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25 Jan 17:19

8 Proven Ways to Skyrocket Your Website’s Conversion Rate

by Alex Jasin

8 Proven Ways to Skyrocket Your Website’s Conversion Rate

Nothing is worse than having a great product or service, but not being able to get anybody on board.

You know you’ve got something special, yet you’re having an impossible time convincing anyone else to buy in.

You thought that if you just built it, they would come, right? Well, you built it, but the rest didn’t really work out too well.

So now what?

Good news. You don’t have to remain stuck with a terrible conversion rate. With just a few tweaks, you can start seeing immediate improvements. Suddenly you’ll go from being a door-to-door evangelist, with no conversions, to being a cult leader (of sorts), where you can’t keep people away.

Here are 8 ways to increase the conversion rate on your website.

1. A/B test the heck out of everything

A/B testing is simply creating an “A version” of a page and a “B version” of a page and then seeing which one creates more conversions. By iterating this multiple times, you can keep narrowing things down until you have a massively high-converting page.

AB Test The Heck Out Of Everything websites conversion rate

Image Source: Addiction Marketing

What should you be A/B testing? Everything.

Even small, seemingly insignificant changes can generate surprising bumps in your overall conversion rate. Tinker with:

  • The headline. Incorporate different words playing on different emotions. Try a positive headline, a negative headline, and a headline making big promises.
  • The page layout. Move key sections around to see which layout performs best. Try a single “Buy” button then multiple ones. Include more images, bigger images, less text, more bullet points. As you work through these various permutations, keep narrowing it down until you determine which layout crushes it.
  • Your offer. Don’t be afraid to mess around with your price, discounts, and bonuses. Add in additional bonuses and watch for jumps in conversions.
  • The “Buy” Buttons. Change up the language on your call-to-action buttons. Try using direct language like, “Buy now”, as well as more conversational statements like, “Yes, I’m in!”

These are just a few of the things you can test. Think of A/B testing like a scientific experiment, and yourself as the mad scientist.

Feeling skeptical about whether this can really make a difference? When CityCliq changed their headline, they saw a 90% increase in their conversion rate! With one small change, they practically doubled the number of conversions. That’s the power of simple A/B testing.

2. Craft a killer, clear value proposition

When people come to your site, they should know exactly what you’re offering. There’s no room for muddy, unclear language here. If you only sell the best custom bowling balls on the planet, visitors shouldn’t come away thinking you’re a bowling instructor.

Your value proposition should be both crystal clear and really attractive. Without both of these, your conversion rate will suck. You may be the best hot yoga instructor in history, but visitors won’t know that if that if your proposition isn’t clear and attractive. This is why a clear, attractive value proposition is so crucial. Without one, visitors will stumble away from your site confused.

Craft A Killer, Clear Value Proposition forr websites 2conversion rate

Image Source: Wider Funnel

Have someone who isn’t familiar with your business visit your site and then ask them these questions:

  • Did you know within 10 seconds or less what I offer?
  • Were you confused about my offer?
  • Based on what you saw, would you be interested in purchasing my product/service?

Their answers will help you grade your value proposition.

Even if you’re a big name company, you can still improve your value proposition. When The Sims 3 website clarified theirs, they saw a 128% increase in game registrations.

3. Tackle objections head on

People are suspicious, and they don’t want to be sold, snookered, or tricked. They will have objections when they scope out your offer. You basically have two options when it comes to disarming suspicions and overcoming objections.

  • Option One: You can try to keep piling bonuses on until they feel like they would be stupid not to get in on your offer. This is the standard, “As Seen On TV,” trick. “But wait, there’s more!” This can work but it can also generate the feeling that it’s all too good to be true. Visitors may feel like they’re getting pulled into an infomercial.
  • Option Two: A better option is to address all objections head on. Speak to their fears. If you’re able to offer a really low price, explain why. If you operate in an industry with a bad reputation, speak openly about that. The more upfront you are, the less objections people will have.

One simple way to address objections is to create a Frequently Asked Questions section. This allows you to provide detailed answers to common objections and to dispel some of the suspicion.

4. Work hard to build trust

Unfortunately, the Internet is a cesspool of untrustworthy people trying to steal money from unsuspecting innocents. “Nigerian Princes”, password phishers, greeting card viruses, and a host of other villainous practices make trust a rare online commodity. If you can increase trust between you and visitors, you’ll see your conversion rate skyrocket.

How can you build that sacred trust? A number of ways.

  • Have a website that looks legit. This should be glaringly obvious. If your site looks like it was designed by a moody teenager, people won’t trust you. Your site should be clean, professional, easy to read, free from typos, and without obnoxious imagery. There are plenty of comprehensive guides to teach you how to create a website by yourself, but don’t be afraid to hire someone to build an amazing site for you. Just make sure you’ve done your research, and know exactly what quality you’ll receive.
  • Provide contact information. Don’t bury your email or phone number deep in the murky recesses of your site. Put your contact info in a clear, easy to find place.
  • Include testimonials. The more customer testimonials you can include, the better. It shows people that you’ve worked with other customers and that you offer a real solution, not some sort of digital snake oil.
  • Offer live chat. Customer trust will go through the roof when they can immediately get their questions answered. And unlike the days when you had to have a dedicated call center for live chat, there are now scores of low-cost options available.
  • Offer superb guarantees. Guarantees allow people to feel safe about their purchase. It lets them know that if something goes wrong, you’ll make it right. Highlight your guarantee with a big seal to increase conversions even more. Oriental Furniture bumped up their conversion rate by 7.6% by using a guarantee seal prominently on their site.
  • Use real pictures of people. Stock photos of smiling people in artificial scenarios don’t build trust. When possible, use real photos of normal people doing normal things. Medalia Art saw a 95% increase in their conversion rate simply by using pictures of actual people.
  • Use videos. A simple video of you talking to customers can significantly boost your conversion rates. It puts a face on the product or service and reminds people that a real person is behind the company. This video doesn’t need to be highly produced or have a great soundtrack. Just talk honestly to your customers.

People have been burned too many times to trust just any old website. Work hard to cultivate trust and you’ll be rewarded by increasing conversion rates on your site.

5. Minimize design friction points

Minimize Design Friction Points for websites conversion rate

Image Source

Man, I feel stressed just looking at that picture.

Generally speaking, friction is anything that psychologically keeps a visitor from signing up or purchasing. Design friction is anything in the design or layout of your page that hinders visitors from moving forward. Some really easy friction points to fix are:

  • Too many fields. Only require the bare minimum when it comes to filling in fields. If you only need a first name, don’t ask for first name, last name, blood type, astrological sign, and Harry Potter house. Too many fields causes fatigue, which then sends your visitors away.
  • Slow loading time. If your website takes more than three seconds to load, you’re going to lose conversions. The Internet operates at warp speed, and if your website is slow, people will quickly go somewhere else.
  • Too much useless text. If the pages on your site are unnecessarily long, people will get bored and go watch cute cat videos.
  • Hard to read fonts. We’ve all visited sites that use a weird font. What do we do? Get out fast. Don’t get overly creative with artistic fonts and colors. Above all, your site should be easy to read.
  • Too many actions. You should be driving your visitors toward a single, primary action, such as purchasing or signing up or contacting you. If you’re pushing visitors toward multiple actions, people can become confused and overwhelmed, leading to a drop in conversion rate.

More than anything else, you want your site to be smooth, attractive, and easily readable. It should be, relatively speaking, a pleasure to navigate your site. To identify friction points, A/B test variations of your pages.

6. Enough with the features already

When you’ve spent years perfecting a service or product, you can lose sight of the forrest for the trees.

Here’s the thing: most people don’t care about the finer points of your product. They don’t care that your roller skate wheels are 0.03 microns thinner than the industry average or that your carpets are triple under weaved with a double twist.

What do people care about?

Benefits. Repeat after me: It’s all about the benefits.

Visitors want to know how your product or service will make their lives better. They want to know how you will give them access to the good life. They want more comfort, less pain, more free time, more money, and fewer taxes. They don’t want endless details about how you managed to cram more processors on your motherboards. They want to know that your computers won’t crash during tax season or finals week.

When waxing eloquent about your roller skate wheels, tell them how much faster they’ll go because of the thinner wheels. Explain how the weave of your carpets creates a soft, plush, stain-resistant carpet. Paint a picture for potential customers. Help them envision how amazing their lives will be once they take what you offer.

People don’t want to buy features. They want to buy a better life.

7. The proof is in the pudding

Social proof, like case studies, are an easy yet powerful way to boost your conversion rate. After all, people want to know that you get results. That you can actually deliver. That you’re not a con man looking to make a quick buck. If you can show people the exact steps you took to help a client succeed, you’ll demonstrate that you already have a proven track record.

E-books and whitepapers are a great way to provide case studies to potential customers. You can make them longer than blog posts, and include more nitty gritty details.

8. Give your site a total makeover

If your site is so bad that a few simple tweaks won’t fix things, you may need to think about giving it a complete makeover. Yes, this will cost a bit up front. Yes, it’s going to be a total pain in the butt.

But you need to think about this in terms of long-term costs and benefits. How much will your terrible conversion rate cost you over the course of this year? Five years? This isn’t just about dollars and cents. How much further will your competition get if they have a website that is crushing it? Eventually, you’re going to be left in the dust.

Hiring a local web design team to craft you a gorgeous, conversion-centered site is a small short-term cost with a huge long-term benefit. Don’t settle for lousy conversion rates when you don’t have to.

Wrap

Many people assume that low conversion rates are the result of a poor product or service. Thankfully, that isn’t true. By implementing all or some of the steps listed above, you can fix your problem.

Here’s to more conversions!

25 Jan 17:17

5 Subject Line Mistakes That Tank Your Open Rates

by Brad Smith

Email is a conversion-driving goldmine.

Which means we marketer’s feel the insatiable need to strangle our own Golden Goose by pushing the volume of email sent well into the trillions.

It might still outperform younger, sexier options like Facebook and Twitter (to the tune of 40X). But those days are numbered if we keep receiving hundreds of emails daily (most of which is unsolicited graymail).

subjust line mistakes

So how do marketers get people to open and respond today? Especially when simply getting emails delivered to inboxes is becoming increasingly difficult?

It comes down to that tiny, one-line email subject line that can entice or repel people within fractions of a second. So you have to get it right.

Here are five common email subject line mistakes, and how the savviest email marketers are getting around them.

Mistake #1. Spammy Language

“Vicodin”. “Fast Viagra delivery”. “Cures baldness”.

What do these three things have in common? (Besides my search history.)

The answer is that they all trip up email spam filters, blatantly tipping off service providers to potentially unwanted and unsavory content that lurks deep within.

Thankfully HubSpot has done a lot of the dirty work, collecting most of the words that will trigger spam filters. But that number keeps increasing.

The word “free” is a classic tightrope-walking example that can help driving conversions for your upcoming sale, or completely prevent that mission-critical email from reaching recipients in the first place.

subject line spam words

That’s a dangerous game of Russian Roulette when there could be tens to hundreds of thousands in new revenue on the line.

“Free” is tricky because it can help some industries. Sometimes. While it also hurts in others (at other times).

spam in email subject lines

(image source)

So you don’t know. It’s a risk either way.

How, exactly, do you get an important sales-related message across without relying on one of these words that might prevent delivery in the first place?

Create urgency instead.

Sometimes that’s as simple as explicitly using the words “urgent” or “important”.

urgent email subject lines

But urgency can also be manufactured by incorporating power words that resonate with the deep, dark recesses of our primitive minds.

These don’t have to be over-the-top claims. However, they should feature strong, evocative language that will make people sit up and take notice.

For example, my company recently went through 280,358 emails to see which email subject lines performed best.

The average open and click rates for the Marketing and Advertising industry hover around 18% and 2.5% respectively. We saw double those averages when using strong, evocative language that resulted in a short, punchy subject line.

