads to transparency. Simplicity and clarity is easier said than done when it comes to product marketing , website copy and pricing pages. But customers are desperate for it.

Does It Work for Everybody?

FullStory’s focus on empathy and clarity means the company leads with self-service. I mean, look at the messaging on their awesome sales page:

But self-service doesn’t work for all customers. “I wish it worked for everybody. But in fact there is a correlation between the size of a company and the complexity of the buying process for that company,” says Voigt.

Complexity means your buyer needs help. The self-service machine falls down under the weight of a complex buying process. And if one of your humans doesn’t step in, the customer will turn to someone else’s human (and ultimately someone else’s product) to help them.

Empathy isn’t partial. You need to cater to the needs of both the “leave me alone” people AND the “help me buy your product” people.

Making Things Bionic

Empathetically coming to the aid of people with complex buying processes means embracing sales. But after initially avoiding it, FullStory wasn’t eager to do sales in the traditional way.

“Old school customer interactions are remarkably inefficient,” Voigt says. “Hire an army of sales reps to get new customers and a boatload of support folks to keep them happy. We’re living in the 21st century and there has to be a better way.”

This is where FullStory’s third operating principle comes in – making things bionic. It means making a human process more scalable through technology. But it’s not robotic automation stamping out generic crap. “The human component is the heart of bionics, because of that all-important first principle: Empathy. Being bionic helps us scale empathy. It allows us to be human with an ever-growing number of customers,” Voigt explains.

What does this look like in practice? FullStory provides intelligent, personalized customer success to anyone using the product. All users are created equal, and there is no fundamental distinction between prospects and customers.

“If you’ve ever tried our product, you’re a customer.”

Similarly, there is no fundamental distinction between sales, support and success efforts. “If everyone is a customer, then we want everyone to be successful.”

The intelligence and personalization comes from FullStory using its own product to deliver an amazing customer experience. A common example is receiving a proactive note saying, “It looks like you may have tripped on a bug earlier today. I’m really sorry about that. We’ve fixed it now and you should be all set!”

FullStory does the same thing when it sees users expressing frustration at the product during a session. We’ve all been there – the site is slow and you aggressively click the mouse in hopes of a response. FullStory calls this user behavior “rage clicks.” The team gets a rage click alert and the customer gets a message asking how they can help.

“Customers love this kind of care and attention. It leads to better customer conversion and satisfaction, but it would be impossible without bionics.”

Onward!

We’ve been sold a false dichotomy – that you must choose either the path of self-service or sales, but not both. But there is a better way, and it’s called bionics. Man plus machine. Human, but more than human.

Onward to a better future for your company and your customers!

The post Sales is Not Binary appeared first on OpenView Labs.

02 Jan 18:10

What does 2017 hold for science?

by Andrea James

Nature takes a look at what's likely in store for 2017 in various fields of scientific inquiry. Short answer: some is dependent on Trump regime drama, like climate research, space research, stem cell research, multinational research agencies, and a host of other issues. (more…)
02 Jan 18:09

Mathematical study shows exactly how ride-sharing could cut the number of cars on the road

by Emma Hinchliffe
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We already know ride-sharing has the potential to drastically cut the number of the cars on the road. But it turns out that impact could be way more than anyone has previously estimated. 

A new study from researchers at Cornell University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that shared rides — whether through Uber and Lyft or a traditional taxi — could fulfill demand with just 15 percent of the current taxi fleet in New York City. 

"Ride-sharing services are transforming urban mobility by providing timely and convenient transportation to anybody, anywhere and anytime. These services present enormous potential for positive societal impacts with respect to pollution, energy consumption, congestion, etc. Current mathematical models, however, do not fully address the potential of ride-sharing," the study's authors wrote.  Read more...

More about Lyft, Uber, Ride Sharing, Ride Hailing Apps, and Business
02 Jan 18:08

The sophisticated, hidden ways that trees cooperate and protect each other

by Cory Doctorow

Peter Wohlleben is a German forrester who has revolutionized his field by developing community forest management that does not require pesticides or heavy machinery, and recruits local communities as stakeholders in forestry preservation; but the thing that made him known around the world is his 2016 book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World, which presents evidence for unprecedented (and even spooky) degrees of cooperation among trees in a forest. (more…)

02 Jan 18:01

15 tips and tricks for salespeople to close more deals and make tons of money in 2017

by Eugene Kim

Matthew McConaughey wolf of wall street surprised in shock

Selling is a tough job.

But there are certain things you can do to improve your salesmanship.

We sifted through a number of different sales-related surveys and reports to come up with the 15 things every salesperson should do to up their game in 2017.

SEE ALSO: The 32 most powerful people in business technology in 2016

Take advantage of social media.

A lot of salespeople use social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter to sell better these days. There's even a word for it: social selling. Here are a few LinkedIn hacks that will help you sell more.



Use certain words that strengthen your sales pitch.

Certain words and phrases could be magical when you sell. For example, using "because" can totally change the way you sound. Check out the 13 words every salesperson should use in their sales pitch.



Buy software that helps you sell more.

From software that simply store sales data to the more sophisticated stuff that predicts certain buying behavior, sales-related tools are completely reinventing the industry. Here are 10 sales apps that will help any salesperson sell more.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
02 Jan 17:49

Agile Metrics – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

by Stefan Wolpers

TL;DR: Agile Metrics

Suitable agile metrics reflect either a team’s progress in becoming agile or your organization’s progress in becoming a learning organization.

At the team level, qualitative agile metrics typically work better than quantitative metrics. At the organizational level, this is reversed: quantitative agile metrics provide better insights than qualitative ones.

Good Agile Metrics

Generally speaking, metrics are used to understand the current situation better as well as to gain insight on change over time. Without metrics, assessing any effort or development will be open to gut feeling and bias based interpretation.

A metric should, therefore, be a leading indicator for a pattern change, providing an opportunity to analyze the cause in time.The following three general rules for agile metrics have proven to be useful:

  1. The first rule of tracking meaningful metrics is only to track those that apply to the team. Ignore those that measure the individual.
  2. The second rule of tracking metrics is not to measure parameters just because they are easy to follow. This practices often is a consequence of using various agile tools that offer out-of-the-box reports.
  3. The third rule of tracking metrics is to record context as well. Data without context, for example, the number of the available team member, or the intensity of incidents during a sprint, maybe turn out to be nothing more than noise.

For example, if the (average) sentiment on the technical debt metric (see below) is slowly but steadily decreasing, it may indicate that the team:

  • May have started sacrificing code quality to meet deadlines or
  • May have deliberately built some temporary solution to speed up experimentation.

While the latter probably is a good thing, the first interpretation is worrying. (You would need to analyze this with the team during a retrospective.)

Good Qualitative Agile Metrics: Self-Assessment Tests

If you like to track a team’s progress in adopting agile techniques and processes, self-assessment tests are well-suited for that purpose. For example, I like to use the Scrum Checklist by Henrik Kniberg.

All you have to do, is to run the questionnaire every four to six weeks during a retrospective, record the results, and aggregate them:

Age of Product: Age Metrics: The good, the bad, and the ugly – Scrum selfassessment

In this example, we were using a kind of estimation poker to answer each question with one of the three values green, orange, and red. The colors were coded as follows:

  • Green: It worked for the team.
  • Orange: It worked for the team but there was room for improvement.
  • Red: It either didn’t apply, for example the team wasn’t using burn down charts, or the practice was still failing.

If the resulting Scrum practices map is getting greener over time, the team is on the right track. Otherwise, you have to dig deeper to understand the reasons why there is no continuous improvement, and adapt accordingly.

In addition to this exercise, I also like to run an anonymous poll at the end of every 2-week-sprint. The poll is comprising of three questions that are each answered on a scale from 1 to 10:

  1. What value did the team deliver last sprint? (1: we didn’t deliver any value, 10: we delivered the maximum value possible.)Agile metrics: customer value delivered – Age of Product
  2. How has the level of technical debt developed during the last sprint? (1: rewrite the application from scratch, 10: there is no technical debt.)
  3. Are you happy working with your teammates? (1: I am looking for a new job, 10: I cannot wait to get back to the office on Monday mornings.)

The poll takes less than 30 seconds of each team member’s time, and the results are, of course, available to everyone. Again, tracking the development of the three qualitative metrics provides insight into trends that otherwise might go unnoticed.

Good Quantitative Agile Metrics: Lead Time and Cycle Time

Ultimately, the purpose of any agile transition is to become a learning organization, thus gaining a competitive advantage over the competition. The following metrics apply to the (software) product delivery process but can be adapted to various other processes accordingly.

In the long run, this will not only require to restructure the organization from functional silos to more or less cross-functional teams, where applicable. It will also require analyzing the system itself, for example, to figure out where queues impede value creation.

To identify the existing queues in the product delivery process, you start recording five dates:

  1. The date when a previously validated idea, for example, a user story for a new feature, becomes a product backlog item.
  2. The date when this product backlog item becomes a sprint backlog item.
  3. The date when development starts on this sprint backlog item.
  4. The date when the sprint backlog item meets the team’s ‘Definition of Done’.
  5. The date when the sprint backlog item is released to customers.

Agile Metrics: Lead time and cycle time – Age of Product

The lead time is the time elapsed between first and the fifth date, the cycle time the time elapsed between third and the fourth date.

The objective is to reduce both lead time and cycle time to improve the organization’s capability to deliver value to customers. The purpose is accomplished by eliminating dependencies and hand-overs between teams within the product delivery process.

Helpful practices in this respect are:

  • Creating cross-functional and co-located teams
  • Having feature teams instead of component teams
  • Furthering a whole-product perspective, and systems thinking among all team members.

Measuring lead time and cycle time does not require a fancy agile tool or business intelligence software. A simple spreadsheet will do if all teams stick to a simple rule: note the date once you move a ticket. The method even works with index cards.

The following graphic compares median values of lead time and cycle time of three Scrum teams:

Agile metrics: How to master lead time cycle time – by Age of Product

The values were derived from analyzing tickets—both user stories as well as bug tickets—from a period of three months. (It is planned to change that interval to two weeks in 2017.)

Other Good Agile Metrics

Esther Derby suggests in her article Metrics for Agile to also measure the ratio of fixing work to feature work, and the number of defects escaping to production.

Bad Agile Metrics

A bad, yet traditional agile metric is team velocity. Team velocity is a notoriously volatile metric, and hence actually only usable by the team itself.

Some of the many factors that make even intra-team sprint comparisons so difficult are:

  • The team onboards new members,
  • Veteran team members are leaving,
  • Seniority levels of team members change,
  • The team is working in unchartered territory,
  • The team is working on legacy code,
  • The team is running into unexpected technical debt,
  • Holiday & sick leave reduce capacity during the sprint,
  • The team had to deal with serious bugs.