“Why Comments Are Useless”

  • 33% Open Rate
  • 6.17% Click Rate

“50 Ways to Get Customers in 2014”

  • 36% Open Rate
  • 9.10% Click Rate

“3 Killer SEO Resources”

  • 38% Open Rate
  • 6.21% Click Rate

These subject lines, while clickbaity, don’t fall victim to some of the spam-triggering words.

And they also avoid the overly polished, overly corporate stuff that also can tank open rates.

Mistake #2. The Same Ol’ Salesy, Corporate-y Jargon

MailChimp analyzed over 40 million sent emails to determine which email subject lines performed best and worst.

The #winners delivered an incredibly high 60-87% open rate, while the #losers only managed a depressingly low 1-14%.

But the surprising part was the results.

Here were the best performing subject lines:

  • [COMPANYNAME] Sales & Marketing Newsletter
  • Eye on the [COMPANYNAME] Update (Oct 31 – Nov 4)

Huh? What?

These generic subject lines seem to fly directly in the face of “best practices” over the past few years, in favor of… honesty?

But wait until you see this.

Here were the worst performers:

  • Last Minute Gift – We Have The Answer
  • Valentines – Shop Early & Save 10%

In other words, carbon-copies of the subject lines lying in obscurity inside your Gmail Promotions tab right now.

So what’s going on?

Have we all of a sudden found a metaphorical-marketing Jesus? An overnight acceptance of truth and shunning idolatry of sales?

Apparently we can all start talking to people like… like… humans?! Actual people?

And that works?!?!?!

In other words, unmarketing.

Susan Su, email marketing maven and 500 Startups Baller, calls the recent-ish inclusion of “Fwd:” and “Re:” inside subject lines “Un-marketing at its finest.”

subject line pattern interruption

These two and three-letter tidbits create a pattern interruption. They catch your eye while scanning which emails to delete and cause you to pause.

They appear like they’re from a friend or colleague. Like this is a personal recommendation or referral. And they cut through all of the “Last Minute Gift” and “Shop Early & Save” hyperbolic noise, piquing a recipient’s curiosity enough to click.

People, it seems, want to hear from people. Preferably ones they like and trust. Apparently.

Fortune 500’s shouldn’t take all the blame though. Governments and politicians are especially terrible at unmarketing, relying instead on carefully-crafted speeches (that someone else wrote) or specially polished digital sound bites (that someone else also wrote).

President Obama infamously bucked this trend during his two runs for the Presidency. For example, look at the subject lines his campaign used in this brilliant graphic from NYmag:

obamas email subject lines

The subject line “Hey” appears 3-4 times within the same number of months! Other friendly examples include, “Meet me for dinner”, “Today”, and “My best friend”.

Each example above shuns the traditional legal-approved message in favor of something personal and intimate.

Another pattern to notice on this list?

They’re all incredibly short.

Mistake #3. Long-Winded Subject Lines

Open and click rates have remained steady over the past few years, despite the onslaught of volume that email is facing.

Desktop performance may be slipping, but mobile has picked up the slack and continues to push opens and clicks higher.

email subject lines on mobile

(image source)

The strong performance should be obvious. We’re a long way from your dad’s ancient ‘90s Blackberry that was a glorified rolodex.

Today, even conversions from mobile devices are trending up. Consumers are mobile-first; devices are better, faster, stronger; and mobile-friendly websites suck a little less.

email marketing conversion rates

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These trends have a trickle-down effect, where mobile devices are also now being used increasingly for early product research.

Which brings us to emails. 65% of people read an email for the first time on their mobile device. It’s often the first thing people do upon waking while still lying in bed (hey – anything beats heading to the gym).

And those long-winded, complex subject lines are the first that get skipped over. Partly due to the fact that their message is truncated and lost in translation.

too long email subject lines

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So now there’s a new email subject line challenge.

We need to somehow, someway, keep them around the 40-character mark to make sure the message is delivered loud and clear.

It needs to be punchy enough to create urgency and interest. Yet pithy enough to say more with less.

That’s incredibly difficult. Especially when you’re trying to get an important message across.

Mistake #4. Asking Before You Give

Poor charities. They mean well.

But they’ve got it rough.

They’re completely reliant on donations and outside funding. However, those specific words are among the worst you can use in an email subject line.

Euphemisms, including “charity” or “fundraiser”, also suck, as you can see from the below Mailchimp data.

email subject line open rates

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It’s not that people don’t want to help. But it’s the wrong message out of context. And it’s completely focused on the organization’s needs, instead of the recipient’s.

“If you don’t like what is being said, then change the conversation,” according to Don Draper. (And who said television rots your brain?!)

So switch the messaging around. Frame the conversation differently.

Instead of asking for a donation, invite them to an event. WOW them through a special announcement that focuses on all of the good (first) before getting to the funding (last).

open rate data

This is Sales 101 when you think about it. You build value first before you ask for the sale.

Fundraising and donations are no different. People need to understand and see the value of what you’re offering before they’re willing to part with their hard-earned green.

All of this conjecture was backed up by a MarketingExperiments study. They A/B tested three different email subject lines to analyze what impact (if any) introductory text or time had on results.

The short answer? Little if any. Instead, the focus was on the topic at hand and what people were going to get out of it.

subject line testing

(image source)

#WIIFM, aka “what’s in it for me”: That thing you heard through the alcohol-induced fog on your first day of Marketing class so many years ago.

Apparently, people love them some them. So help them see the benefit. Spell out what they gain (or avoid losing).

And personalize where appropriate.

Mistake #5. “Hey $FNAME”

“Hey $FNAME” used to cut it. Used to be good enough.

And then like many things in marketing, it was overextended, overused, and now inevitably ignored.

Today’s unmarketing trend is the first response. It completely drops the “$FNAME” pretense in favor of a direct and to-the-point statement that still sounds personal.

bad email subject lines

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The casualness looks and sounds and feels personal. More so than any unnatural first name drop from a stranger does.

And it’s an excellent example of how to put a personal touch on spray-and-pray emails sent to huge groups of people.

That doesn’t mean personalization is dead however. In fact, it’s only accelerating and becoming cleverer (is that a word?).

Today’s personalization continually layers on small bits and pieces of data to individuals within a larger database. So eventually you know not just that person’s name, but more importantly, their circumstances and preferences.

better email subject lines

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This process starts at the very beginning, picking up clues by looking at what sent them to your site and what they did while on it.

For example, the topic of a blog post CTA should be tied into that post’s topic. (Duh.) That means when someone downloads that eBook or free guide…

subject line tips

… you know a hell-of-a-lot about them.

You know what they’re looking for and which messaging preferences they might respond to. You can infer what their goal is and what’s potentially stopping or preventing them from reaching it.

You know what type of email content to send them which will help nurture and build value in your products or services.

And most importantly, you know what type of subject lines to use to get their attention.

how to personalize email subject lines

It might not look “personalized” at first pass. There’s no corny, overly obvious $FNAME $LNAME screaming out at you.

Which is why it works.

What did we learn today?

Tactics decay over time. That’s the world we live in. Like it or not.

We can only react and respond accordingly.

Today that means making sure emails are delivered by avoiding the ever-increasing laundry list of dangerous terms. It also means unmarketing, or speaking to people like real life human beings.

The majority of emails are being read on mobile devices, so formatting and even your subject lines need to adjust.

To make matters worse, recipients need to know instantly what they’re gonna get from your email.

That can be made easier, with subject lines that are tailor-made to speak to their fears and desires.

But only if you’re doing the due diligence that’s required to stand out from everyone else out there.

25 Jan 17:17

Effective Lead Nurturing: 7 Tactics for Better Prospect Relationships

by Patrick Hogan

Lead nurturing must be a part of your comprehensive sales and marketing strategy. In its core, lead nurturing is about building relationships with prospects through different channels, even when they’re not near the decision stage yet.

B2B customers often take the long and winding road, so to speak. Potential buyers in the B2B space don’t become customers in a snap. They need to be marketed to constantly and over time. They need space to absorb information and educate themselves. Most importantly, they need to build trust with potential vendors.

This is where lead nurturing comes in. It’s the component of a sales and marketing strategy where you keep constant communication with your prospect through different channels and throughout their journey in the sales process. During the times when the prospect isn’t in direct contact with a marketer or a sales rep, lead nurturing works its magic.

Here are some lead nurturing principles you must take to heart.

Understand your audience

In order to communicate effectively, you need to identify your audience. It’s crucial that all content for lead nurturing is created with your audience in mind.

This starts with your buyer personas.

As per Hubspot, buyer personas are,

“…a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.”

Creating these personas for your organization will help both sales and marketing tailor all their communications effectively. It is one thing for the content to reach your audience and another for the content to effectively resonate with them.

Make sure you capture as much first-hand information as you can from leads and prospects. Tools that integration your CRM and phone system like the Salesforce Asterisk CTI help you keep all call data without reps having to fumble with manual note-taking.

Proceed only with permission

Sending emails is easy. Sending mail to people who are willing to open them is tough.

In marketing, permission is king.

The moment you miss to ask permission or lose the permission of your prospect, you’ve already lost their interest. They become disengaged. Your emails? Unsubbed. Marked as spam.

You must be well-versed in permission marketing.

Seth Godin explains it succinctly.

“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.

It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.”

Score leads

Lead scoring is the method of assigning a numeric value to prospects in order to grade them according to priority. This score will be based on a number of factors including lead quality and sales readiness.

Each organization needs to create their own unique scoring criteria and methodology. Creating that will require coordination between sales and marketing. It involves identifying your buyer persona and ideal customer, the activities and behavior that signal interest, and other criteria that would characterize a lead as sales-ready.

Maintain communication between sales and marketing

Many lead nurturing plans fail because marketing and sales can’t get it together. This lack of coordination and mutual understanding between two departments is a tale as old as the abacus.

It’s a must for marketing to coordinate with a sales reps to ensure that the timing is right: When a lead is qualified, it must be passed. Same goes for the content that a lead has been exposed to. Both sales and marketing have to know what contact the prospect has already had. A comprehensive tech stack that includes something that allows reps to record all customer interaction will help tremendously. If you use Salesforce and Asterisk, integrate them with a CTI that has a call logging feature.

This is important in determining the next steps.

This understanding isn’t only for better lead nurturing. The result of a harmonious sales and marketing relationship is a steady influx of high-quality leads.

Think beyond the inbox

Does your lead nurturing efforts purely revolve around emails? If so, you are missing out on many opportunities to reach prospects.

All marketing channels are possible venues for lead nurturing. You need to be present where the prospects are, ready to provider meaningful conversation and value at every step of the way, in any time.

Aside from email, use a combination of different content types like white papers, ebooks, social media posts, toolkits, checklists, and other creative content forms to nurture your prospects through the sales cycle.

Be sensitive of buying cues

Watching out for buying cues is a challenge now that almost everything happens online, not even over the phone. Keep track of their digital body language so you can get a feel of where they are in the decision-making process. What have they downloaded? Did they register for something? Use all this info in your lead scoring so you could identify at what point they become sales ready.

Understand the multi-touch nature of B2B marketing and sales

Successful lead nurturing campaigns deliver content that’s both timely and appropriate for the situation. Content must take your prospect further into the buyer’s journey by answering their questions and addressing their doubts.

It takes multiple touches to turn a prospect into a sales-ready lead. According to research from Aberdeen entitled the Marketing Lead Management Report, it takes ten marketing touches to bring a lead from the top of the funnel up until they are closed-won.


Take your prospect relationships to another level by following these tips!

25 Jan 17:16

What Does the 2017 Small Business Report Tell Us?

by Paul Trujillo

As small and medium-sized businesses everywhere look to 2017 and beyond, one of the major questions has to be how they’ll compete with large companies like Amazon, which is “traditionally” an online retailer but appears to have its sights set on virtually every industry, from software to entertainment. How can smaller companies mimic that kind of success, even on a lesser scale?

There is more than one answer to that question, depending on whether your business provides a service or product, is online-only, and a number of other factors. But one tool we’ve identified as crucial to Amazon’s dominance (and the dominance of other multinational corporations around the world) is the way they handle their inventory management. As you might expect, their inventory control system is automated, though it is powered by low-cost and high-functioning technology like barcodes.

Small businesses, on the other hand, tend not to make large investments in inventory management software. We know this because the 2017 Wasp Barcode State of Small Business Report shows that use of automated systems for inventory is still lacking.

Here’s the report’s breakdown, based on the responses of over 1,100 business owners and executive leaders, of what businesses use to track their inventory:

  • 18% use an inventory control software or system
  • 21% use Excel or another spreadsheet program
  • 15% have inventory functionality in an accounting system
  • 14% use manual processes to track inventory
  • 8% don’t track their inventory at all

The rest of the respondents selected “other” or said they didn’t have inventory to track. The latter choice was common for very small businesses (5-10 employees) who provided a service rather than a product.

This means fewer than one in five respondents said their business used an inventory management system, while more than one in five either used manual processes or didn’t track inventory at all (which, in our view, might as well be the same answer). Here’s why the numbers don’t add up, and why those who chose not to invest in inventory management may feel differently by next year.

Not tracking inventory or using manual processes is a losing battle

First of all, no serious business that offers a product can afford not to track their inventory at all. Simply guessing at whether you have enough in stock to meet customer demand—whether it’s around the holidays, when buying everywhere surges, or even during lulls, when every sale counts—is how you run into problems like promising a customer an item that you don’t actually have in stock. There may be no better way to lose a potential customer-for-life, not to mention 4% in sales each year, than with this mishap.

There’s a domino effect to no inventory tracking. Unknown inventory numbers means a higher lead time, which means slower reaction to stockouts, which foments customer disapproval, which puts a greater strain on customer service and marketing, with no solution in sight. And we haven’t even mentioned issues that arise from internal issues like theft or misplacement.

We have to give it to those companies that use manual processes to track their inventory: At least they’re trying. But the odds of accurately tracking inventory with pen and paper, for example, are low. Most retail stores suffer from this problem—Management Science once found, in the days before widespread inventory software, that inventory numbers were inaccurate for 65% of inventory records examined from 37 retail stores.

We tend not to want to view ourselves as fallible, but mistakes are all-too-common when using manual processes. A misplaced digit, a twice-counted product, an overlooked return—any of these mistakes can cause major disruption as the company tries to locate a ghost, or misses out on sales that could have otherwise gone through seamlessly.

Excel and other spreadsheet programs aren’t much better

The use of spreadsheet programs is yet another step up from “nothing at all,” but issues still remain. Similar to using manual processes, data entry errors in the spreadsheets your business uses are common, and can lead to extra hours spent each week double-checking inputs or tracking down inventory which is said to be in one location but is actually in another.

That’s not all. Excel and other programs have other limitations, including:

  • A single Excel workbook limits user access, which increases the probability of errors.
  • Excel doesn’t have real-time data capabilities, which means the Excel workbook is potentially out-of-sync with the real count (and becoming more incorrect with each transaction, including returns). There shouldn’t be more than a single step, or scan, or update in order to have accurate records across all data access points.
  • Excel can’t help you quickly analyze historical data. Everyone knows that December is a busier month than, say, February. Your inventory turnover ratio—the amount of inventory you need to keep on hand in order to not overwhelm your warehouses, while still meeting demand—will vary markedly in different seasons. Excel can’t help you analyze data and forecast demand the way an inventory management system can, and why take the extra time to go back yourself when you can simply have that data on-demand?

If you have an automated inventory management system, access to virtually error-free inventory count is always at the tip of your fingers. The report shows that bigger businesses (those with at least 51 employees, and as many as 499) better understand the value of this information, as they have markedly higher use of inventory management software. When you start making lots of sales (especially if you have an ecommerce platform), you see the immense value in accurate inventory control.

But if you’re reading this and thinking, “Well, my business is really small, why do I need to spring for that investment now?” consider that it’ll be much easier to grow into an automated inventory management system than it would be to transfer over years of inaccurate data once the need becomes pressing. Don’t waste time auditing your own work—if you see the value in always knowing where your inventory is, it’s never too early to get a handle on it.

There wasn’t a noticeable increase in the use of inventory management software from 2015 to 2016. We don’t expect that trend to remain as we move forward. The world is becoming automated, and inventory control is unlikely to remain an outlier.

25 Jan 17:15

How to Be Charismatic: The 9 Habits of Insanely Likable People

by stousley@hubspot.com (Scott Tousley)

If a conversation ends after “So what do you do?” … things can get awkward.

At this point, we don’t know what else to say. We stink at small talk. We are shy. We are insecure. We’re introverted. Whatever the reasoning or logic, awkward conversations are, well, awkward. It’s uncomfortable for everyone.

But no one wants to feel awkward. We want to be liked. We want to be charming. We want to be charismatic. But that's a natural instinct, rooted in our psychological desire to belong, as illustrated in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

Maslows_Pyramid_belonging.png

So that brings up the question -- what are the psychological habits of the most likable, charismatic, and charming people?

Get HubSpot's free CRM software here for the tools you need to be a better salesperson.

To uncover the trends, we dove deep into research and studies of behavioral psychology. So if you want to transform from awkward and shy, to charming everyone you meet … check out the following tips, validated by countless studies and research.

1. They have positive and negative empathy.

People who possess positive empathy don’t get jealous, they get excited. They are thrilled when:

+ Someone else decides to quit their job and travel in South America for 6 months.

+ Someone else gets their dream promotion (or hired at their dream company).

+ Someone else gets their business acquired for $100 million.

Negative empathy is the ability to comfort others when they’re down. People who posses this trait will:  

- Help someone when their family member gets diagnosed with cancer.

- Support someone when they get fired from their dream company.

- Comfort someone when they break up with their significant other of six years.

Positive and negative empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and genuinely feel what they are feeling — either good or bad.

In fact, we even had a part in our brain dedicated to empathy called the Right Supramarginal Gyrus, that triggers empathetic responses:

brain-sections-work-habits-humble-people.png

We are physiologically and psychologically hardwired to help people (i.e. feel empathetic). The trick is feeling it for both positive and negative events.

Action Step: Take an Emotional Intelligence Quiz.

Emotional intelligence is an incredibly valuable skill, which was found to be the strongest predictor of performance. Research from TalentSmart explains emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of success in all jobs.

In a nutshell, emotional intelligence is the ability to feel what someone else is feeling. The ability to be empathetic and put yourself in their shoes.

Test your knowledge by taking this free emotional intelligence quiz from the University of Berkeley-California.

2. They are humble.

This quote sums it up perfectly:

orange-quotes

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

- C.S. Lewis   

People who are genuinely enjoyable to be around are humble, not arrogant. They don’t wave awards in people’s faces. They don’t name drop for the sake of sounding important. They don’t toot their own horns. They don’t have an aura of I-am-the-coolest-person-in-the-world.

Of course, it’s healthy to be confident and sustain a high self-esteem. But there’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. And the difference is humility.

It separates those enjoyable to be around versus those you can’t stand:

Think of Kanye West — he’s incredibly successful, yet incredibly obnoxious. Now think of Barack Obama — he’s incredibly successful, yet incredibly humble.

Love or hate Kanye West’s music, there is no denying his supreme confidence and arrogance. Agree or disagree with Obama’s policies, there’s no denying his supreme confidence and humility.

There is a fine line … and people who are enjoyable to be around avoid egocentric, self-centered bragging.  

Action Step: Observe the patterns of humble people.

One of the easiest ways to practice humility is to observe the patterns of humility of other people. Take this video of Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela meeting:

You see them smile, stare deep into each others eyes, touch each other on the shoulder, and nod in as if they’re bowing. They are showing respect and courtesy.

3. They are vulnerable.

Vulnerability is uncertainty. It’s putting yourself out there to risk embarrassment or judgment. That definition can become foggy, so here are a few examples: 

  Vulnerability is approaching a stranger in a coffee shop, asking them on a date.

  Vulnerability is giving a presentation to 195 people, even when you’re scared shitless of public speaking.

  Vulnerability is stating your conflicting opinion, when nine out of ten people in a room all believe the same thing. 

Brene Brown, a social psychologist with 10 years of experience of studying vulnerability, gave one of the most watched TED Talks of all time at over 20 million views: 

Let’s be clear — being vulnerable isn’t easy. It’s one of the most emotionally challenging hurdles one can face, overcoming the fear of being judged or criticized.

Yet incredibly likable people aren’t afraid to open up. They aren’t begging for approval from others, so they have no desire to come off as a perfectionist. Furthermore, they realize that those who do appear as perfect may actually be less likable.

When someone appears perfect, we distance ourselves from them. When they appear flawed, we’re attracted to them. This psychological phenomena is known as The Pratfall Effect:

rule-of-reciprocity-email-networkingThe Pratfall Effect 

By making a mistake, or admitting to a mistake, we become more likable. Studies prove people connect with those who admit their flaws, versus those who appear as perfect all the time. 

By being vulnerable, we prime ourselves for failure. Through failure, we become more likable. Thus, vulnerability has the power to trigger likability. 

orange-quotes

Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.

- Sigmund Freud    

Action Step: Do a Stranger Photo Challenge.

So you’re afraid of feeling awkward or vulnerable? Try out this “failure challenge” by the CEO of SumoMe, Noah Kagan:

1. Find a complete stranger to take a picture with you.
2. Have them hold a sign for proof (see sign here).
3. Upload photo.

See more details on this page.

4. They have a sense of humor. 

Watch this 30 second clip:   

Now don’t you just like Old Spice a little bit more?

They’re leveraging a psychological effect called the Peripheral Route to Persuasion. Since it’s a low cognition product (i.e. I don’t think of what deodorant to buy for more than a few seconds), they’re leveraging humor as a “liking cue” to create a subconscious inkling to purchase Old Spice as a quick decision amongst competitors. 

In layman's terms, that means when I’m walking through CVS searching for the magical slimy stick of chemicals (what is deodorant made of anyway?) and see Old Spice … I can’t help but grabbing it. 

Validating their logic, in a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, people who were exposed to humorous ads for low-cognition products were vastly more likely to purchase the product. 

But here’s the crazy part — people HATE ads. So if ads alone can make someone smile … surely so can another human. 

Think about it. When is the last time someone you just met cracked a joke and you thought, wow I hate guy/girl. Probably never. 

It seems obvious, but people who are enjoyable to be around genuinely have a great sense of humor.

Action Step: Try the 5-5-5-5 email joke experiment.

Think you’re not funny? Sure you are. Schedule to send 5 emails over 5 days at 5pm, BCCing 5 different people. 

1. Go to this subreddit called /r/3amjokes. It’s sorted by the best one-liner jokes of all time.

2. Pick your 5 favorite jokes.

3. Write an email with the question in the subject line and the answer in the body:

4. Schedule an email to send at 5pm, BCCing 5 different people. After downloading HubSpot Sales, just click the clock icon by the send button and choose your time:

5. Repeat this to schedule emails for 5 consecutive days at 5pm. It will take less than 5 minutes.

Because who doesn’t want to get a corny joke in their inbox at 5pm after a stressful day of work?

5. They are present.

How frequently does this happen?

not-paying-attention-dinner-on-phone-date-sidekick.png

Yet, I’m not one to judge. I’m guilty of this from time to time as well. However, I’ve basically ended my smartphone addiction by keeping my phone on Do Not Disturb 24/7:



When our phones vibrate, we are curious. Who texted us? So we check to find out. As a result, we’re distracted from the face-to-face-conversation. This makes it seemingly impossible to have a productive face-to-face conversation.

Similarly, it’s difficult talking to someone who is completely tuned out of a conversation. A wandering mind is far more difficult to fix than clicking a button on your phone. But just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

I’ve had my fair share of mind-wandering problems, thinking about other things going on in my life during a conversation, but one method I’ve found to help is meditation. And I’m not the first (or last) to preach about the powers of meditation. These successful people also practice meditation:  

  • Mark Benioff (CEO of Salesforce)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Oprah Winfrey 
  • Tim Ferriss (entrepreneur and author)
  • Martin Scorsese (film director)
  • Ray Dalio (hedge-fund manager)

If you’re struggling with being present during conversations, I suggest giving meditation a go.