Actually, you would need to normalize a team’s performance each sprint to derive a value of at least some comparable value. (Which usually is not done.)

Additionally, velocity is a metric that can be easily manipulated. I usually include an exercise in how to cook the “agile books” when coaching new teams. And I have never worked with a team that did not manage to come up with suitable ideas how to make to sure that it would meet any reporting requirements based on its velocity. You should not be surprised by this—it is referred to as the Hawthorne effect:

The Hawthorne effect (also referred to as the observer effect) is a type of reactivity in which individuals modify or improve an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed.

To make things worse, you cannot compare velocities between different teams since all of them are estimating differently. This practice is acceptable, of course, as estimates are usually not pursued merely for reporting purposes. Estimates are a no more than a side-effect of the attempt to create a shared understanding among team members on the why, how, and what of a user story.

So, don’t use velocity as an agile metric.

Ugly Agile Metrics

The ugliest agile metric I have encountered so far is ‘story points per developer per time interval’. This metric equals ‘lines of code’ or ‘hours spent’ from a traditional project reporting approach. The metric is completely useless, as it doesn’t provide any context for interpretation or comparison.

Equally useless “agile metrics” are, for example, the number of certified team members, or the number of team members that accomplished workshops on agile practices.

Conclusion

If you can only record a few data points, go with start and end dates to measure lead time and circle time. If you have just started your agile journey, you may consider also tracking the adoption rate of an individual team by measuring qualitative signals, for example, based on self-assessment tests like the ‘Scrum test’ by Henrik Kniberg.

What do you measure to track your progress? Please share with us in the comments.

02 Jan 17:48

My Three Words for 2017

by Anthony Iannarino

Chris Brogan is one of the reasons I started writing daily. He is super smart, has had a tremendous influence on me, and I am happy to call him my friend. A few years ago Chris started to theme his year by choosing three words. Along with a whole bunch of other folks, I have found this practice to be useful and I’ve incorporated it into my approach.

The idea is to choose themes that cross into all of the important areas of your life. Here are my three words for 2017.

  • Integrated: I have always put things into boxes, separated them. More and more, this no longer works for me. Integrated means all areas of my life function as a single whole. The idea here is that the integration reduces friction, reduces drag, and creates alignment. What I do in one are needs to add to other areas.
  • Impeccable: The word suggests the highest possible standards. To be impeccable, you have to raise the bar. It also means clean, clear, crisp lines. Everything has to be in its place. This word, when applied across all areas of your life, is a challenge.
  • Essential: Better is better than more. Essential suggests a paring down. What is minimally necessary? What doesn’t provide value? What is a distraction? This word is more than it appears. It’s an acknowledgment of how little time you have, as well as an urgent call to do what it necessary.

This year, I was tempted more than any other to add additional words to this list. The word “essential” prevented me from doing so. Upon reflection, the two other words that didn’t make it onto this list are already encompassed in these three words. Better is better than more.

Note: If you don’t subscribe to my Sunday newsletter, this is what you missed today.

The post My Three Words for 2017 appeared first on The Sales Blog.

02 Jan 17:48

How to develop an international digital marketing strategy

by Expert commentator

How to develop a marketing strategy for expanding globally

Globalisation is no longer an obscure term reserved for academics: it is a very real and ever growing phenomenon affecting most people and businesses all over the world. In the digital arena, this means that a company's website also needs to be a part of the global mix. If you'd like to focus on trading and exporting your products and services worldwide, you need to have a solid international digital marketing strategy in place.

The aim of this post is to highlight a wide range of considerations that need to be addressed in order to tailor your strategy to a global target market. The areas that will be focused on are: website design, international SEO, international PPC and international social media marketing.

International Digital Marketing Considerations

Before looking into the international best practices of each of these areas, there are some important points to bear in mind before starting to develop any global strategy:

Market Research

Is there even a market for your product or service in the country or countries you are hoping to expand into? I know it seems like a pretty straightforward and somewhat condescending question, but after all, if you don't ask it, you're going to be in some serious trouble. And you'd be surprised how many businesses just fancy having an Italian office on the Riviera, without considering whether people actually want or need their products.

Competitor research is also crucial. Check out the potential local competition: what they do, how they market themselves and why you think your product, service or promise is better than theirs. If it's not, make it so.

Use their techniques as a springboard that you will build upon with a better website, better USPs, and a better overall digital strategy.

Logistically, are you ready?

Another key question that you need to be able to answer is whether or not you are actually ready to start trading locally: no matter how good your site is, no matter how visible it is in search engines, you're going to have a terrible time if you don't have the right infrastructure in place to actually handle enquiries, calls or business prospects in a new language and territory.

Whatever your strategy, make sure that you have the appropriate local distributors, or local phone numbers (with native speakers answering the phones). Make sure your online enquiries are being responded to in a timely fashion, that your international delivery times are efficient, and so on.

Messaging and Translation

Depending on your background, you may or may not fully understand the implications of speaking a foreign language and the extremely personal significance that this can have on an individual’s personality, perception of the world and of themselves. If you don't believe me, I dare you to call someone from Valencia, Spanish.

With regard to language, there are a few mistakes that you want to avoid at all costs:

1. Having your foreign market websites in English

Set the scene, it's winter, you really want some warm socks. You go to your favourite search engine, search for "warm winter socks", click on a link and get redirected to a website that you only partially understand – or worse, don’t understand at all. After a pretty reasonable and inauspicious search, you suddenly find yourself perplexed, sockless and with your intellect being challenged.

Avoid this mistake at all costs. If you want to advertise to people, you're going to need to speak their language. Again, this might seem obvious, but I have seen and worked with companies who made this mistake.

2. Relying on Google Translate

Google’s seemingly inexhaustible range of tools is incredibly useful. However, although Google translate might be great on the odd occasion that you need to ask for directions to the train station in a broken tongue, literal translations are not going to work for international digital marketing strategies.

If you're going to try to sell to a foreign country, literally translating the content on your site will not work. It won't semantically make sense to locals. Sometimes, Google translate just plain doesn’t work:

There are a myriad of examples that highlight the potential pitfalls of relying on Google Translate – take a look at this brilliant video by Elan.

3. Don't translate, localise

Simple translations, as highlighted above, can lead to some downright embarrassing situations.

Think about it: in your local market you try to make your content as engaging and compelling as possible in order to encourage your audience to buy your products or services. You need to communicate your value to them in their own terms. This language is not universal: the struggles that your country's market face will not be the same in Russia, Switzerland or Morocco. You need to understand their culture, their struggles and speak to them in a way that makes them feel at ease and that appeals to them.

Think about your core promise: what do you want your customers to feel when they come to your site? Understood, valued, at ease? Or do you want/need to convey a sense of urgency in your marketing messages? Does this work in other languages and cultures? Is the language powerful and contextually relevant enough?

Hiring a translation company that works with native speakers to translate your content is highly recommended. Not only will they get the language right, they'll have an inkling of the messages that are more appealing to their countrymen. This is again where competitor research can help.

Cultural considerations

On top of the language spoken by your target market, you need to think about cultural factors that may be of vital importance for you to operate in certain areas.

Who do you want to sell to? Does this match the online population of that country?

Let me explain. Imagine you want to sell to a more mature audience of 50+. However, in the country that you'd like to advertise in, 85% internet searches are performed by 16-35 year olds. Suddenly, throwing a huge budget toward online advertising may not seem like a great idea.

Other cultural factors are also influential, such as history. This article argues that the continued effects of the Iron Curtain might make it difficult to advertise in East Germany. Every country, and even region or city, has its own history. Ensure that your market is buying online before creating a website that may end up not being used.

Additionally you need to think about the people that you might be dealing with and their problems. In some industries in the UK, the main decision makers and influencers that you deal with may primarily be senior management or sales directors. Meanwhile, in the same industry in the Middle East, you may need to engage primarily with up and coming SMEs or independent distributors, who act as agents for larger companies.

At this point, you need to ask yourself: do these differing international personas have the same motivations and frustrations? Will they respond similarly to your USPs and business promises? Are you solving their particular problems? Do these customers prefer to conduct their business face to face, or is a simple brochure download enough?

You can get around this by conducting your own research online, or with interviews/surveys, as well as asking any regional partners about their thoughts on the matter.

Although this seems like an awful lot of research and work, believe me, it will pay off. International websites are expensive: if you get it right the first time, you've saved yourself a lot of money and avoided future difficulties.

International Web Design Considerations

Website design and design preferences can be heavily impacted by cultural and linguistic factors.

The visuals

Your website's design must take into account the average length of words and length of sentences in a country. For instance, the German language has some very long words, with special characters that need to look right on the page, and sentence structures that need to be just so in order to mean something.

In terms of design, this would mean avoiding tight layouts and smaller fonts, and making sure that your mobile design allows for plenty of room for your text.

Even your font choice needs to be carefully considered, as special characters are not necessarily fully supported by all of them.

Finally, photography on your website is a powerful component of good user experience, as well as a crucial factor in conveying your brand messages. Choose images that will speak to your international audience: are your images culturally sensitive? Are they diverse enough? Can your audience identify to them? Do they reflect your localised core messages? Are they engaging to the personas you are trying to target?

The layout

With a bit of research you can see the types of websites that work well in a country. For instance, to a Western market, websites in Asia have typically been described as looking overly "busy". Then again, in Asia they might be asking themselves why on earth Western websites are so "empty".

Regardless of the reasoning behind different cultural design preferences, it's very important to be aware of them when designing your site for an international market.

International SEO

International SEO is a pretty technical topic that a lot of people tend to shy away from, thinking that it's too complex. However, it is fundamental to get it right: there's no use in paying for a website to be built to target a certain country (or countries) and not have it appear in their search engines.

Here is my attempt at simplifying this topic for you. Hopefully this section will help to demystify some of the more technical aspects for you to help you decide what needs to be done on your site.

Preliminary considerations

If you do not tell them, search engines do not know that you are trying to target a specific country. It is not enough to simply write your content in a certain language. You need to

explicitly guide search engine crawlers to your country or language specific content in order for it to be indexed in more than one region.

Searches are not universal: your products or services won't necessarily return the same amount of searches in other languages or countries. This is why competitor and keyword research is essential.

Furthermore, Google is not necessarily the main search engine in every country (although it is in a lot of them):

In China, Baidu dominates the market rather than Google. In Russia, the market leader is Yandex. Interestingly, due to the region's history, some Eastern European countries use both. You may find that in certain countries the market for paid advertising on Google is saturated and therefore very expensive – but Bing may turn out to be a good alternative.

Understanding that you'll need to spend time sending specific signals to search engines (possibly not the ones that you were expecting), and having a general idea of the amount of traffic that will be coming to your site is important. This will help you to start planning for the time, money and effort that needs to be spent on your website(s).

If you're going to do international SEO you need to be organised and you need to do it right the first time.

Website Structure Choices

When building websites for international markets, you have 3 main choices of website structure to choose from: country-coded top-level domains (ccTLDs), subdomains and subdirectories.

CCTLDs

This option requires you to buy country-coded top-level domains that are tied to each specific target country (for instance www.example.fr).

It sends the strongest geo-targeting signals to search engines and means that your server location becomes less of an issue. It also establishes trust in both search engines (there is no doubt that you are aiming to target a specific country) and people (if people see that a domain contains their country code, there's no doubt that they'll know that your services are available to them).

I'd highly recommend this strategy if you are only considering having 2 or 3 ccTLDs - any more and it will soon run up some pretty huge costs (buying each domain, hosting each domain, server locations etc - a bit of a logistical nightmare if you're trying to handle 15 sites).

However, there are also some cons: as just mentioned if you're trying to target more than a couple of countries, it can be a pull on your resources, and a costly option. Furthermore, the domains might not be available.

Finally, it means that your domain authority is going to be split between each site: which means even more work in terms of link building - if you don't have a digital marketing team who is hot on this topic, I'd avoid this option.

Subdomains

This means using a generic Top Level Domain Name (gTLD), with a country (or language) specific subdomain. For example: http://fr.example.com.

There are a number of benefits: they are easy to set up, this option offer for hosting flexibility and send the right geo-targeting signals to search engines. However, this option does also limit you as they are less trustworthy (to customers) and also split your domain authority (like the first option).

Subdirectories

This means using gTLD with a country or language specific subdirectory. For example: http://www.example.com/fr

If you are targeting countries where more than one language is spoken you will need a structure that includes both country and language subdirectories.

This option is particularly good for consolidating all of your link building efforts (the domain authority isn't split between multiple domains), it's easy to set up. Unfortunately, it doesn't send quite as strong signal to search engines as to the location of your site, but this can be corrected by indicating in Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster tools, using schema and with citation building for each subdirectory.

Some other cons: there is only one single server location, and also begs the question as to what you include n the domain's homepage (hw to send strong signals to show that your site is international).

Personally, if I were to choose I'd go for the following options.

  • CCTLDs if I were only trying to target 2/3 countries
  • Sub Domains if I'm trying to target more global markets as it's easy to set up and means that you don't have to carry out link building for 15 different sites. Huge players like Apple, Samsung and H & M do this.

Once you've settled on a website structure and translated your content effectively, you'll need to start doing keyword research.

International Keyword Research

Again, remember not to work with literal translations, they won't always be relevant and may not be the terms that people are searching for in your target country.

Start by translating and localising your current keywords and do some competitor research to see what terms they might be using. A great tool for this is SemRush, which can be used to see the terms that your competitors are ranking organically for or advertising with online:

This will enable you to come up with a preliminary list of terms. Then use the relevant keyword planner or tool to broaden your keyword lists and see which terms get searched for (remember to correctly set the language and location setting when searching):

Pick the optimum keywords for your selected landing pages, optimise them and the translated content. In order to do this, here is a comprehensive guide on keyword research by ahrefs, as well as a helpful SEO checklist.

You can use Authority Labs to track your international rankings to track your progress:

Technical Signals

The following technical signals must be put in place on your international sites in order for search engines to completely understand what languages and locations your sites are trying to target: the better they understand this, the easier they can serve your sites to the relevant people.

1. HrefLang Tags

These tag allow you to cross reference pages with similar content for different audiences (as an example, they tell search engines that although the content may be similar, one page or set of pages are for French speakers in France, while others are for French speakers in Canada and other ones are to be serve to Spanish speakers in Chile).

These links enable you to find the relevant codes for both language & country.

The tags are added to the <head> of your website (as well as the self referencing ones). This is what they should look like:

And here are the tools to help you create them:
hreflang tags generator tool

hreflang XML sitemap generator

If done properly, once the sites are added to Google Search Console, it will tell you whether or not they are working. If they are not, it should give you an indication as to why they are not.

2. Meta Content Language Tags

These indicate the language and country in the <head> section of web pages, thus indicating to search engines the target audience for the page. Such as:

<meta http-equiv="content-language" content="en-us">

3. X Default Tag

This tag signals pages that don't target a specific language or territory, and thus tells them to refer to the “default” page. This is what this looks like:

4. Schema Markup

Adding schema markup is a great way of indicating to search engines what your website is about. Schema markup is a collaboratively created, universal language that all top search engines in the world use to easily understand websites.

With Google Tag Manager, markup each specific subdomain (or ccTLD) with Organization and LocalBusiness markup to tell them where that part of the business operates. Here's how to do just that. An added bonus is that schema is also a ranking factor and can help the knowledge panel to be displayed in local search results for your business.

Geo-targeting

On your website, and in your website's code, you have now implemented all the relevant signals: an international site structure, language specific content that is optimised following specific keyword research and competitor analysis, all the necessary tags, localised content, tone of voice, imagery and call to actions.

Unfortunately, the job is not over, you now need to tell search engines what to do with your site. You should have Google Analytics installed for each property and each property needs to be added to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

You can track all domains, (or sub-domains and subdirectories) separately in both Analytics and Search Console like so:

Analytics:

 

Search Console

To do this:
You can geo-target your site using your website structure. Set specific properties in Google Search Console & Bing Webmaster Tools:

Then, within Search Console, make sure that your HrefLang tags are working:

And that your international country targeting is correct:

(if you've used ccTLDs this will automatically be detected).

This is where to look for the same settings in Bing Webmaster Tools:

And here is where you select the location to target:

Once all of this on page work is done, you need to work on off page signals. In particular: domain authority.

International Link Building

This is essential, in particular for websites structured with ccTLDs and sub-domains.

Link building will help to promote your international website, drive relevant local referral traffic as well as build domain authority, which will help with the visibility of your international website in search engines. So, some things to consider:

  • local citation building
  • Competitor research, as well as general research, can help you to find websites relevant to your market, that can show you interesting types of content that you can also create.
  • it can also help you to understand cultural factors within your target market & build relationships with local influencers and media

You can use BuzzSumo to discover what topics and types of content work best in your target market (and also see what has worked well for competitors):

Use this research to help build up your own content strategy. Create attractive and optimised content for your audience (about your products, services, long tail search queries such as FAQs and blog posts), which will then earn you links.

SEO is a long term strategy, and will only work if you dedicate time to it - make sure that each country has it's on unique strategy as a one-size-fits-all approach will not be suitable.

International PPC

While you're waiting for your international website to start ranking against local competitors, it may be worth trying out international PPC to hit the ground running.

Standard paid advertising rules all hold true in foreign markets: you'll still have to think about changing CPCs, quality scores, your average ad positions, and sending your visitors to relevant landing pages.

However, international PPC campaigns also have their own specificities that you cannot ignore. These go much further than simply asking yourself “how to use Adwords”, and demand excellent knowledge of a country's search behaviour.

Good Market Knowledge

As mentioned previously, knowing your target market is essential, hence the preliminary research you conduct before anything else when developing an international digital marketing strategy.

With regard to international PPC campaigns, this specifically means looking at:

Dominant Search Engines

These could be Google, Bing, Yandex, Baidu etc - if your target market is saturated in Google, Bing could be a good option. This research will help you to figure out budgets, the scope of the project, what platforms to familiarise yourself with, and so on.

Target Audience

Are the people you want to advertise to, the people who are buying online?

Cultural Habits

As mentioned, these affect web design, as well as advertising.
For instance, if you are trying to sell to a Chinese market, it's important to know that the colour of wrapping paper holds its own special significance: red is reserved for gifts, yellow paper with black ink is reserved for parting presents for the dead.

Either way, the fancy new wrapping paper that went down a storm in the UK might not elsewhere, so make sure you know that you won't accidentally offend anyone.

Competitor Landscape

IT may well be the case that the paid market on AdWords for your industry has been saturated, making CPCs very high, in which case you may not be able to participate due to your budget restrictions.

Cost Per Clicks

Although there is no exact science to this (as it depends on industries, market saturation, your competition etc), it's good to get a benchmark on CPCs. Wordstream wrote an article containing average CPC by country. It also lists the most expensive regions in the world.

How to Structure Your International PPC Campaigns

Targeting multiple countries with multiple budgets and trying to measure ROI in each region means one thing: you have to be meticulously organised.

Create Country Specific Accounts
This is by far the easiest way to measure the performance of your country specific campaigns (and is also useful as currencies can only be set at account level).

Language Specific Campaigns

I would highly recommend having separate campaigns for different languages.

So if you have an account set up for Switzerland, you can then set each campaign to target a specific language (in this case French, Italian, German and I'd also recommend English). This means that you can add specific language and geographic settings, bid adjustments, extensions etc. It also enables you to easily add keywords or ads in specific languages. This means that everything is kept pretty simple and extremely organised.

It's useful to note that AdWords allows for extra characters in ad titles and descriptions that target certain Asian or Eastern European countries – find out more about this here.

The key to international PPC is consistency: you need to have a Danish campaign targeting the Danish language in Denmark, that uses Danish keywords to trigger Danish ads that lead to a Danish website.

As a side note: it may be worth testing out an English campaign, regardless of the country that you want to target. This allows you to reach English people living abroad: this may or may not work, but it's always worth testing out, particularly as a lot of businesses in Europe conduct business in English.

Time Zones & Currencies
Remember time zones in order to set ad schedules and to set your bid adjustments. When targeting a country with multiple time zones, create a separate campaign for each time zone as it'll make your life easier in the long run.

International Social Media Tips and Considerations

Social media marketing takes up a lot of time and requires you to proactively engage with your audience and also be on the ball in finding and identifying trends.

The first question you need to ask yourself is this: are you going to have one social media profile per platform, or a profile per country. This depends entirely on your resources, the amount of people available to help with it (and whether they know what they are doing, have a strategy in place and the time to do it).

These decisions are entirely up to you and your business. Two things I would definitely recommend thinking about are:

  1. if you are going to have separate profiles per country, make sure that they are active and all carry your brand message. It may be worth taking the time to write out a brief, explaining to the social media manager in each country what they can and cannot say or do on social media. You want consistency in messaging and in your brand values.
  1. if you opt for the option of having 1 profile that you will use internationally do not post the same post multiple times in the same language. It looks unprofessional, counts as duplicate content and will not reach the right people. If you're going to use 1 profile universally, make sure that you are an expert in each social media platform's language and geotargeting options. Your French post should only be seen and advertised in France, not in Spain or it will disillusion your Spanish customers.