Action Step: Practice meditation for 10 minutes a day.

Download Headspace, an iPhone and Android app that guides you through the basics of meditation, in 10 minutes per day.

I've tried plenty of other applications and methods, but I've found nothing better than Headspace to learn the basics and get started. All in just 10 minutes per day. Plus, it's free.

6. They are genuinely interested in EVERYONE.

When you see this, how does it make you feel?

happy-puppy-doesnt-judge-sidekick-content.png

If you’re like 99% of humans, it makes you smile and say “awwwwww, GIMME THAT DOGGY!!!” 

Why do dogs make us feel this way? Why are they so lovable?

Perhaps because they are genuinely excited to greet EVERYONE. They don’t pick and choose who they are excited to meet for the first time, or see for the second time.

Remember how likable people are humble? Well, they’re also not pretentious.

That means they don’t hold a chip on their shoulder when dealing with someone who is “under” them. They are genuinely interested in what EVERYONE has to say. They want to hear their story.

orange-quotes

Charisma is not so much getting people to like you as getting people to like themselves when you’re around.

 - Robert Brault   

Action Step: Try “The Server Test.”

Ever been to a restaurant and someone is extremely courteous to you, but is impolite to the waitress or waiter? 

That’s the server test. 

Next time you’re considering a new hire or business partner, take them out to lunch. Then see how they treat the server. It’s a judgment of character outside of the realm of impressing the person above them. It shows they are kind and genuine to all people, not just those who they’re trying to impress.

Hat tip to Jeff Haden for this incredible bit of advice. 

7. They avoid social narcissism. 

Guess what the favorite topic of conversation is for a social narcissist? Themselves.

They want to talk about their stories. Their problems. Their successes. Their complaints. Their family. Their friends.

45 minutes later, it’s time to split ways and they haven’t once asked about the other person’s past, present, or future.

Instead of rambling about how amazing (or terrible) their lives are, likable people ask questions. They dive deep into the minds of the person they’re talking to.

Not surface-level, small talk questions such as where are you from? Or what do you do? Or how about that weather today?

But they dive deep, asking open ended questions, uncovering the emotions and motivations of people. They ask questions that will make the other person feel good — or ask themselves questions. They ask open-ended questions. They ask why. They show genuine interest.

Action Step: Ask open-ended questions.

Getting stuck in a conversation? Or it feels like a dead end? Try asking open ended questions. As soon as you learn a little about someone, ask:

  How did you do it?

  Why did you do it?

  What did you struggle with most?

  What was the most valuable lesson you learned from that?  

You’ll be surprised how far a conversation can go when the “yes/no” questions are avoided.

8. They are generous and altruistic.

According to Adam Grant, the youngest-tenured and highest-rated professor at Wharton School of Business, there are three types of people:

1. The Taker

2. The Matcher  

3. The Giver

The Taker is an egoist. They tend to get more than they give. They believe the world is a competitive, dog-eat-dog world. As a result, they put their needs before everyone else. This strategy works for short-term gain … but it’s nearly impossible to sustain.

The Matcher is someone who seeks balance between giving and taking. They seek fairness and equality. If they put too much into a relationship, without getting anything in return, they’ll eventually give up. They believe in even exchanges and trading favors.

The Giver is altruistic. It’s a rare breed of human who doesn’t look for anything in return. Whereas Takers are focused on receiving all of time and Matchers are focused on receiving at least some of the time … Givers don’t even think about it.

By giving and giving and giving … you also increase your chances of receiving value in return:

It’s incredible how far you’ll go by being generous and altruistic, putting everyone else’s needs before your own. 

Hiten Shah, CEO of KissMetrics, is the epitome of a giver. He even boasts an inspiring Zig Ziglar quote on his Twitter homepage:

hiten-shah-twitter-zig-ziglar-quote.png

From the man who started two wildly incredibly successful software companies (Kissmetrics and Crazy Egg) … I’d take that advice to heart. 

Action Step: Be honest with yourself ... 

Ask yourself the following:

When I’m helping someone, do I expect a favor in return?

If you answered yes, you may be a Taker or a Matcher. If you answered no, you may be a Giver. Honestly consider the power of giving without expectations. You'll be surprised how far it will take you. 

9. They reciprocate praise (and take blame). 

When a likable person is praised for their work, they typically have a response like this: 

Thank you so much! However, I’d like to emphasize that this was a team effort. I played only one small role in hitting this goal. Jen, Sam, Mike, and Kelsey … you were all crucial to making this happen. And we wouldn’t have done it without you.

In other words, they give credit where credit is due. When they’re recognized for a success, they shift the praise toward everyone else. They give praise and empower people without expecting anything in return.

Conversely, when shit hits the fan, they aren’t afraid to take the blame.

orange-quotes

A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.

- John Maxwell   

In fact, that’s what HubSpot Sales growth marketer, Anum Hussain, did when a $500,000 project went downhill very, very quickly. 

She immediately took blame for the mistake. As a result, everyone forgave her, which actually strengthened her relationships. This psychological effect is known as The Pratfall Effect, which we touched on earlier.

Action Step: Adopt The Pratfall Effect.

Was a project screwed up that you had part in? Or did you directly screw it up? Follow the step-by-step process highlighted in this piece about The Pratfall Effect:

1. Admit your mistakes

2. Fix your mistakes immediately

3. Send a post-mortem analysis on what went wrong … and how to prevent it in the future

Read more about how Anum Hussain admitted failure of a botched $500K project, which actually strengthened her relationships.

Summary: 9 Habits of Insanely Likable and Charismatic People

As a quick summary, here are the 9 habits of insanely charming and charismatic people: 

1. They are empathetic

2. They are humble

3. They are vulnerable

4. They are have a sense of humor

5. They are present 

6. They are genuinely interested in EVERYONE 

7. They avoid social narcissism 

8. They are generous and altruistic 

9. They reciprocate praise (and take blame)

Get HubSpot CRM today!

25 Jan 17:13

Why Not Having a Content Personalization Strategy Isn’t an Option

by Tyler Durman

Amazon, Netflix and Facebook aren’t the only digital platforms that people expect personally relevant content from. In this day and age, consumers expect every digital experience to be individually relevant.

Studies show that 56% of consumers openly admit that their purchase decisions are largely driven by personalized marketing. As a result, 94% of brands admit that personalization is the key to marketing success. However, 75% of consumers complain about irrelevant content, and only 57% of specialized marketing leaders are actually interested in personalization. Even worse, only 14% of marketers have adopted an end-to-end personalization approach to the consumer journey.

If the majority of marketing leaders aren’t even that interested in personalization, then what’s the big deal? Turns out, not having a personalization strategy for your branded content presents more risks for your brand than you might think. We asked 1,500 consumers about their perceptions of the brands that do and don’t take the time to provide personally relevant content experiences. The findings suggest that not having a content personalization strategy isn’t an option for brands anymore.

Less personalization equals less attention for your brand.
The survey reveals that 39% of consumers won’t spend time with publisher or media content if it’s not personally relevant to their interests. The risks are even greater for brand publishers—45% of consumers indicate they won’t spend their time with branded content if it’s not personally relevant.

This emphasizes the fact that relevance is even more critical for brands in the eyes of consumers, and they’ll have to work even harder to capture and maintain people’s attention with individually personalized content experiences.

Less personalization equals less interest in what you’re selling.
This is where personalization really impacts the bottom line. 42% of consumers reported that they’re less interested in a brand’s products and services (and thereby less inclined to buy them) when the brand fails to offer personally relevant content.

This trend is even more prominent among Millennial buyers. More than half (51%) of Millennials (age 18-34) are somewhat or significantly less interested in what a brand has to offer when the content experience isn’t personalized to their interests.

Personalization is an imperative. Here’s how to get started.
Based on the success of technology giants like Amazon and Netflix, it’s clear personalization is no longer just a strategy—it’s an imperative. But if you’re with the 86% of brand marketers who haven’t adopted an end-to-end personalization approach, how will you keep up? To help you get started, we created the complete guide to mastering content marketing personalization, which includes practical guidance for:

  • Assessing your current content marketing program, from strategy to metrics, so you can evaluate the maturity of your content marketing practice and where personalization fits in
  • Assessing your current personalization efforts so you can select the right strategy and technology for personalizing content marketing
  • Aligning your stakeholders so you can get the right people involved in building your personalization strategy from the beginning
  • Building the business case for personalization by setting and measuring the right KPIs
  • Picking the right technology to help you execute and optimize your personalized content marketing

Get a demo to discover how OneSpot can help you reach your content marketing personalization goals in 2017.

25 Jan 17:13

Canada needs a free trade deal with China, says Teck Resources CEO

by Michael McCullough
Shanghai Free Trade Zone

Security guards patrol the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

Amid the uncertainty around Canadian companies’ access to the U.S. market, Teck Resources CEO Don Lindsay has added his voice to those calling for a free trade agreement between Canada and China. Speaking at a mining exploration conference in Vancouver this week, he pointed to Australia’s bilateral pact with China, which came into effect a year ago, as a model.

“Australia has successfully completed a trade deal that has eliminated 95% of trade tariffs between the two countries,” Lindsay said. “Meanwhile we have duties on our coal.”

Whereas U.S. President Donald Trump has proposed spending US$1 trillion on infrastructure over 10 years, Lindsay noted, “China spends a trillion on infrastructure in about 11 months.” He also referred to a 2016 white paper by the Canada-China Business Council and the Canadian Council of Chief Executives that projected such a deal would increase Canada’s GDP by $7.8 billion, boost exports by $7.7 billion and create 25,000 jobs by 2030.

“Australia recognized 15 years ago that its economic future lay with Asia in general and with China in particular,” Lindsay said. “The stronger our relationship with our industry’s top market by far, the better off we all will be.”

Negotiations on “ChAFTA,” as the China-Australia deal is known down under, started in 2005 and concluded in 2014. It reduces tariffs on a range of Australian agricultural products, eliminates tariffs on coal and enhances market access for service industries including financial services, professional services, education, health, hospitality and construction. While Australian companies in some of these industries are restricted to setting up shop in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, others, such as hotel chains and operators of care homes, can do business anywhere in China. The deal offers no tariff relief, however, for products including sugar, rice, wool, cotton, wheat, corn and canola.

ChAFTA also promises up to 5,000 visas per year for Chinese business and leisure travellers in Australia and limited ability of Chinese companies to use Chinese temporary workers. Companies from either country have a limited ability to sue governments in the partner country for arbitrary policy changes in contravention of the pact.

China also concluded free trade deals with New Zealand in 2008 and South Korea in 2015. The New Zealand agreement will be fully phased in by 2019.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada and China had launched exploratory talks towards the possible negotiation of a trade deal during Li’s visit to Ottawa in September. In the past, though, Canadian officials have expressed reservations around the issues of labour standards, environmental protections and state-owned enterprises. Candidate Maxime Bernier has championed a Chinese trade deal in the Conservative Party leadership race.

Teck Resources, a miner of base metals and coking coal based in Vancouver, was the best-performing large-capitalization stock in the world in 2016, with a gain of 419%, according to Bloomberg.


MORE ABOUT INTERNATIONAL TRADE & CHINA:

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25 Jan 17:12

The Secret to B2B Sales – Identifying Your Prospect’s Pain Points

by Kim Staib

As a VP of Sales you’ve probably encountered this situation before. You’ve got a nice healthy amount of meetings at the top of your funnel and you have capable field reps there to take those meeting and transition them to closed business… Should be a pretty straight forward conversion process, right? However, you notice that out of all these meetings taking place your forecasted closed business is still not where you’d like it to be. How could that be? From my experience the problem can often be traced back to the initial meetings themselves. Most often what I see as the primary issue can be outlined in the scenario below.