Other considerations

Just as search engines vary in different countries, unfortunately so do social media platforms. You need to research social media platform usage before you try to advertise. We all know that Facebook is not available in China, for instance.
Luckily, We Are Social did an in-depth research report (over 500 slides), that provides a huge amount of country specific data on social media usage in most countries - check out your specific target market, what channels they are using and familiarise yourself with them.

Whatever platform you choose to use, make sure that you are regularly posting interesting relevant content (as part of your international content marketing and link building SEO strategy) that your audience wants to read and will share.
You should also use Hootsuite to monitor mentions of your brand in each country and respond. It will also help you to ensure that your content is being seen (or not) by relevant accounts and thus enable you to tailor your strategy further

Although there seems to be a lot of stuff to consider to reach international audiences, most of it comes down to common sense so do not let this post intimidate you. The main things to remember are:

- organisation and planning are key
- you must be thorough the first time round (or you will have a lot of patchy fixes to carry out)
Good luck!

Thanks to Eleanor Reynolds for sharing their advice and opinions in this post. Eleanor Reynolds is a Digital Marketing Executive with a particular interest in International websites and the Third Sector at Hallam Internet You can follow him/her on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.
02 Jan 17:47

Entering Protopia and a world of continuous marketing disruption

by Mark Schaefer

protopia

By Mark Schaefer

This is the time when we turn to the challenges of the new year and changes we’re likely to face. My prediction for 2017 is that this is the year of marketing protopia. I’m sure this is an unfamiliar concept, so let me explain why this will be the major theme of your professional life for years to come.

Although it may seem like we have been in a world of rapid marketing technology change, we really haven’t. Largely, we have lived in a business world of peaceful evolution.

In the last 50 years, what have been the forces that have completely disrupted marketing?

  • In the 1970s, there was one: cable television.
  • The 1980s saw the dawn of the Internet and mobile technology but change from a marketing standpoint was incredibly slow. In fact, most business leaders at the time viewed the internet as a passing fad and saw no commercial value in it.
  • The 1990s brought about some early advertising and web-based marketing as search became a mainstream utility but again, change came about over a period of years.
  • By the mid-2000s we witnessed a true information revolution enabled by smartphones and social media. But change still occurred in fits and starts — Ten years later, many companies are still just getting into social media and mobile marketing. It’s been a joke among my marketing friends that it has been “The Year of Mobile” for the past five years!

My point is that we may think of ourselves as being in a revolution but it’s been relatively slow and steady iterations. 98 percent of all marketing investments have been in the same seven social media platforms for the last four years. And by the way, Snapchat, the hot newcomer, has been around since 2012.

The martech space is awash with hundreds of lookalike companies offering little in terms of revolutionary points of differentiation. All that is about to change.

The Protopian Era

In 2017 the era of sluggish marketing change will be over, forever. Vast new technological capabilities are sweeping over the landscape, ushering in an era where the very psychology of the marketing function will be forced to change.

Before I get into these changes, let’s get back to this idea of “protopia.”

In his seminal book The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, author Kevin Kelly describes protopia as a state of becoming, rather than a destination. In the protopia era, progress is not happening in fits and starts, it is happening continuously every single day.

I can see this world before us now. While we may have had time to digest and master incremental changes to a Facebook algorithm or a new opportunity for native advertising, the new pace of change will certainly dispel the notion that anybody can be an expert in anything.

Kelly writes that from here on out, every professional will always be a “newbie.”

He explains, “First, most of the important technologies that will dominate life 30 years from now have not yet been invented, so naturally you’ll be a newbie to them. Second, because the new technology requires endless upgrades, you will remain in the newbie state. Third, because the cycle of obsolescence is accelerating (the average lifespan of a phone app is a mere 30 days!), you won’t have time to master anything before it is displaced, so you will remain in the newbie mode forever. Endless Newbie is the new default for everyone, no matter your age or experience.”

The tech sweeping marketing

I agree that in 2017 we will all become endless newbies because we’re entering what amounts to a new operating system for the marketing profession.

Foremost among these shifts is artificial intelligence. While we see ads about IBM’s Watson perform gimmicky party tricks like designing a glowing dress or a personalized cocktail, the true impact of cognitive computing will be profound as it is finally understood and commercialized. Task-specific pipelines into these AI supercomputers will fuel everything from human-like chatbots to automated marketing programs that create strategies … and execute them (including writing, optimizing, promoting, and measuring the content).

This contributes to the protopian landscape because artificial intelligence will create change that creates even faster change.

Another protopian force in marketing will be virtual and augmented reality. The geeky black VR headsets are mainstream technology, ushering in a revolution in how we connect and communicate with customers.

I see virtual reality as a marketing “re-set.” The backlash against annoying marketing and invasive advertising has resulted in filters, ad blocking, and consumer mistrust. Connecting through the entirely new platform of virtual reality gives marketers a chance to say “We’re sorry. Can we try this again? This time the value will be real.” At least, that’s my hope.

AR/VR offers companies the opportunity to lure consumers out of their filter bubbles with awesome immersive experiences.

The third transformational trend will be security … or the perhaps the lack of it. We hear about just a small fraction of the nefarious hacks holding companies and individuals hostage. How does marketing change when customers can’t trust the eCommerce systems that hold their financial information and deliver their products? Today it is concern, but the situation is getting worse — much worse — and every newly-connected node is another vulnerability point.

Implications

What does this mean to me and you? I’m not sure yet other than I’m feeling a bit dizzy!

I do think there will be a role for humans in this protopian world, but it might mean micro-specialization — becoming experts on small chunks of the marketing technology puzzle. In a world where marketing strategy can be commoditized, these trends provide an opportunity for exceptional human minds that can distill competitive advantage through insight (at least for now). And I think it is going to eventually mean a lot of job loss as more and more traditional marketing functions are automated.

This will certainly challenge company cultures. A wider gap will form between those who can adopt and adjust and those who cannot.

I also think this is a technological era that will solve huge problems for both companies and consumers. Ironically AI technology will mean a more human experience, a more respectful and intimate web experience. We’ll be able to connect with perfect sales or service experience every time.

In any event, I look forward to exploring these ideas with you on {grow}, this year and beyond. What are your thoughts on the change and challenge ahead?

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

Book link is an affiliate link.

The post Entering Protopia and a world of continuous marketing disruption appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

02 Jan 17:47

To Lead a Digital Transformation, CEOs Must Prioritize

by Laurent-Pierre Baculard
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Given the pace at which digital innovation is disrupting industries globally, it’s not surprising that most CEOs feel pressure to find and deploy the right technology as fast as their budgets will allow. Many are discovering, however, that becoming a digital leader isn’t simply a matter of technological savvy. It’s about creating an agile organization that can detect what type of change is essential and respond quickly with the most competitive solution.

In our experience, most companies are already steeped in technology and learning fast about how it can transform their businesses. Typically, teams in the field are well aware of the digital threats and opportunities within their area of the organization – usually more so than the corporate center. They have launched their own apps, deployed robotics, established partnerships with digital players, or are using data to analyze their business and make better decisions.

The problem is that that these efforts tend to be ad-hoc and uncoordinated. Without the proper framing and orchestration at the overall company level, the best initiatives will fail to get the attention and investment they need. While it is important to encourage local ownership of ideas and projects, turning them into game-changers requires clear, sometimes ruthless direction from the center around which projects to scale and in what order. Only the CEO has the power to provide this kind of direction across the entire enterprise.

To do that effectively, CEOs need a holistic view of the digital threats and opportunities facing key parts of the business, and a way to link them to an overall vision for how digital is reshaping the competitive landscape. This brings order to the chaos of initiatives and provides a clearer basis for narrowing down priorities and managing the cross-functional interdependencies that the best digital solutions often present. Three ways to manage the digital transition are:

Define where change is needed most: Digital technology affects every company differently, but it tends to create or destroy value in four critical areas of the organization: customer engagement, digital products and services, operational performance, and preparing for disruptive new business models. Developing a clear point of view on the opportunities or threats in each area will suggest which capabilities need the most attention and where to concentrate investment.

Consider how General Electric arrived at the decision to develop and launch its Predix cloud-based industrial operation system. The initiative began when GE’s CEO encouraged his organization to explore how the accelerating trend toward value-added services in the industrial sector might eventually affect the company’s growth. In essence, he challenged his team to act as a change leader – to disrupt before being disrupted — by interpreting the weak signals coming from the market. He asked them to pay special attention to how digital native companies were creating shifts in customer behaviors and to diagnose digital solutions for business challenges that had not yet taken a toll on the company’s profit and loss statement.

Launched in August 2015, Predix helps companies see how their machines and infrastructure are performing so that they can improve them constantly. GE has treated the platform as open source, reasoning that it will power the growth of the industrial Internet, which will in turn accrue major benefits to GE. Its early success also highlights the CEO’s critical role in challenging the organization to assess its digital competence and to determine how urgently it needs to respond to threats and opportunities.

Choreograph the change: Even the clearest digital strategy will fail if your people are unprepared to embrace it. As critical as defining where you need change is setting up the capabilities and processes that will enable it. IT, for instance, is very often the tightest digital choke point because it is mired in old processes and needs significant reshaping to link it more closely to strategy, while creating a more agile approach to development. It is also essential to develop key capabilities in data analytics to make better decisions using the flood of new information flowing through the organization.

Ensuring that change sticks involves the hard work of defining new roles, adding new skills and adopting new ways of working. And it is important to carefully choreograph the change, defining who will lead the effort and how it will be sequenced.

Mobilizing for this kind of change inevitably means shaking up the status quo and leaders themselves need to be prepared to manage the company differently. Consider the challenge companies face in the rapidly changing market for power train compressors. Increasingly, competing in this market means equipping compressors with hundreds of sensors that send information back to the manufacturer about power consumption, vibration, wear and output. Manufacturers then analyze the data remotely to predict problems their customers might face and offer solutions proactively. Blending the hardware with digitally enabled services creates measurable customer value. But taking full advantage of it requires significant cultural changes. Product development teams have to work with field maintenance and commercial teams. Data management teams have to develop the predictive algorithms to improve the customer experience in coordination with the customer-facing teams. Marketing, commercial and finance have to work together to develop new pricing models. All of this has to happen fluidly and rapidly. The old system of passing possible solutions across silos, wading through validation loops and meeting threshold tests simply isn’t fast enough.

Empower people: One clear implication of this approach is the central importance of an orchestration model for digital —prototyping, risk-taking, and mobilizing the frontline to push concrete initiatives. Many of the leading digital models to date have been distributed globally throughout an organization via “digital relays” or champions within each geography and business unit. They are centrally orchestrated at a cadence that improves uptake and so the design remains consistent where appropriate.

This “project team”-based approach relies on empowering people at every level of the organization to work together to devise and implement solutions. Again, that requires some critical organizational and cultural changes. Everybody, for instance, needs access to customer data and the analytics and visualization tools used to interpret it – information that is typically hoarded in a particular part of the organization. This “democracy of data” frequently puts pressure on the middle managers in charge of it and passes decision rights to many others.

Only the CEO can manage this process by breaking down the appropriate boundaries, giving teams permission to set new rules, and providing the strategic framework to buttress the new order. It often makes sense for the CEO to delegate to an “orchestrator,” in the form of a Chief Digital Officer. But that person needs to be fully empowered to compel change across the organization in the name of the CEO. There isn’t time for anything else.

02 Jan 17:45

Is cold calling right for your business?

by steli@close.io (Steli Efti)

is-cold-calling-right-for-your-business.png

“Should we be doing cold calling?”

A lot of new founders and small business owners ask themselves this question.

First of all: Cold calling isn’t dead. It can enable incredible growth and millions of companies are growing rapidly as a result of it—even Uber started out cold calling. If you know how to use it, it will be of great value to your business, too.

In this post, I’m going to give you two highly tactical question that’ll help you determine whether you should be doing cold calling.

Get free access to our B2B cold calling course and start using cold calling to increase your revenue. 

2 simple questions to determine whether you should cold call

We’ve written a lot about cold calling in the past, but we’ve never tackled the question, “Should I be doing cold calling?” The answer is not far away.

Start by asking yourself these two questions:

  1. Do my customers buy over the phone?
  2. Do my competitors successfully use cold calling?

These two questions answer one core question: Is cold calling a channel that will help me successfully reach my customers and sell to them?

There are two main ways to find out if your customers are likely to buy over the phone.

  1. Learn from your potential customers.
  2. Learn from your competitors.

Here’s how to do it.

Learn from your potential customers

Let’s say you’ve created an ideal customer profile. Next, find your ideal customers and survey them.

Ask:

  • Are you being cold called today?
  • Have you ever been cold called?
  • Have you ever bought anything after a cold call?

Survey your potential customers and learn from them.

If your prospects tell you that they don’t buy over the phone, ask them why. Is it because nobody ever cold calls them? Or is it because nobody reaches them on the phone?

If your prospects are receiving a lot of cold calls, but the pitches suck, well— that’s a good thing. Because naturally, a huge part of cold calling is being able to reach your customers. It's also means learning how to cold call the right way will give you a leg up over the competition.

Learn from your competitors

Ask yourself if there’s a company in your industry that’s currently doing cold calling.

Do they have the same type of customers as you and are they succeeding with this strategy? You’ll want to talk to these companies, so start dialing.

Don’t know how to get started with calling your competitors? It’s easy. Call your competitors on their main sales line. Shortly, you’ll find yourself speaking to someone that’s very likely to be a junior rep. Just keep calm and act like a prospect.

Here’s the thing: You don’t even need to lie to them. If you approach the conversation the right way, they’ll want to answer all your questions. Why? Because you might potentially become a very important customer to them.

Eventually, you’ll get to the topic of how they grow their business and they’ll be happy to answer.

Let the data guide your decision

If your potential customers are buying through cold calling and if your competitors are using cold calling successfully, then the answer is, yes—it’s a strong indicator that you should explore cold calling as a channel for your business.

If your competitors tell you they don’t do cold calling, you’d want to know why. Did they try it? If so, what were the results? Did they not try it? Why?

Getting started with cold calling today

Let’s say you’ve answered these two questions and arrived at a “Yes.” Next, you’ll want to ask yourself two things:

  1. Is this the best strategy for your business? Based on all our options when it comes to reaching prospects, is this the best one? Is it cost-effective? Is it competitive? Is it a priority to explore this right now? Like any strategy, you’re going to have to invest time and resources into exploring whether it’ll work or not.
  1. Does anyone on your team have experience in cold calling? If not, will you train someone internally? Will you hire a sales rep?

While it’s tempting to just hire a pro, oftentimes the best thing you can do at this stage is to do the cold calling yourself. Even if you hate cold calling people and are bad at sales, you want to be the person speaking with prospective customers before you hire someone to do it for you. If you struggle with selling over the phone, we have a free cold calling course to help you.

Setting up your first funnel

You’ve decided to give cold calling a try. Next, it’s time to set up your first funnel.

Word of advice: Don’t overthink it. All you’re trying to do during your first attempt is see if you can close one customer.

Here’s what your first version of your cold calling funnel should include:

When you’re doing this for the first time, it’s very likely that the numbers you’ll get are horrible. You’ll have horrible reach rates, horrible qualifying rates, horribly close rates. But if you can create any results at all at this stage, it’s a strong indicator that there’s real potential for success.

These are the resources you need to create a basic funnel:

Keep it simple and focus on one step at a time. Can you reach one person? Can you qualify that prospect? Can you demo that prospect? Can you close the deal?

Once you’ve established a basic funnel, no matter how many flaws it has—that’s a great first step, now you can start improving it. (Don’t worry about the numbers at this point!)

A step-by-step course to get started with cold calling

If you don’t have a sales background, it’s probably daunting to get started with cold calling. That’s why we’ve put together a course that will guide you through all the steps involved.

B2B cold calling for startups and SMBs

Don't like reading? Just watch the video where I walk you through the entire post to help you figure out whether cold calling is right for you or not.

Recommended reading:

24 B2B cold calling tips for sales success in 2016
People say cold calling is dead because they work the phones like it's 1995. Here's how fast-growing companies cold call to drive revenues in 2016.

The fastest way to become a cold calling pro
Want to turbocharge your sales and prospecting skills for the phone? There's a two-fold approach that will beat any other method... and it's free!

How to create a sales call script [Free template]
Here's your FREE template on how to create a sales phone script. Proven script structure that will help you make better B2B sales calls & close more deals.

02 Jan 17:44

Collaborative Selling Was Only the Beginning. Buyers Want More.

by PFPS

Collaborative selling introduced the idea of working more closely with our buyers. But then technology clouded our judgment and interfered with our connections. With so much technology at our fingertips, it became too easy to get in touch with your buyers. But even though you’re plugged in with email, text, phone calls and more… are you truly connected to your buyers? It turns out that true connections are an important part of collaborative selling.

Join your on-air sales coach Deb Calvert as she interviews sales industry leader Linda Richardson in this archived episode of CONNECT Online Radio for Selling Professionals®. Linda describes the important findings reported in her book, “Changing the Sales Conversation: Connect, Collaborate & Close” and explains why collaborative selling isn’t enough. She describes what it means to truly have a connection with buyers. They’ll will discuss why trust and emotion are so important in collaborative selling, and how you, as a seller, can show your buyers a little love and stay linked to what’s important to them.

Linda Richardson is one of the top names in the sales world. Author of numerous sales books and named a “Top 20 Most Influential Training Professional,” Linda’s insight and expertise will help you engage in collaborative selling that connects you with your buyers.

Excerpts from Deb Calvert’s talk with Linda Richardson on going beyond collaborative selling:

Deb Calvert on Connect Radio

Deb: “Why is it that sellers need to change the sales conversation and keep building upon their consultative building skills?”

Linda: “The reason for the change is because the buyers have changed… The internet has profoundly changed how the customers or clients buy, and it really changed what they value from salespeople. Client focus is very important, but what they value has changed. Therefore, what salespeople bring in the conversation has to change, too.”

There’s a wealth of information in this one! Tune in to learn more about collaborative selling and sales conversations.

This is just the start! Listen to Linda Richardson to learn more about the research that indicates how we should be interacting with our buyers. There’s no better way to maximize your windshield time than by listening to CONNECT! Online Radio for Sales Professionals®. We’ll help you cut out continuances, put an end to pending and stop stalling out in sales.

 

Listen To Business Internet Radio Stations with CONNECT1 on BlogTalkRadio

The post Collaborative Selling Was Only the Beginning. Buyers Want More. appeared first on People First.

02 Jan 17:43

Now Is the Time to Fix Your LinkedIn Profile—Here’s Why

by Susan Tatum

Have you been meaning to update your LinkedIn profile and just haven’t gotten around to it? You’re not alone, and I hope this article will lead you to rethink that position. That’s because the seemingly harmless act of ignoring your profile can cost you, especially in the area of new business opportunities.

Read on to see what happened to three professionals who didn’t update their profiles.

An inaccurate profile

Barry is a partner in a Tier 1 accounting firm. He’s been there nearly two years. He hasn’t bothered to update his LinkedIn profile since he joined the firm. It just doesn’t seem important.

When potential new clients check him out on LinkedIn (as 59.9% of them will do), they become confused. Barry says he’s a partner at Company A, but LinkedIn says he works at Company B. Which is true?

Doubt = risk = lost opportunity.

An incomplete profile

Rebecca is a partner at a top 500 law firm. Her LinkedIn profile is incomplete. No picture. No details beyond a list of jobs. She knows she needs to do something about it but she’s working her butt off and can’t give it the time.

Meanwhile, Austin is GC at a pharmaceutical company. He saw Rebecca speak a few years ago at a conference. He remembers enough to find her LinkedIn profile, but it’s practically blank. Although she works at a firm with a stellar reputation, he finds other attorneys with Rebecca’s experience who share their backgrounds. He’s more comfortable contacting them. He never gives Rebecca a second thought.

An invisible profile

Roger is a transfer pricing economist in New York City. There are 183 attorneys in New York on LinkedIn who might need his services. But Roger’s profile does not show up on a LinkedIn search. Instead, anyone looking will find 21 other people who can do the job. Roger never even gets a first thought.

Inaccuracy, incompleteness, and no search optimization. How much new business are you missing because of any of these?

The LinkedIn profile has become an essential tool for getting new business.

Not too long ago, Barry, Rebecca and Roger might have been able to ignore LinkedIn without too much ill effect. Client recommendations, a few speaking engagements, and publishing some articles were enough to meet most new business needs.

But the world has changed, and now more than 30% of professional services buyers find providers with an online search. In today’s market, even client-recommended future clients are checking out references on social media (source).

If you’re not putting yourself forward in the best possible light, providing relevant details, and allowing potential new clients to get to know you before committing to a phone call, you’re putting yourself at a great disadvantage.