Having managed a team of Sales Development Reps (SDR) one of the things I liked to do when an SDR passed a lead was walk over to their desk and say “Hey! I heard you just passed a lead, tell me about it!” The following conversation ensues:

SDR: “Well I sent out a mass email explaining what we do and asking for some time and someone replied back.”

Me: “OK, what did they say?”

SDR: “Here, read the email….’I am available early next week and would like to learn more.’ So I went ahead and set it up.”

Let’s just stop it right there.

While I appreciate the enthusiasm of a rep when they get someone on the hook, herein lies the problem.This SDR has no idea why this prospect would like to take a call and no information on their current environment. Most importantly, they have no idea what their pain is. What SDRs should do in these situations is pick up the phone, call the prospect, mention they received the email reply, and proceed to further qualify.

Above timeframe, budget and authority, identifying pain is highest on my priority list when reviewing a lead from an SDR.

Pain felt from the right person within an organization gets things moving.

Pain identified in an initial conversation saves the field rep from dealing with a tire kicker. Getting those probing questions answered is key in making sure that not only is your funnel filled with tons of meetings but that those meetings are likely to keep moving down the funnel to closed business.

For me it’s all about quality over quantity. It’s hard for a field rep to get excited about a prospect they know nothing about. Context is super important to their process and should not be overlooked by the SDR supporting them. So take a closer look at the meetings your SDR’s are booking and ask them “where’s the pain?” I guarantee moving forward you will see more quality leads and more meetings moving to a next step.

25 Jan 17:12

Millennials aren’t coddled—they just reject abuse as a management tactic

by Deborah Aarts
Boss stomping on employee

(Jamie Jones/Getty)

Recently, the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine circulated a video meant to make its instructors aware of “student mistreatment.” With a minor-chord piano medley providing the soundtrack, viewers were asked to avoid putting students on the spot with questions, to minimize “cold and clinical” interactions, and to cultivate “safe” learning environments for the young residents.

It seems a little like something created by The Onion, but the video was sincere, and its message will be familiar to a lot of employers dealing with people in their 20s. For many who remember what business was like pre-Internet, millennials seem an appallingly sensitive lot, having been protected from the vagaries of the world by helicopter parents, trigger warnings and—to especially cynical critics—sheer narcissism. “Aren’t young people coddled?” is now as safe an icebreaker as, “Did you see last night’s Seinfeld?” would have been 20 years ago.

It’s a stereotypical view and, of course, an incomplete one. But there’s no doubt younger workers are changing the interpersonal dynamics of the modern workplace, much as they’ve already done in high schools and universities. And I have news for you, my fellow judgmental old people: That’s a good thing.

For decades—centuries—the archetype of the successful business person has been the sneering blowhard, unafraid to bark orders and excoriate the work of underlings. He (let’s be honest, it’s traditionally a he) leads with a charming mix of ego, hair-trigger temper and intimidation. The fictional Gordon Gekko is the poster boy, but real-world examples abound: Rupert Murdoch, Anna Wintour, Larry Ellison, Kevin O’Leary, Donald Trump. Steve Jobs, brilliant as he was, was an often vicious and tyrannical boss.

The influence of such titans has created the expectation that to be successful in business, one must be able to be, for lack of a better term, mean. Or, at least, one must be prepared to act that way. For decades, otherwise mild-mannered and amiable individuals have had to train themselves to behave differently at work: to be harder, colder, less polite. (You can actually take courses on this kind of thing.) In some workplaces, making a colleague cry is considered a sadistic rite of passage. In the culture of commerce, behaviour that would be inexcusable in pretty much any other context is not only tolerated, but rewarded.

To what end? What real benefits are conferred on a business when its leaders are nasty? Abusive behaviour sure doesn’t spur productivity: A 2006 Florida State University study of 700 employees in a variety of different roles found that those with abusive bosses were five times more likely to purposefully slow down or make errors than their peers, and nearly six times more likely to call in sick when they actually felt fine. Nor does it do much for employee morale: As Stanford organizational behaviour professor Robert Sutton wrote in his 2007 bestseller, The No Asshole Rule, brutish managers “infuriate, demean and damage their peers, superiors, underlings and, at times, clients and customers, too.”

The most progressive bosses today—the ones whose behaviour will be tomorrow’s status quo—are demanding without being discouraging, honest without being rude and confident without being cocky. There has been plenty of important research on each of these management qualities, such as Mark Murphy’s book Hundred Percenters on motivating employees to greatness; or ex-Googler Kim Scott’s “radical candour” approach to providing feedback; or the work of Brené Brown, whose landmark 2010 TED talk is called “The Power of Vulnerability.” Caring about people’s feelings doesn’t make managers airy-fairy pushovers; rather, such leaders recognize their job is to help people excel. And they produce exceptional results not in spite of their compassion and kindness, but because of it.

Yes, it can be irritating to hear our younger colleagues complain of hurt feelings. But millennials aren’t wrong to expect a kinder, gentler work environment. The rest of us are wrong for clinging to the useless and outdated notion that to thrive in business, you have to be an asshole.


MORE ABOUT MILLENNIALS & WORKPLACE CULTURE:

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25 Jan 17:06

The Top 5 Reasons Your Sales Training Will Fail

by jeff@mjhoffman.com (Jeff Hoffman)

Sales training is a big investment. Not only are you paying for the training itself and related expenses, but your sales team is also losing prime selling hours to attend workshops and sessions.

Nonetheless, this investment can reap significant benefits and set your sales teams up for success. Research from SiriusDecisions found high-performing sales organizations are twice as likely to provide ongoing training as low-performing ones.

So, how do you make your training a success, not a flop? In the past 15 years, I've trained more than 20,000 salespeople working at companies of all types and sizes. Here are the most common reasons I've seen training fail -- along with ways to overcome them.

Free Download: Sales Training & Onboarding Template

Top Reasons Your Sales Training Will Fail

  1. Your managers aren't involved.
  2. Every rep is required to attend.
  3. Your objectives are vague.
  4. You want everyone to speak the same language.
  5. There are no corresponding dashboards.

1. Your managers aren't involved.

If you spent three days in a language class, would you walk out as a fluent speaker? Of course not. Even if you already had some familiarity with the language, fluency requires both immersion and regular practice.

It's the same idea with sales. Some leaders view sales training as an injection of concepts and best practices that their teams should be able to implement immediately. But unless those lessons are combined with a guided application on the sales floor, the training will ultimately have no impact.

Motivating reps to consistently practice what they've learned requires total buy-in from your front-line managers. They can set the right expectations and inspect what salespeople are doing on a daily basis.

However, you won't win their full commitment if you bring them in at the end of the process. Make them true partners: Ask them to help select your training vendor and curriculum, review the proposed agenda, choose the venue and date, and so forth.

I'm always confident training will go well when an organization's front-line sales managers are involved, as this tells me they'll actively reinforce the lessons when training is over.

2. Every rep is required to attend.

Most organizations require every salesperson to attend training. If you've ever attended a mandatory session, you probably know what this policy leads to a room of people with varying levels of motivation. Some salespeople are excited to take their sales knowledge to the next level. Some are neutral. And some wish they were anywhere else.

As with any educational experience, the sales trainer ends up teaching to the lowest common denominator, or the reps who are disengaged and unmotivated. Not only is this unfair to the salespeople who are eager to learn, but it also lowers the quality of the training itself.

I advise companies to make sales training a reward, rather than a requirement. If your reps hit a specific activity or quota-based milestone, invite them to attend.

With the money you've saved on attendees, host the event at a nicer hotel or hire a high-end caterer. These touches will reinforce the idea training is a privilege.

You'll raise the dialogue to a more mature level. It'll also incentivize salespeople to apply what they learn: If they don't, they'll waste the "reward" of new insights, strategies, and techniques.

Some sales leaders say, "We can't exclude reps from training -- they're horrible at [core skill]!" If your sales team isn't proficient at calling, prospecting, and other foundational competencies, that's a hiring issue rather than a training issue.

Sales training isn't designed to bring reps up to the basic performance levels: That's what your hiring and onboarding processes are for. Training should help your salespeople gain an edge over the competition.

3. Your objectives are vague.

Without a specific goal or desired outcome, you can't measure the impact of sales training. Some management teams say they're investing in training because they want their reps to "work harder," "close more deals," "speak the same language," and so on.

Who doesn't want those results? It's incredibly difficult to plan and implement sales training around a vague objective such as, "Make our salespeople harder workers."

The more specific the goal, the better. For example, you might want to reduce discounting by 10%, win 25% more competitive deals against a competitor, or reduce your average sales cycle by two days.

These objectives are highly focused, enabling you (or the vendor you hire) to craft your curriculum around them. If you want to discount less, for instance, you might cover alternatives to discounts, strategies for selling on value rather than price, and potential responses to discount inquiries.

4. You want everyone to speak the same language.

Reevaluate your objectives for training if your primary goal is to get your sales team "speaking the same language."

Great sales training introduces common disciplines and common language for talking about your products, but it shouldn't teach a one-size-fits-all sales style.

The goal of training shouldn't be to fit each salesperson into a predefined box -- cookie cutter sales styles are unattractive to reps and prospects. Katelyn Craine, a Culture Program Manager at HubSpot, says, "The strongest teams create an environment where each salesperson is able to find their own authentic voice." This, in turn, helps salespeople relate to and build trust with their prospects.

Sales training should provide your team with a set of tools and strategies each rep can apply their own style to. They'll bring their authentic selves and unique perspectives to each sales call, meeting, or email -- and this allows them to build rapport with prospects and customers from diverse backgrounds.

Plus, a sales team with reps who have a wide range of talents and skill sets leads to knowledge-sharing and innovation for your sales team -- it's a win/win for sales reps and leaders.

5. There are no corresponding dashboards.

Let's say you spent $2,500 on a comprehensive sales training package. Your team completes the training and they return to their day-to-day routines and activities.

How can you be sure the sales training was effective? Are reps using the tactics they learned?

If you haven't created a dashboard in your CRM to measure the results of the training, you're not seeing the return for your money or the time your reps were away from the sales floor.

Take the time to create a CRM dashboard that reflects the results of the training. It should include reports that track the new behaviors and activities your salespeople adopted.

When managers comment on the dashboard or reference it during meetings, sales reps will take the training seriously and be more likely to implement the strategies they learned. And you'll clearly see the results of your investment.

The success of a sales training program is a team effort. Sales managers must set clear objectives and need to be involved at every step. This way, your salespeople will be motivated to learn and adopt new selling techniques and strategies.

Ready to put this advice to the test? Check out Hoffman's sales training programs.

sales training

25 Jan 17:06

Content for Lead Generation

by Zach Heller

There are a lot of reasons to produce content as a marketing department. Last month we published an entire post dedicated to Content for Link Building.

Today, I want to turn you on to another specific way that marketers can use content to grow the business. Content can be a great tool to use in the lead generation process.

How?

The answer is that there are multiple ways for marketers to use content to help drive new leads for your sales team. The goal of any lead generation effort is to fill the top of the marketing funnel with high-quality sales leads. And content can be the thing that turns a casual browser into a strong prospect.

The most common usage of content for lead generation is the so called “gated content”. This refers to a piece of high-value content for your target audience that sits behind a lead form. In order to access the content, one must submit their contact information. That information can then be used to follow up with them at a later time.

The keys here are the quality of the content and how you promote it. This kind of content has to add value, otherwise no one will submit their information to you. Solve a problem that people in this audience have. And then use social media and low-cost digital marketing strategies to drive traffic to that specific page of your site.

The second way you can use content to drive leads is through a more standard blog, or article writing strategy. When you continue to publish fresh new content in your space, you are attracting people to your website in order to view that content. Use intro or outro text to highlight your products and services. Use call to action buttons to send some of that traffic to your product pages.

The people who read your content regularly are great leads for your business. They just haven’t submitted their information yet. You have to ask for it, otherwise they never will.