4 reasons why buyers are making LinkedIn a key part of their decision-making process

Multiple studies have included questions to determine why buyers rely on social media in general, LinkedIn especially, to help them find solutions to problems and make buying decisions. The answers tend to fall into the following categories:

  1. Access: Social media provides buyers access to a much broader network of peers and experts than they can otherwise tap into. Think about it: let’s say you’re in the US and you need a consultant to help you determine why your employee churn is so high and to fix the leak. By running a quick search on LinkedIn you can identify a large portion of management consultants with experience in handling employee retention issues. From there you can reach out to any one of them for help. Where else can you do that?
  1. Trust: 58% of buyers say they go to social media to learn from trustworthy peers and experts. Buyers feel more confident they can identify true experts and get trustworthy information, especially on LinkedIn. I believe this is at least partially due to the transparency of the network. It’s much more difficult to claim false experience or accomplishments when those claims are easily viewed and disputed by people who know the truth.
  1. Efficiency: There once was a time when buyers had to shoot out email messages and call around to find out who might be able to help them. Then they had to contact each person individually to ask about solutions. Sometimes they had to go to conferences just to ask their questions. All this before even being sure of what they were looking for. Today, with the use of social media, buyers can connect with experts, get answers, and vet solutions quickly and easily from the comfort of their office, home or even the kids’ soccer match.
  1. Relevance: Buyers also like social media because it provides context in which to connect with providers. This is like attending an offline networking event or conference, except they don’t have to go anywhere. This is especially true of LinkedIn, which is a business-to-business networking site uncluttered with cat videos or other distractions.

So give them what they want.

Access. Trust. Efficiency. Relevance. These are all achievable starting with a complete, accurate, and polished profile.

Here’s how you can get started now:

Sometimes the hardest part is the first step. Go to LinkedIn and look at your profile. Does it need to be updated? Do it now.

If you’re the DIY type, you can download a free copy of our LinkedIn Profile Guide to help you create a more powerful profile (no form required).

02 Jan 17:42

17 Overlooked Content Marketing Promotion Ideas To Try in 2017

by Christina Milanowski

Content Marketing Tips

As marketers, we often face tight time frames and demanding deadlines when it comes to publishing our newest content offering. From hitting publish on your next blog post to promoting your next e-book or webinar, let’s all agree to make more time to focus on how to distribute our content wisely.

In 2017, we can buck the content marketing trend of focusing just on content creation and not enough on content promotion. Here are 17 ideas to maximize the ROI of our writing efforts:

  1. Landing Page – Maximize the web visibility of your content with a dedicated landing page. Landing page basics include: 1) Does your page look great on a mobile device (where many of your visitors may come from)? 2) Is there a clear call-to-action (CTA), as in, do visitors know exactly how to access your new content offer? 3) Is there persuasive text? and 4) Can visitors SEE what they’ll get for entering their email address? Show them a photo of your content offer—and bonus points if you explain it in a video with the author.
  2. Website – In addition to a dedicated landing page, make sure your latest content offer is easy to find on your website through simple navigation or, better yet, on your homepage with a CTA button. This may seem a bit self-evident, but, in our experience, can be easily overlooked in the rush to start content promotion.
  3. Blog – If you maintain a blog, craft a post (or two) that relates to your new content offer with a call-to-action button at the end inviting readers to your landing page. Expand on hot button issues, recap key statistics or trends, or continue the narrative with new facts or tips.
  4. Launch Email Campaign – You are six times more likely to receive a click-thru from an email campaign than you are from a tweet, according to Campaign Monitor. Email is vital to a content marketing campaign. So, on the day of launch, be ready with an email campaign that targets the potential customers for whom you have email addresses—encouraging them to check out your new content offer. As well, make sure you have marketing automation such as HubSpot, Marketo or Pardot set up to ensure your new leads receive prompt Thank You emails. One final tip: Be sure your emails are error-free by always proofing for typos and testing links.
  5. Marketing by the Author – If there’s a byline on your content, make sure the author serves as an advocate. Encourage them to share a link to the landing page on their social channels. Another common tactic is for the author to share an article about the content offering on his or her LinkedIn profile through LinkedIn Pulse.
  6. Customer Communication – While your new content may be targeted to potential customers, consider whether your new expertise could also add value to your current customers. If so, you could share the gated content with them or, to make it easier (since you already have their contact information), share the actual PDF or Word document of content in advance of it being distributed to outsiders.
  7. Sales/Internal Champions – Make sure your entire sales department and other internal champions of your content know when it launches. Send a dedicated email with encouragement for your employees to share it with relevant contacts, and on their social media channels. Insider Tip: If you have a large employee base interested in promoting your content, explore a social media service like GaggleAmp or PostBeyond that enables employees to share approved brand content with their personal social networks. Social Media Promotional Ideas
  8. Paid Social Media Ads – Don’t forget that boosting social media posts about your new content offering can help increase visibility with new audiences. We recommend that our clients advertise on at least one of their social channels to their target market. For business-to-business (B2B) campaigns, we almost always recommend LinkedIn and Twitter advertisements to reach business influencers and decision makers. For business-to-consumer (B2C) brands, Facebook and Instagram tend to be the most powerful channels.
  9. Facebook – Depending on your social media strategy, consider how the new piece of content might resonate with your Facebook audience, which for some companies is more about workplace culture and boosting employee morale. Here’s one way: Spotlight the in-house expert who authored your content piece.
  10. YouTube – Marketers know that 2016 was the year of the online video with, according to Venture Beat, Americans spending an aggregate of 8,061 years on YouTube each day. Create a short video to promote your next content offer with a clickable link in the YouTube description box that takes video viewers right to a download of the content described in the clip.
  11. Slideshare – If you’re not familiar with this document-hosting social site, read Maccabee Public Relations’ blog post (“6 Business Benefits of Slideshare“) and then create a company or author account to which you can post a distilled version of your content. For example, when our agency’s content marketing campaign targeted at marketing and PR decision makers was slow to generate new leads, we reinvigorated it by turning our downloadable content (a LinkedIn marketing infographic) into a PowerPoint and posted it on Slideshare. It has since received nearly 10,000 views and directed more traffic – and new leads – to Maccabee. Insider Tip: There is relatively new lead generation capability on Slideshare. It allows you to embed a contact form into a Slideshare file and, for a few dollars per contact form submission, you can gain email information of new leads.
  12. Twitter – A few pointers for using Twitter to promote your content: 1) Don’t be afraid to tweet about the content multiple times. 2) Make sure your tweets have enticing images featuring your content. 3) Leverage hashtags and tag the contributors who helped with your content to maximize visibility.
  13. LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a powerhouse for B2B marketing. Did you know 80 percent of leads sourced through social media for B2B marketers come from LinkedIn? Be sure to post about your new content piece as a company update on your LinkedIn page, and work with your internal experts to do the same on their personal LinkedIn pages and in relevant groups.
  14. Pinterest – Pinterest can be a great way to drive inbound links to your new content, especially for B2C brands, whether that be a recipe, blog post or content landing page. Per the Online Marketing Institute, 80 percent of Pinterest activity comes from repins, so be sure your content can be found on the medium. Pin all your landing page URLs and blog posts to encourage sharing of them!
  15. Instagram – Create an Instagram Story and full-color photo series about your content that encourages your followers to check it out and, better yet, share your content with their friends and followers.
  16. Media Relations – Is your e-book authored by an expert? Does your white paper offer provocative new viewpoints on an industry topic? Don’t overlook the potential of strategic media relations/publicity outreach. Your new content offer can be a good reason for you to “check in” with key business or trade media, showing what your company has been up to—with an offer to interview the executive responsible for your content insights.
  17. Guest Author on Blogs – Explore industry-leading blogs in your space to find out if they accept guest posts or blog submissions. Online blog posts can drive direct traffic to your landing page. Also, our agency has found success in syndicating our authored articles on industry sites, such as Business2Community.

In the new year, help your content stay competitive in a busy internet space and do as content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi predicts: “Five years ago, enterprises were spending 80 percent on content creation and 20 percent on content promotion. I believe this ratio has switched, with successful enterprises creating differentiated content and putting some advertising and promotion muscle behind it.”

See the full list of 33 content marketing promotion ideas on MaccaPR.com. Which of these content promotion ideas was new to you? Share your undiscovered tips in the comments section, below, for all to see!

02 Jan 17:42

4 Easy Tactics for Infusing AI and Predictive Analytics Into Sales Processes

by Sean Zinsmeister

Unless you were hiding under a rock this year, you probably heard a thing or two about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) for sales. As machine learning and predictive analytics technologies have rapidly matured, a whole community of forward-looking sales and marketing leaders are emerging as predictive innovators. Rather than relying on human intuition to inform their processes, these early adopters are leading the arms race for data by reinventing how their businesses operate based on intelligence that’s generated by AI and other related data science techniques.

In this environment, I’ve noticed four easy ways that smart sales leaders are hacking their team workflows to insert valuable data signals and key insights into day-to-day tasks—saving vast amounts of time and making sure all of their rep’s hard work is tightly aligned with the impact it delivers.

1. Use analytics to inform sales follow-up

There’s no doubt that confident and focused reps bring more opportunities into the pipeline. But it’s hard for them to feel confident when they’re given sparse lead records with little or no information about key buying signals – like a prospect’s fit for your product, or their likelihood to make a purchase soon based on marketing engagement. In order to avoid wasting hours every week researching leads, many teams are leveraging the latest predictive scoring and profiling technologies to create a habit of fast and efficient follow-up. When it’s easy for reps to prioritize the right prospects and plan their outreach, they follow-up more consistently, and as a result are more likely to hit their numbers each month.

For example, Shoretel is a company with a huge influx of leads, which market development reps individually call in order to qualify opportunity-ready MQLs. After adopting predictive analytics, the team started prioritizing their best-fit leads to qualify first, and MDRs went from having to call 100 leads to find 1 MQL, to just 12 calls per MQL – a huge productivity improvement.

With detailed information about each prospect, sales reps can also personalize every conversation for better engagement. By using advanced profiling techniques to create highly-segmented lists of prospects based on specific attributes and data signals (such as “VPs of Sales, in California, who use Salesforce, and have interacted with one of our marketing campaigns in the past 6 months”), reps can quickly sort out the best way to approach each group. For instance, that might send a particular piece of content or invite the prospects to a local meetup. Some tools even let you set up alerts for important events, auto-assign tasks to reps in Salesforce, and get recommendations powered by machine learning on which segments to invest more time into.

2. Assign territories based on predictive account scores

When your business relies on outbound prospecting to named accounts, it’s especially crucial to go after the best accounts first. But if reps’ assigned territories don’t contain an even distribution of top-scoring accounts, some members of your team will have more promising prospects than others. Predictive analytics lets companies like Xactly, New Relic and Okta make data-driven territory assignment decisions based not just on arbitrary geographical borders, but on where their best accounts are concentrated, giving each rep an equal shot at closing new business. This both improves the structure of their teams, and eliminates pressure on reps in low-concentration regions to manually search for new accounts that might not be a fit at all.

3. Tap into AI for expansion into new markets

In addition, this same insight can help teams identify good opportunities for expansion. Predictive account modeling can be a great help as you build your hiring roadmap, because it lets you hone in on industries or regions where it’s easy to justify an investment based on clear revenue potential. You can also use these data points to validate marketing hunches as you test-and-invest in new markets. For example, the SMB customer loyalty company, Belly, was looking for additional brick and mortar verticals to attack, and used predictive analytics to score all of the new lists they sourced. This helped the company find new pockets of good-fit buyers before ramping up their sales and marketing investment.

4. Raise awareness with target accounts via predictive ABM

Lastly, by partnering with your marketing team to combine ad retargeting with best-fit account predictions, you can ensure your brand is staying in front of the accounts your reps are going after. AdRoll’s marketing team uses predictive scores to filter top accounts that are in talks with their sales reps, and then display re-targeting ads to key contacts at those accounts. This kind of air cover is the perfect example of true sales and marketing alignment, showing sales reps exactly how the marketing team is supporting them and making an impact on conversions.

Each of these four approaches can make a massive impact on sales productivity and revenue contribution with relatively little effort. There’s really no reason why you shouldn’t at least try out some AI-powered sales hacks to get a leg up on your competition. And the reality is that before 2017 is over, you won’t have much choice – most of the other players in your industry will be using predictive analytics and machine learning to fuel smarter sales strategies and tactics.

02 Jan 17:41

Attract More Leads for Your Brand With Magnetic Marketing

by Personal Branding Blog

man-748733_640Having a stand-out content strategy is an important tool for your personal brand in which your business can establish itself as a leading authority in your industry. The type of content is also important to building your business online.

There are several ways that the right content can help build your brand, which can bring more website visitors and sales. Knowing what attracts your audience enables your company to know what topics to publish, and how to captivate them with a mix of images and text.

Building the right marketing strategy involves presenting your message at just the right time in a compelling way. Here are several ways your blog posts can be more successful:

  • Stand out from the Rest – Make sure that what you publish is consistent with your overall brand message. Know what creates a response from your readers, and their likes and dislikes. Keep tabs on the most relevant topics and trends with analytics software.
  • Find out what’s already out there – In order to find the best subjects for your community first take a look at what other leaders in your industry are publishing. Determine the audience reaction and ask yourself what your brand could offer that would best meet their needs and desires in a different way.
  • Choose topics you know about – After establishing which blog posts you are going to present to your readers do an overview first of your base knowledge and experience in order to build authenticity and trust. You can insert personal testimonies in here that relate to something your brand has already experienced as well as expert interviews.
  • Avoid information overload – Users are constantly being bombarded with information on the Internet and on social media. Use a systematic, focused approach that presents information in a meaningful and useful way. You can include helpful tips, videos, slideshows, infographics, ect. to better reach your audience.

Creating magnetic content throughout the month on a consistent basis will keep your personal brand at the forefront of your readers’ minds. As your visibility increases so does that fact that your are now seen as being knowledgeable in your area of expertise. Both quality and a thorough understanding will help your brand build a larger community online.

02 Jan 17:41

Odds & Sods

by Tibor Shanto

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

Every year I jot down different ideas, always with the goal of fleshing them out and building decent post. For a myriad of reasons, sometimes these ideas don’t get developed, but unlike previous years, I am resolved not to let them evaporate with time. As a result what follows are ideas I think people in sales should be thinking about, but rather than waiting to polish them up, I am putting them out their in their raw state, and set them free to grow and evolve with you. Let me know what you think, push back, evolve the ideas, let’s see where they go, or not.

Benchmarking

Benchmarking is a good idea, but only if you are benchmarking for the sake of making progress. Set out to improve an element of your game, set a goal, measure where you are, develop an action plan, then execute. Going a step better, one can benchmark against another entity doing a similar thing, and see how you are doing vs. them in specific measures. In sports, it could be measures like goals against, team batting average, or in our favourite sport, average deal size, time to recover cost of acquisition or leads to opportunities converted. Many sales organisations are not as adventurous as others in what they choose to compare (benchmark), or who they benchmark themselves against.

So why is it that only the best choose to benchmark themselves against the best, or at the least, better than they are. While the weak and also-rans, always benchmark themselves against people “behind” them. What’s the point in measuring how well you are doing against someone who has figured out less than you, why not mark yourself, be you a rep or sales organization, against the best, or better than you. Sure you can pat yourself for being ahead of the lesser competitors, why not look forward and make gains, rather than maintaining an easy lead.

antiker Koffer voll mit antiken Gegenstnden2017 The Year Of Sales Enablement

Seems the marketing cooks in Salesland are whipping up something “new” for 2017. Top on the list is rebranding, because you know what they say, if you can’t innovate, rebrand. Just like the New Improved Tied, often the only thing new is the wrapping and the hype. Just look at the recent rebranding of Key Accounts to the new look Account Based Marketing, a brilliant twist emphasising something that really isn’t there.

While traditional product marketers may test the “new” in a limited way, do consumer surveys, and the occasional focus group. In Salesland, they are more prone to doing soft launches, and when enough people jump on, they go full hog, and ride that wave till it runs out of power.

But the big thing in Salesland, percolating a while now, shaping and defining itself, but now ready to be painted over the previous Sales 2.0 veneer, is Sales Enablement. Despite efforts, Sales 2.0 didn’t plant roots, there were those who tried to keep it alive well past it’s “good through” date, but the savvy in Salesland jumped ship early and went social. So now it’s time to rebrand and try to peddle the same old with a new twist and new tweets, well at a minimum new hashtags.

For those who doubt this make over, one need only consider “The Sales Enablement Society (SES, really close to SOS)”. Their stated goal “is to better define and ultimately solve, the vast disparities that exist in sales enablement roles and functions in organizations today.” A worthwhile exercise indeed – a good start would be a definition.

But I would imagine that if sales enablement continues to be different for those who sell services, from those who sell technology applications, it will suffer the same fate as Sales 2.0 and the Sales 2.0 Alliance, remember them? Can’t wait for the line up at the Sales Enablement Echo Conference.

Salesland needs to stop following false idols and embrace the one reality in sales, success is about Execution – Everything Else Is Just Talk!

Become one of the thousands of sales professionals receiving my latest updates on sales execution, tools, tips and more.

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The post Odds & Sods appeared first on Renbor Sales Solutions Inc..

02 Jan 17:41

Stop Simply Monitoring Your Team and Start Actually Empowering Them

by Alex Hisaka
  • start-empowering-your-team

As a sales leader, you’re keeping close tabs on a variety of data to track a rep’s progress: qualified leads, expenses, and monthly sales target, among other metrics.

But the best sales leaders know that these metrics don’t tell the whole story. The most successful sales teams aren’t led by the managers who are best at monitoring metrics, but by inspiring leaders who are also great coaches. You’ve likely seen these leaders in action, and also observed leaders who certainly do not fit that category.

As more organizations make the move to adopt social selling—developing relationships with customers by leveraging your social networks—the more managers should embrace their roles as chief-enabler, not head number-cruncher. The good news is that the move to social selling can help facilitate this kind of enlightened coaching. Read on to learn how.

Engagement Metrics

If you want to be an inspiring and helpful coach, it doesn’t mean you should toss aside all your monthly numbers. But if you’ve embraced social selling, it’s best to look at new kinds of numbers tracking how engaged your reps are. The numbers show how many new customers your reps are connecting with, if they’re the right buyers at that company, and if they’re talking to them at the appropriate stage in the sales cycle.

Thanks to LinkedIn and other social networks, that engagement can be tracked, and can be part of your conversation coach reps. Take a look at one such tracking system – the Social Selling Index (SSI) for on LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator. That SSI, which is a score from 0-100, gives the rep more points if, for instance, their connections requests are accepted, which is one way to measuring whether reps introducing themselves to buyers in warm and appropriate ways.

Whether you use the SSI or not, a lesson can be gleaned from this kind of tracking: sales is about building and sustaining relationships, engaging with insights, and targeting those insights to the right people at the right time.

Coach Your Team to Engage Early in the Pipeline

By shifting your coaching strategy from monitoring sales quotas to enabling better engagement, managers will notice that their focus shifts from end of the sales cycle to the beginning. That’s because top-performing reps are facilitating warm introductions, nurturing buyers at every step of the sales process, and educating and listening to prospects rather than selling to them to early.

This early coaching has become key to gaining new clients, since 70% of a buyer’s journey is now complete before a buyer contacts a salesperson; your rep must influence that person early on to have a chance to close a deal down the road.

Scott Edinger, a management consultant who writes about sales leadership, is critical of managers who obsess over the status of deals close to closing. Instead, he writes that if you shift half of that time to the early part of the cycle, you can determine where along the journey your rep should place her focus to create the most value.

See How Buyers Respond

While you shouldn’t be single-mindedly staring at sales quotas, you should monitor how buyers react to your new tactics—and what reps can do better. Dissect the sales journey with your reps to review where he did well and where he fell short. Successes and lessons can then be shared with the whole team. The whole experience is then about getting better at your craft, something every good rep craves.

Modern sales techniques like social selling introduce a world of new metrics; some managers and executives may find them daunting. But if you’re paying attention to what really matters—empowering your reps to engage prospects effectively—you’ll be well on your way to building a world-class sales organization.

To learn how top sales leaders seized the opportunity of social for their organizations, download our free eBook: Crossing the Chasm: How to Capitalize on the Social Selling Trend.

      
02 Jan 17:41

20 Must-Join eCommerce Facebook Groups

by Nicole Blanckenberg

Make it your eCommerce New Year’s resolution to connect. Joining eCommerce Facebook groups with other entrepreneurs, business owners and eCommerce veterans can go a long way in helping to motivate you, guide you and give you ideas.

There are thousands of entrepreneurs who took the plunge before you, as well as many on the same journey as you, and joining groups is a great way to get in touch. Groups provide a platform where you can learn from others – anything from blog writing tips to online marketing – while you grow your professional network.

Here is a list of my favorite Facebook groups that every budding (or seasoned) eCommerce entrepreneur should join:

1: King Pinning

King Pinning is a closed group of over 17k members. The group was created to bring like-minded entrepreneurs together, who want to expand and grow their businesses. What makes this group great, is that they are pretty selective with their members, meaning it is totally free from spam while providing a platform for you to engage with other entrepreneurs.