25 Jan 17:06

What Are the Best Content Formats To Generate Leads?

by Christelle Macri

Lead GenerationInvestment in content marketing is rising every year, because it delivers great results at a reasonable price. Ask any marketing agency and they will tell you content marketing, when done well, can build brand awareness, increase hits to your company website and, crucially, generate high-quality leads. With that being said, certain types of content are more effective than others when it comes to lead generation strategy. Here, we take a look at five of the best formats available to you.

Video Content

In many ways, 2016 can be described as the year of video content and its effectiveness is clear. A report from Forrester states that including a video in an email increases the click-through rate by 200 to 300 percent, while Unbounce found that embedding a video in a website landing page increases conversions by 80 percent.

Such statistics highlight the serious lead generating potential of video content. In addition, video content is extremely versatile, as it can be inserted into web pages, shared on social media sites, or uploaded to sites like YouTube. Best of all, HubSpot reports that consumers share 9 out of 10 videos with other people.

Blog Posts

Blog posts are the go-to option for content marketers, and part of the reason for this is because they have proven effectiveness in generating leads. In fact, WebDAM found that B2B marketers who blog regularly generate an average of 67 percent more leads than marketers who do not blog.

Of course, blog posts are a very diverse content type, which can include a number of different formats within them, including infographics and videos. Most search engine consultants agree that the trick to effective blogging is to blend it with your SEO strategy and focus on providing real solutions for problems your target audience may have.

E-Books

E-books represent one of the fastest growing content formats in the world and projections from PwC suggest that by 2018, revenue from e-book sales will have increased by 3,000 percent in a ten year period. Despite this growth, however, they are still criminally under-utilised by businesses.

An e-book allows you to go into greater detail than you would with other formats. People expect an e-book to be longer than a blog post, so will not be put off by thousands of words. This is excellent for making in-depth points and establishing yourself as an expert in your field. Businesses have the option of charging for e-books or giving them away for free and you can also collect contact information from people who buy or download each publication.

Case Studies

Ultimately, in order to attract quality leads, you need to establish your business as being trustworthy and case studies are a great way to do this. In particular, a case study can help customers who are almost ready to make a purchasing decision to choose your company over a competitor.

“It’s great to include testimonials on your website… but also offer a downloadable case study to generate leads that focuses on one particular client,” suggests Jessica Kandler, writing for MySiteAuditor. “Great case studies include specific examples, results supported by metrics, and testimonials from your client.”

Webcasts

Webcasts or web seminars are another great method for generating leads, especially when dealing with other businesses. A ‘webinar’ gives you the chance to demonstrate your expertise and provide examples of how your products or service can be used, without needing to meet face-to-face.

According to research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, webcasts and webinars are the second most effective B2B tactic, with only in-person events proving more effective. The key to delivering successful webcasts is to use engaging speakers, research what customers want to see beforehand and conduct follow up research.

Guides and White Papers

Finally, they might sound like an old fashion format but White Papers or Guides tend to work extremely well when used the right way. Producing an in-depth piece of content (ideally backed by in-house research, recent data or scientific discovery) in line with your audiences’ needs is a proven lead generation tactic. They have the benefit to produce targeted leads as well as reinforce your company’s expertise in your industry. After all, according to the Content Marketing Institute, White Papers are the 4th-most effective B2B content marketing tactic (after in person events, Webcasts and Case Studies) so they are worth investing in at regular intervals within the year. The other great advantage of any more substantial piece content is that it can be repurposed, segmented and outreached for longer periods of time, which means that in the long run, the return on investment will be greater.

Regardless of the format you choose. Start with the end in mind – that being lead generation. If your content idea don’t seem like it will attract leads, you should consider the reason you’re creating the content in the first place.

24 Jan 16:42

Space putty is the best way to spend $10

by Boing Boing's Store

Whether I'm trying to relieve some stress at work or entertain myself on the metro, Space Putty is there. You can bring this magical goo home and try it for yourself for just $9.99

Like Silly Putty of yesteryear, this viscoelastic substance can be molded into different shapes and stretched around in your hands. Use it as a malleable stress reliever, or bounce it off the walls for some impromptu office sports. Infused with iron particles, this putty can be manipulated and moved around with magnets or employed as a squishy refrigerator magnet when not in use.

This experimental substance provides endless tactile fun with a magnetic twist. For a limited time, get this Scientific Magnetic Space Putty for just $9.99, 60% off the usual price. It may just be the best $10 you've spent in a long time.

Explore other Best-Sellers on our network:
24 Jan 16:41

Make Learning a Lifelong Habit

by John Coleman
jan17-24-3314099

I recently worked my way through Edmund Morris’s first two Teddy Roosevelt biographies, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Theodore Rex. Roosevelt wasn’t without flaws, but he was by nearly all accounts fascinating and intellectually voracious. He published his first book, The Naval War of 1812, at 23 and continued to write on everything from conservation to politics and biography. According to Morris, at certain periods he was rumored to read a book a day, and all this reading and writing arguably made him both charismatic and uniquely equipped to engage the host of topics he did as president: national conservation efforts, naval expansion, trust regulation, and a variety of others.

Roosevelt was what we might call a “lifetime learner.” Learning became, for him, a mode of personal enjoyment and a path to professional success. It’s a habit many of us would like to emulate. The Economist recently argued that with all the disruptions in the modern economy, particularly technology, ongoing skill acquisition is critical to persistent professional relevance. Formal education levels are regularly linked to higher earnings and lower unemployment. And apart from its utility, learning is fun. It’s a joy to engage a new topic. Having an array of interesting topics at your disposal when speaking to colleagues or friends can boost your confidence. And it’s fulfilling to finally understand a difficult new subject.

But this type of continuous and persistent learning isn’t merely a decision. It must become a habit. And as such, it requires careful cultivation.

First, developing a learning habit requires you to articulate the outcomes you’d like to achieve. Would you like to reinvigorate your conversations and intellectual activity by reading a host of new topics? Are you looking to master a specific subject? Would you like to make sure you’re up-to-date on one or two topics outside your day-to-day work? In my own life, I like to maintain a reading program that exposes me to a variety of subjects and genres with the goal of general intellectual exploration, while also digging more deeply into a few areas, including education, foreign policy, and leadership. Picking one or two outcomes will allow you to set achievable goals to make the habit stick.

You and Your Team Series

Improving Yourself

  • How to Master a New Skill
    • Amy Gallo
    Learning to Learn
    • Erika Andersen
    How to Make Learning More Automatic
    • Gretchen Rubin

    Based on those choices, set realistic goals. Like many people, each year, I set a series of goals for myself. These take the form of objectives I’d like to achieve over the course of the year (e.g., read 24 books in 2017) and daily or weekly habits I need to cultivate in accordance with those goals (e.g., read for more than 20 minutes five days per week). For me, long-term goals are tracked in a planner. Daily or weekly habits I monitor via an app called momentum, which allows me to quickly and simply enter completion of my habits on a daily basis and monitor adherence. These goals turn a vague desire to improve learning into a concrete set of actions.

    With goals in hand, develop a learning community. I have a bimonthly book group that helps keep me on track for my reading goals and makes achieving them more fun. Similarly, many of my writer friends join writing groups where members read and edit each other’s work. For more specific goals, join an organization focused on the topics you’d like to learn — a foreign policy discussion group that meets monthly or a woodworking group that gathers regularly to trade notes. You might even consider a formal class or degree program to add depth to your exploration of a topic and the type of commitment that is inherently structured. These communities increase commitment and make learning more fun.

    To focus on your objectives, ditch the distractions. Learning is fun, but it is also hard work. It’s so extraordinarily well documented as to be almost a truism at this point, but multitasking and particularly technology (e.g., cell phones, email) can make the deep concentration needed for real learning difficult or impossible. Set aside dedicated time for learning and minimize interruptions. When you read, find a quiet place, and leave your phone behind. If you’re taking a class or participating in a reading group, take handwritten notes, which improve retention and understanding, and leave laptops, mobiles devices, and other disrupting technologies in your car or bag far out of reach. And apart from physically eliminating distractions, consider training your mind to deal with them. I’ve found a pleasant impact of regular meditation, for example, has been an improvement in my intellectual focus which has helped my attentiveness in lectures and ability to read difficult books.

    Finally, where appropriate, use technology to supplement learning. While technology can be a distraction, it can also be used to dramatically aid a learning regimen. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) allow remote students to participate in community and learn from some of the world’s most brilliant people with the added commitment of class participation. Podcasts, audiobooks, e-readers, and other tools make it possible to have a book on hand almost any time. I’ve found, for example, that by using audiobooks in what I think of as “ambient moments” — commuting or running, for example — I can nearly double the books I read in a year. Good podcasts or iTunes U courses can similarly deliver learning on the go. Combine these tools with apps that track your habits, and technology can be an essential component of a learning routine.

    We’re all born with a natural curiosity. We want to learn. But the demands of work and personal life often diminish our time and will to engage that natural curiosity. Developing specific learning habits — consciously established and conscientiously cultivated — can be a route to both continued professional relevance and deep personal happiness. Maybe Roosevelt had it right: a lifetime of learning can be a success in itself.

24 Jan 16:41

Why 2017 Will Be The Year of Targeting

by Jason Falls

Those who use social listening platforms will likely tell you that Twitter is a very important playground for your business on social media. They’re not exactly wrong, but they’ve been hoodwinked into believing just how important it is.

Take a look at any social listening scan for the sources of the data and Twitter can account for half, two-thirds, three-fourths or more of the social media conversations.

Things Are Changing…

But the social listening platforms have conveniently forgotten to stress that they do not index the vast majority of Facebook, which is hidden behind privacy firewalls. At the Conversation Research Institute, our testing shows that anywhere from 45% to 90% of all conversations about a given topic online happen on Facebook.

We’re missing that understanding. And we don’t have much time before our only look into it will be gone.

Facebook has told social listening partners it will sunset its search access, broadly known as Facebook Topic Data, in September of this year. I, for one, am disheartened by the news since I spend most of my days deciphering online conversations for brands. Facebook Topic Data is the only way to see what conversations look like on the world’s largest social network

But there is a glimmer of hope and it comes in the form of Facebook Advertising. More specifically, Facebook Ad Manager.

A Brave New Facebook Targeting Option

When Facebook Topic Data is sunset in September, there will likely be an entirely new suite of products offered by a handful of Facebook’s partners that add more depth and breadth to its advertising targeting features.

I’m told by multiple people at a half dozen companies that the indications are that the added feature sets will likely bring targeting based on conversation dynamics to the table.

If you read the tea leaves a bit, this means Facebook Topic Data wasn’t really driving the kind of revenue Facebook hoped for and is thus turning conversation data into targeting data. It will perhaps allow you to target your advertising to anyone talking about Topic A in a negative (or positive) sentiment and/or using the qualifying behavior indicators (like want, buy, hate, love, etc.).

Moving Forward

This is all conjecture on my part. But it is also hopefulness. Since Facebook’s walled garden is the most plentiful in the conversation research set, I want at it. If these advertising features are what Facebook’s partners have been challenged to create (which I think they are), then researching conversation on Facebook may not be dead.

And advertising targeting is going to get a whole lot more sophisticated by year’s end.

Whether you’re a researcher or an advertiser, the prospect is exciting. Here’s to 2017!

The post Why 2017 Will Be The Year of Targeting appeared first on Social Media Explorer.

24 Jan 16:40

6 Project Management Skills Every Marketer Needs to Know [Webinar of the Week]

by Jay Baer

6 Project Management Skills Every Marketer Needs to Know

Project management.

Two relatively benign words that when put together create headache and heartache for marketers worldwide.

Why?

Because project management not only requires a strict attention to detail, but also requires a certain kinship with the designers, developers, writers, and bosses to make sure things are getting done on time and with grace.

But the worst part: The actual skills behind project management weren’t taught in most marketing classes. They’re being learned on the job as deadlines get missed and processes get overlooked.