2: A better Lemonade Stand

From SEO to CRM, a Better Lemonade Stand is an eCommerce Facebook group aimed at bringing passionate eCommerce business owners and industry leaders together. Discussions include a host of topics that include CRM, content, analytics, AdWords, SEO, SEM digital marketing, suppliers, product sourcing and Shopify platform tips.

3: My Silent Team

With over 32k members, My Silent Team is a great group where you can sign up for courses and learn from other creative and successful business owners. Created by author and successful podcaster, Jim Cockrum, wanting to connect entrepreneurs across the world with others in their areas.

4: Digital Marketing Questions

This niche Facebook group is ideal for those eCommerce owners who have mastered digital marketing or are looking for tips to help with the best practices. From SEO and Social Media to PPC and analytics, this is great group to ask questions, network and follow relevant industry content.

5: Ultimate Blog Challenge

I am a strong believer in creating a blog around your store niche, to increase traffic through SEO and content marketing. This group is specifically aimed at people wishing to grow their store blogs for that reason. It was created as a platform for you to be able to ask blog- related questions and share your content.

6: Screw the Nine to Five Community

One of my favorite Facebook groups, Screw the Nine to Five, is perfect for all budding entrepreneurs who want to be surrounded by people who “get” you. An amazing community that helps with feedback, support and information on a wide variety of topics from marketing to getting out of the 9-5 life.

7: Shopify eCommerce Group

Specifically for those eCommerce online store owners running their eCommerce business on Shopify, this group is a great place to network, get eCommerce tips and all-round motivation. A great community resource for solving all your eCommerce hiccups and getting real feedback from others like you.

8: Shopify Strategy

Another great group for Shopify store owners is Shopify Strategy. This is more of a niche group that focuses on sales strategies and Facebook selling. With over 22k members, all sharing and giving feedback, this group is an invaluable community for Shopify users.

9: Leads Traffic & Income Access

Something a little different, the Leads Traffic and Income Access is a group designed specifically to broaden marketing reach. Over 26k members share content, special offers and unique aspects of their business to help each other grow online traffic and get feedback.

10: Copy Monk

If you’re looking for copy inspiration for AdWords campaigns, your blog or social ads, then Copy Monk is the group for you. This Facebook group includes eCommerce veterans to help improve conversions with compelling content, offering tips, tricks and ideas to get your ad copy performing quickly and effectively.

11: The eCommerce Group

The eCommerce Group is a private group made up of over 6k vendors, merchants and eCommerce experts. The group was founded by John Lawson, CEO of ColderICE Media, as a forum for members to discuss SEO, social strategy, FBA, Amazon, Ebay, and eCommerce best practices.

12: Advanced WooCommerce

For the more experienced WP online store owners, Advanced WooCommerce is a place where store owners, WooCommerce enthusiasts and WP developers can share knowledge and ideas. It was created to help support those store owners looking for help on features and functionality to improve their WooCommerce stores.

13: Video Marketing Group

The Video Marketing Group tackles just that: video marketing. From marketing, ranking and production, to the best video marketing and marketing tools, this group is a great resource for eCommerce store owners looking to improve traffic through video marketing.

14: Magento Experts

If you use the Magento eCommerce Platform, then this is the group for you. Magento Experts is a forum created to help store owners get answers to platform questions, as well as to provide contacts for Magento developers for those big technical changes you may want to outsource.

15: Shopify Entrepreneurs

With over 21k members, this group was created for Shopify store owners, store managers and expert service providers that include developers, designers and marketers. The group diversity makes Shopify Entrepreneurs Facebook group an invaluable eCommerce forum for tips, advice and motivation. Plus, as a group member, you have access to an exclusive Shopify offer – win, win!

16: The Unofficial Shopify Podcast Insiders

The Unofficial Shopify Podcast Insiders Facebook group is a relatively new Facebook group made up of savvy, opportunity-seizing entrepreneurs. The only requirement to join this forum is that you have to have a Shopify store. It’s a niche group make it a great way to get one-on-one feedback from other eCommerce entrepreneurs.

17: The Amazing Seller

If you are familiar with The Amazing Seller Podcast, then you will love this Facebook group. The Amazing Seller discussion group was set up to discuss precious podcasts, picking up the conversation and taking it further, as well as providing a forum where you can help select future shows. Started by Scott, the aim of the podcasts and the group is to learn how to make making good money using FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) and private labeling to sell physical products.

18: Grow and Sell

Grow & Sell is a Facebook group where you can discuss eCommerce ideas and best practices with other forum participants. With over 13K members, and growing, this group is the perfect platform to share success stories, get help and/or offer assistance. Although it is powered by Shopify staff and merchants, every store owner, or prospective entrepreneur, is welcome.

19: My Shopify and Ecom Empire

If you’re using an eCommerce platform other than Shopify, don’t be put off by the name. My Shopify and Ecom Empire is a helpful group for an eCommerce store owner using any platform. Whether it’s WooCommerce or Shopify, this group is the perfect place for store owners to exchange information and tips.

20: Niche Site Project 3.0

Niche Site Project 3.0 was set up by Spenser, the creator of Niche Pursuits. Niche Pursuits is a learning program for budding entrepreneurs where he shares what he is learning along the way in regards to SEO, creating valuable businesses online, and of course the tips and tricks he discovers for business in general. He created the group as a platform for students to interact with coaches, get exclusive updates, ask questions and swap strategies.

Have a favorite group of your own? Share them in the comments below.

31 Dec 18:19

3 Ways to Disrupt and Revamp Your Sales Hiring Process

by Mario Martinez Jr.

As a former sales leader, I know all too well the challenges I faced in improving the sales hiring process for my team. Whether it was processes around leveraging or acquiring sales tools, hiring, recruiting, training, or introducing social selling tactics, many times I faced, “This is the way we’ve always done it.”

The number one challenge I faced as a sales leader was the successful onboarding of a new rep. In my experience, the onboarding of new sales reps is arguably the largest problem for sales leaders. Do it right and you have a killer sales rep. Do it wrong and you’ve killed the rep’s success and, worse yet, your brand. The number two problem I found was knowing when to pull the plug on a new hire that doesn’t seem to be working out. I always questioned, “Did we set him/her up for success, or did the individual truly fail?”

Anyone who knows me knows — I “Don’t Do ¡˥WɹON”

When it comes time to scale the sales team, hiring and ramping the right salespeople in the smartest way possible is the lifeline to a successful sales organization. Leadership here is key, especially for rapidly growing companies or anyone in dynamic and rapidly changing markets. While I loved many of the recruiters that worked with me, I felt then—and still feel now—that sales hiring and ramping is too important to leave to recruiters or HR, especially if they focus on the hiring of all employees rather than just sales.

Sure, a bad hire of any employee can be costly to the organization and possibly your personal brand. I know from firsthand experience what a bad sales hire can do to your brand as a leader. According to a recent CareerBuilder.com survey, 69 percent of companies experienced the negative consequences of a bad hire. Over 40 percent of them estimated the cost of that bad hire to be more than $25,000. Another 24 percent put the cost at over $50,000.

But in sales, the cost of a bad hire is worse. Beyond recruiting and salary expenses, you have the opportunity cost of missing multiple quarters of sales quota. According to Dano Rogers, Chief Revenue Officer of Revenue Engines, a bad sales hire can cost the typical company at least $100,000.

Time to think creatively, even disruptively, about your sales hiring process

One company pushing the envelope in this regard is Revenue Engines, a startup focused on reengineering the sales hiring and ramping process. Recently, I had the unique opportunity to sit with their investors and leadership team to discuss how to improve the hiring, onboarding, and training processes. Their model and philosophy highlights three points worthy of consideration.

  1. Don’t Overly Rely on Resumes and Interviews. Candidates cast their experience and past performance in a positive light. Let’s face it: their references are only going to be people who will say great things about them. Busy managers may also be tempted to make judgments based on the name or size of companies where the candidate used to work. Or worse yet, perhaps they will only focus on sales reps who came from within the same industry, thinking a rep needs to know the industry to be successful.

Past performance as a predictor of future performance is risky, which is why Revenue Engines puts little weight on resumes or interviews. To truly assess a proper fit, they do test drives, an interesting concept that is new and revolutionary to the sales industry.

  1. Test Drive, Then Hire. Salespeople cannot be evaluated in any meaningful way by a few interviews or a questionnaire. As Ilya Druzhnikov, a co-founder at Revenue Engines, and earlier at ConnectAndSell, points out, “It’s a stretch to say you’ve evaluated a sales candidate if that evaluation didn’t include time in the saddle. It’s like buying a car without a test drive.”

sales hiring

Time to consider a new sequence: test drive first, then hire. For example, Revenue Engines puts the top candidates in a four-to-eight-week ProofPoint™ program, where they spend time pitching the potential employer’s offering. True, this won’t be a full evaluation, especially for long sales cycles. However, it can indicate ability to move prospects through the funnel.

Some companies try to implement “test drives” by first trying someone as an independent rep. The problem is that, as contractors, these people don’t get proper training or support.

Which leads me to the third point . . .

  1. Ramp Both Before and After the Hire. Revenue Engines’ test drive is said to work only because training is done beforehand. Candidates are armed with the product/customer knowledge and specific sales process skills needed before a proper evaluation (both for a manager’s sales hiring decision and a candidate’s career move).

This training is not a one-day class but, rather, a longer process that integrates learning with doing—both during the test drive and after the hire. Such real-world reinforcement is important, because according to noted sales trainer Rob Jeppsen, salespeople fail to retain around 87 percent of what they learn in training.

Sadly, few sales reps get ramp-up support before or after they are hired. Most companies provide minimal training or rely on newbies shadowing veterans (picking up good and bad habits alike). But as a sales leader, do you honestly feel your organization has a systematic program for ramping new hires?

I agree with the observation of Revenue Engines’ co-founder, Weston Parker Headley: “Whether as a senior manager or consultant, I’ve rarely seen companies consistently apply a sales ramp-up process. No surprise it’s a frequent concern of commission-oriented candidates.”

Bottom line. No magic technology wand will automate the hiring and ramping of salespeople. It is a human process, but one ripe for improvement. As Headley learned from his prior consulting work alongside Clay Christensen (the Harvard professor who wrote the book on disruptive technology), “Disruptive innovation does not always involve sexy technology but does require fundamentally new processes and models.”

As a sales manager, do you have the dedication and courage to change the way you scale your sales team? If you remember anything, I challenge you to remember: “Don’t Do ¡˥WɹON