Instead of reactive project management, what if we could implement proactive project management? The kind of project management that anticipates bottlenecks and workflow issues BEFORE they happen?

On Tuesday, January 31st (that’s next Tuesday!), my pal Jason Falls will be joining Brent Bird from Workfront, the all-in-one workflow management specifically designer for marketers.

Click here to sign up for the webinar:

If you’ve never seen great project management in action, I understand why attending a webinar like this may not seem important to you. That’s why I wanted to share the top five reasons stellar project management skills make the world go ’round, especially for marketers:

1. Project Management Sets a Plan in Motion

Failure to plan means planning for failure, right? You’d be surprised by how many marketers jump into a new campaign or strategy without a set plan in place.

When you’ve got a project manager in charge, you know you’ll get an organized project plan through which to act. From setting goals and identifying audiences to editing, promoting, and measuring, this part of the project should act as a marketer’s bible for success.

2. Project Management Develops a Realistic Timeline

We’ve all been there: I’ve got my writing done, but my editor is taking forever to proof my content (was it really THAT bad?). Or I’ve got the landing page ready to go, but my developer hasn’t pushed it live yet (what’s she waiting for?).

A realistic timeline accounts for everyone’s work schedules (including vacation and travel days) and can even build in buffers when common bottlenecks are known. For example, if your boss is speaking at an event but you need his or her approval to move forward, you may want to schedule your writing time or your graphics creation time during their travel so that when they return, everything is prepped and ready for the next step.

When we live in an age where we don’t even have time to pee, a project manager knows that realistic timelines can make or break the success of a project. It doesn’t help anyone to be overly optimistic about how long things actually take to get done.

3. Project Management Encourages Positive Collaboration

Are you the type that only talks to your coordinators when there’s a problem? Are you making time for positive interactions among your team that spark collaborative culture?

It might be hard to admit, but many of us are constantly working in a reactionary environment, providing way more negative than positive feedback, and are always on the defense. A clear project management system makes the plan obvious and apparent for everyone to see to avoid miscommunication and missed deadlines. Everyone is working toward the same goal, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to be on the same page and support each other with a smile when someone needs help, brainstorming time, or simply a polite kick in the pants.

4. Project Management Ensures Quality Results

Imagine what would happen if you built a house without a foundation. Or a road without a map. Too many clichés for you?

It’s ridiculously simple because it’s true: You can’t ensure quality without a series of checks and balances (and someone to adhere to those checks and balances). I’d take this one step further and say that you can’t measure success without knowing where you are every step of the way. When you start managing projects effectively, you cut down the time it takes to produce quality products, which increases your ROI in return.

5. Project Management Supports Failure

What? You want me to fail?

No, of course not. But I want you to be able to identify gaps quality assurance, bottlenecks in management, and any other issues throughout your processes so that you can address and fix them as soon as possible. This makes you equipped to handle larger, more involved projects and campaigns in the future. The faster you fail, the faster you can learn. And the faster you learn, the better off you’ll be.

Do I sound like a fortune cookie yet?

Register for 6 Project Management Skills Every Marketer Needs to Know right now and position yourself as the best project manager on the block. Your boss (and your team) will thank you for it!

       
24 Jan 16:40

Assessing Talent for Inside Sales

by Andrea R. Grodnitzky

Many sales leaders have told us they are expanding their inside sales channel strategy to take advantage of shifts in buyer behavior (see Don’t overlook competencies when expanding inside sales). In doing so, they also need to take advantage of their sales talent, both in hiring and in developing the skills of current employees.

The hiring process itself should provide ample opportunities for candidates to demonstrate how they would sell to customers. While this holds true for any sales position, it is even more important for inside sales, where sellers never meet customers face to face. There are three relatively simple ways to test a candidate’s skills in action: video, role play, and voicemail.

Skype and other video chat services allow sales leaders to see how candidates would interact with prospects and customers. Sellers can no longer shy away from video; it has become an accepted, and even expected, communication channel. Everyone in sales should get themselves comfortable with video chats. There are a few tactical issues with a video call versus a phone call – such as removing distracting backgrounds, paying attention to posture, and making eye contact – but video can be the next best thing to meeting in person. You can also use a Skype call to role play with a candidate. They should be able to handle the pressure and give you a sense of how articulate, composed, and compelling they are.

Cold calling is always an asset for those in inside sales, and sales leaders should require candidates to leave them a cold-call voicemail. From this, they can assess how well candidates engage prospects – gaining insights from tone as well as message.

One question I would advise asking candidates for inside sales positions is about their career aspirations. Specifically, inquire as to their expectations for eventually moving into a field sales role. If the sales organization has shifted its strategy to close off this career path, make that clear from the start. Candidates, then, should be those who want to work in inside sales and can thrive in an environment of talking on the phone all day, every day. This can be an exhausting job, so look for candidates who are resilient and have high energy. They have to be able to move forward and bounce back after hearing “No” over and over.

When growing an inside sales team, it is possible that an experienced field sales rep may be interested in taking an inside position under the right circumstances. Maybe they are tired of traveling or have other reasons for seeking a change. While this kind of transfer was more unusual in the past, I would not discount it – or the person – if they were sincerely interested and there was a good fit.

Just as technology is changing the sales environment, it can also help sales leaders find the right people for the right roles. Pre-hiring assessments can be invaluable in teasing out the competencies and differences in candidates. At Richardson, we use an online tool called TalentGauge™, a predictive assessment and salesforce readiness tool that works both in the recruitment process and in assessing the talents of the current salesforce.

In changing their channel strategies to expand inside sales, sales leaders have clear expectations for improvements in productivity, outcomes, and success. The proper attention to training and development, both with new hires and current sales reps, can lead to more meaningful customer dialogues, better engagement, cross-selling opportunities, and more efficient and successful sales. The potential return is well worth the investment in talent.

Click here to contact us to learn more about how Richardson can help you develop an inside sales channel strategy. For immediate assistance you can reach us at info@richardson.com, or call 215-940-9255.


Let us know if finding talent for inside sales jobs is a challenge for your team in 2017.What Selling Challenges do you Anticipate in 2017?
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The post Assessing Talent for Inside Sales appeared first on Richardson Sales Training and Enablement Blog.

24 Jan 16:33

Canadian universities see rise in U.S. applicants

by SIMONA CHIOSE
While Trump’s election may have stoked this year’s numbers, recruitment campaigns, low loonie likely have larger role, experts say
24 Jan 16:22

Why Do Brands Want to Waste Time Building Marketing Software?

by Amity Kapadia

Imagine you’re sending a newsletter to your new customers. In most cases, you would launch your email marketing tool and start the process of creating a campaign. Now what if you didn’t have a tool, where would you start?

Sure, if you’re not in a rush to get the newsletter out, and your developers have a lot of free time, you could hack something together.

But what if you had to send it by EOD? With smart content according to their geographic location. And include a link to their most recent purchase. Then would you start by tinkering with code or simply Googling, “email marketing technology?”

All too often, businesses that build DIY referral programs find themselves in a similar position.

Sure, they’re able to build a basic referral program with basic tracking and reporting capabilities. But what happens when the referral program matures beyond entry-level functionality? If the in-house program wasn’t designed around flexibility and extensibility, it can create very large barriers to scale.

Some of those barriers include:

An inability to automate manual activities like enrollment workflows and referral commission payouts at scale. When your referral program is small, managing things manually isn’t a problem. When you have hundreds or thousands of customers and just as many approved referrals every month, automation is the difference between referral marketing success and failure.

Difficulty integrating with other critical systems like Salesforce, Marketo, Mailchimp, Magento, and Shopify. The process of developing direct integrations with big vendors like Salesforce and Magento requires a lot of time and technical aptitude. This is something your in-house development team might be able to tackle, but asking them to do it means asking them to prioritize it over other important initiatives. That said, if you don’t invest in those integrations, it will significantly hamper the value you — and your customers — can reap from a referral program.

Clunky browser-based mobile experiences that kill engagement and sharing. Because referral marketing isn’t most companies’ core competency, the vast majority of DIY referral programs have poor (or nonexistent) mobile experiences that feel bolted on. With mobile usage skyrocketing, these second-rate experiences can kill referral engagement. Mobile-first functionality can be added on after-the-fact, but doing so requires significant mobile aptitude and technology that’s flexible enough to incorporate it.

One of the biggest benefits of buying referral marketing software from an established vendor is that it virtually future-proofs your program.

Best-in-class referral marketing vendors build their solutions around flexibility, scalability, and extensibility, and their teams are constantly working on new features to make their customers more successful. This allows your business to easily implement new features and functionality on-demand, with relatively little back-end development.

Referral Marketing: Build vs. Buy

In most cases, in-house referral programs are built for the here-and-now. While this approach might offer the basic functionality to capitalize on referrals in the short-term, it can create development nightmares as your business — and your referral program — grows.

As with any high-value marketing channel, it’s important to consider the scalability, flexibility, and extensibility of your referral marketing program from the very start. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a position where it’s virtually impossible to bolt-on functionality that would help you optimize and scale referral revenue.

24 Jan 16:21

12 Smart Strategies to Speed Up Your Sales Cycle

by claire@hellosign.com (Claire Murdough)

Ahh, the never-ending quest to create the perfect, predictable sales cycle. To figure it out would be like discovering the holy grail of sales.

But -- as you know -- the insane number of variables and blockers in each sale makes it near impossible to fool-proof the system entirely. That’s not to say, of course, there aren’t ways to make sales cycles more predictable.

One surefire way to edge closer to a more predictable close is to keep momentum of a deal on your side. Always, always. Here are 12 sales hacks that will help you do it.

How to Speed Up Your Sales Cycle

1. Automate repetitive tasks that are bleeding into your prospecting or selling time

Consider this: An SDR may spend the majority of their time hunting down information on a prospect or a company. A top sales rep might spend hours a day simply organizing or inputting information.

Chances are, sales automation tools can remove these tasks from your plate or make them easier.

Automating repetitive tasks helps reps spend more of their cognitive time working on high-value tasks like building targeted relationships. Start with an audit to determine which tasks you and your teammates are doing again and again. Then, prioritize which repetitive ones should (and can) be automated. Company research or data entry are two good places to start. Once you've gotten the mechanical tasks off your plate, you can start exploring more complex options -- like automating your email prospecting.

2. Set an agreed-upon goal for each sales call

If you can get a prospect on the phone to talk about a deal, that’s great. If you can clearly communicate a goal for the phone call, get mutual agreement from your prospect, and then work together to achieve the goal by the end of call, that’s 10 times better.

An agreed-upon goal helps you create a guardrail for the conversation. When you veer off track, you know exactly where to circle back. Setting a shared goal also prevents one or both parties from guessing where they’re at in the deal cycle at the end of the call.

For example, you might set up a call and set a goal of answering any questions a prospect has about a particular area of your product. Now that you’ve set this goal, you know exactly how to guide the conversation and the prospect understands their role in the conversation. By setting a goal, you avoid wasting time backtracking or addressing misalignment or confusion.

At the end of a call, schedule the next meeting and set a goal for that call, too. 

3. Explore prospect objections before you respond to them

Not many people like to hear, “I know exactly how you feel!” right before getting hit with a super general sales pitch. The best sales reps know it’s crucial to not only listen to objections, but also to understand their root causes.

For instance, a prospect might say they don’t have time for your solution. You could interpret that as the perfect opportunity to launch into a “It’s quick and easy to set up!” pitch. Or you could ask them a few more questions about why they don’t have time.

After a question or two, you may realize they feel like they don’t have time because they feel resource-strapped due to small team size.

When you take a minute to dig a little deeper into the objection, you open up doors that lead you directly to the source of a prospect’s pain point/objection. This way, you avoid focusing on untargeted or irrelevant objections and can cater to a prospect’s unique needs.

4. Be clear about pricing (very) early on

When’s the last time you were rung up at a cash register and were excited to learn about an extra fee? Probably never. People don’t like finding out about unexpected costs and fees.

So while it can be tempting to soften the blow of cost by veiling the price, it almost always adds time and frustration to a deal.

Instead of strategically doling out added costs or fees -- which is difficult and time-consuming to explain later -- make it crystal clear what a prospect will be getting from your service from the get-go. It’s a simple thing, but price transparency gives your prospects a reason to trust you and saves you from unexpected pricing objections down the road.

5. Make it ridiculously easy for prospects to sign contracts from any device

What’s something almost everyone has on them every moment of the day? What’s something you probably have on you right now? A phone. A tablet. Some sort of portable device.

No doubt about it, it’s a device-dominated world out there. Top-performing sales teams keep up with buyer behavior and adjust their sales techniques to accommodate it. Online contracts that can be signed on the go using any device cuts down on back-and-forth significantly.

6. Focus on your highest-performing channels

There’s a reason companies don’t advertise certain products in newspapers anymore. Some channels just aren’t modern-day winners for featuring services or products. And focusing on poorly-performing channels will almost definitely slow down your roll.

To figure out where to focus your attention for the highest returns, track which channels perform the best for your team (maybe LinkedIn messages really do get the highest response rate) and continue to build systems that support additional focus on those areas.

It’s important to check your channels regularly. Just because one channel’s a winner in 2016 doesn’t mean it’ll be the clear winner forever. Always stay curious about channel performance and don’t be afraid to experiment by reaching out to new channels.

7. Be a person you’d want to talk to

The positive effect of building authentic relationships can’t be overstated in sales. But it’s easy to slip into a “sales” personality, especially if you’ve got the skills and the expertise to guide a prospect through the sales cycle. Make sure you’re not undercutting these skills by removing the personal part of any sale. Be an expert, but don’t push. Building trust with a prospect takes a bit of time upfront, but it’s worth it in the end.

8. Use incremental closes

To speed up your prospect’s buying process and prime them for the purchase, use incremental closes.

Making a series of small commitments -- or "micro-connects" -- deepens the buyer’s investment in the deal, puts them in the habit of saying “yes,” and helps you acquire valuable information.

First, map out the request you’ll make at the end of every interaction. These requests should benefit both you and your prospect. They should also grow in size and significance as you get to know your prospect and earn their confidence.

For example, you might end the connect call by asking for their cell phone number, so you can get in touch more conveniently. After the demo, you could request an introduction to the budget authority or a meeting with their procurement team.

9. Create a plan

You’ve helped dozens, hundreds, or even tens of hundreds of customers make this purchase. Your prospect, on the other hand, has probably never bought this exact solution before -- or even anything in this product category.

Use your experience to guide them through the buying process. Not only will doing so help you gain the status of a trusted consultant, you’ll also shorten their time-to-purchase by pointing out potential obstacles and identifying the best next steps. They won’t need to spend precious time figuring out these strategies on their own.

If you wait for your prospect to request help, however, you might be waiting forever. Proactively volunteer your expertise by asking during discovery, “Have you ever purchased anything [in this category, of this complexity, to solve this issue] before?”

Follow up with, “Would you like some suggestions?”

Together, craft a detailed timeline along with an installation, implementation, or delivery plan. Include the key stakeholders, at which point they typically get involved, their likely objectives and/or priorities, and how to appeal to each one to get them on board.

With this plan in hand, your prospect will have a far easier time navigating the buying process. Your sales cycle will be noticeably shorter.

10. Surface objections early and often

Hiding from objections doesn’t make them disappear. In fact, the longer you wait to surface the buyer’s reservations, the stronger they usually are. The deal will end up stagnating in the later stages while you try to convince your prospect to buy.

Consider delving into their concerns as early on a possible. I once heard a salesperson begin his demo call by asking, “Are there any reasons you see [product] not working for you?”

Pinpointing potential blockers before the buyer had even seen the solution had three main effects:

  1. The rep projected confidence: If he was unsure whether the product was a good fit, he probably wouldn’t have asked such a bold question.
  2. The prospect was more engaged: With her anxieties resolved, she could turn all of her attention to the product’s features and benefits.
  3. The demo was more relevant: The extra insight allowed the salesperson to tailor his presentation to his prospect’s top-level priorities.

The takeaway: Ask for objections early and often. The exact points at which to ask vary on your sales cycle; however, most salespeople should start seriously hunting for objections after the discovery call. Prospects will voluntarily voice objections before that point, but these often turn out to be brush-offs like, “It’s not a good time to buy,” or “We’re happy with our current vendor.”

11. Make it ridiculously easy for prospects to book a meeting

Nothing is less efficient -- or more frustrating -- than sending a series of back-and-forth emails to schedule a call.

Suppose it takes you and the buyer half a day on average to agree on a meeting time. If your sales cycle typically requires six meetings, you’ll waste lose three entire days to the task of scheduling.

A scheduling app like Meetings can completely eliminate this time-suck. Meetings integrates with your calendar tool, so prospects can view your availability and book a time that works for them.

Getting an appointment on the calendar will take seconds, not hours -- and you won’t have to do any work. As an added benefit, the easier it is to schedule a meeting with you, the more likely your prospect is to do so.

12. Leverage social proof

Your prospect may not automatically trust you, but her peers’ opinions and/or testimonials will hold a lot of sway. Leverage the power of social proof to win her confidence -- and ultimately, the deal -- more quickly.

Here are several strategies:

  • Get a warm intro through a mutual contact: Use LinkedIn to find a first or second-degree connection at your prospect’s company. Even if you don’t have a direct line to your prospect, she’ll be far likelier to respond to an introduction via her coworker than a random email.
  • Send your prospect case studies: Evidence of your product’s impact or ROI is extremely convincing. If you have multiple case studies, look for one featuring a company similar to your prospect’s organization.
  • Bring them to an event with current customers: Allowing every prospect to speak to a reference usually isn’t feasible; after all, it’s time-consuming for your client and can delay the purchasing process. A good shortcut? Inviting buyers to an event where they can mingle with your customers. They’ll inevitably end up hearing positive reviews of your product.
  • Mention similar companies: Simply bringing up companies your prospect can relate to -- because their organization is dealing with a similar challenge, has similar characteristics, or serves a similar market -- builds trust.

How effectively you sell makes a difference to the bottom line. How quickly you can effectively sell can make an even bigger difference. What am I missing, sales teams? I know there’s more.

(And if you’re interested in seeing how you can automate sales contracts to close deals faster, check out the HelloSign integration in HubSpot’s free CRM.)

HubSpot CRM

24 Jan 16:20

30 big tech predictions for 2017

by BI Intelligence

30 big tech predictions for 2017 report cover

Technology is disrupting nearly every part of our daily lives.

Smartphones have allowed us to stay connected to each other at literally every moment of our lives, whether it's on our daily commutes or on faraway vacations.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is making us more connected than ever with smart home devices that can control our lights and thermostats and order food for us with simple voice commands.

Robo advisors are making investing more accessible and more affordable for everyone.

And the list is growing.

Almost every industry has been disrupted by digital technologies over the past decade. And, in 2017 we expect to see more revolutionary developments impacting our businesses, careers, and lives.

BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has put together a list of 30 Big Tech Predictions for 2017 across Mobile, Digital Media, Payments, IoT, E-Commerce, and Fintech. Some of these major predictions include:

  • Autonomous car road tests
  • Snapchat and Amazon rattling the digital ad space
  • VR hardware competing with popular gaming consoles
  • The grocery industry making the move online
  • Mobile wallets adding value to users
  • Insurtech ascending with investments from legacy players and tech giants
  • Social video taking 2017 by storm

This comprehensive list of 30 predictions can be yours for free today. As an added bonus, you will gain immediate access to the team’s exclusive FREE newsletter, BI Intelligence Daily.

To get your copy of this slide deck, simply click here.

Join the conversation about this story »

24 Jan 16:20

Here are the stats we have so far on Twitter's live stream of Trump's inauguration (TWTR)

by BI Intelligence

Inauguration ViewershipThis story was delivered to BI Intelligence "Digital Media Briefing" subscribers. To learn more and subscribe, please click here.

User traffic to Twitter's live stream of the presidential inauguration was down significantly to comparable recent events – like Election Day, and the opening of the Republican and Democratic national conventions – according to Jumpshot analysis cited by Mediapost.

Likewise, viewership on traditional TV also underwhelmed, according to Nielsen estimates cited in Mediapost as well:

  • Twitter. The audience for Twitter's live stream of the inauguration was 23% smaller than that of the Election Day live stream. More than 70% of the audience was male, and nearly half of all viewers were between 18 to 24 years old. These figures are consistent with Twitter's audience on other recent political live streams.
  • Television. The inauguration also underwhelmed on traditional TV. According to Nielsen estimates, it drew in an estimated 30.6 million TV viewers in the US, placing it in fifth in Inauguration Day ratings, behind Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon.
  • Akamai. Akamai is one the most prominent content delivery networks (CDN) with over 216,000 servers across 120 countries to deliver worldwide web traffic. The inauguration was the largest single live news event Akamai ever delivered. Live streaming peaked at 8.7 Tbps, supporting 4.6 million concurrent viewers, beating the previous record set during Election Day coverage.
  • Caveats. There’s no YouTube or Facebook data for inauguration live stream viewership yet, which will be necessary to get a fuller picture of the inauguration digital viewership. It’s possible that smaller audience on Twitter reflects a decline in usage of that platform – perhaps in favor of Facebook and Google – rather than a shrinking digital audience for the inauguration.

If 2015 was the year that brands and advertisers embraced online video, then 2016 saw the medium take the next step as live streaming took off.

Live streaming video refers to broadcasts in real time to an audience over the internet. While the concept of live streaming has been around for years, mobile-first video platforms with user-generated content have just recently begun to make serious waves thanks to improved video quality, faster broadband speeds, and enhanced mobile technology.

Online video has become a key part of the strategic business model for both brands and marketers as they seek more innovative ways to capture consumer attention. Creative live streaming video initiatives and campaigns are a way for companies to cut through the digital clutter and have emerged as the medium of choice not only for person-to-person sharing, but also for business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) communication. 

Brands are increasingly using live streaming to reach audiences. Its importance has grown significantly thanks to substantial investments by social platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and Twitter to build and enhance their live-streaming platforms.

And advertising dollars are likely to follow. 88% of agency respondents stated that they “might” or “definitely will” invest in live stream video advertising over the next six months, according to a recent Trusted Media Brands survey.

BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on live streaming video that examines the eruption of online video from the perspective of both consumers and advertisers and assesses how live streaming is emerging as the medium's next catalyst for growth.

Here are some key points from the report:

  • Live streaming video will further accelerate streaming videos overall share of internet traffic. Streaming video accounts for over two-thirds of all internet traffic, and this share is expected to jump to 82% by 2020, according to Cisco’s June 2016 Visual Networking Index report.
  • Live video’s value comes from its unique ability to add an authentic human element to digital communications. As a result, brands are leveraging three main streaming methods to connect with their viewers: tutorials, product launches, and exclusive and behind-the-scene footage.
  • Advertisers will continue to invest heavily in online video, especially as live streaming video gains traction. Already in the US, digital video ad revenue reached $7.8 billion in 2015, up 55% from 2014, according to figures from the Internet Advertising Bureau.
  • While live streaming is still in its early stages, brands are leveraging micropayments, mid-roll video ads and direct payments from social platforms, to monetize their live streaming videos.
  • The success of live streaming video hinges on brands overcoming a lack of measurement standards in the space, as well as changes in social media sites' algorithms that affect what content users see.

In full, the report:

  • Examines the eruption of live streaming video.
  • Explores the differences between platforms that host live streaming video.
  • Breaks down successful approaches from both brands and publishers.
  • Discusses unique monetization opportunities live streaming presents.

To get your copy of this invaluable guide, choose one of these options:

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

The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of live streaming video.

Join the conversation about this story »

24 Jan 16:20

Connection Requests…The More the Merrier? How to Create a Valuable Network

by Mollie Shipley

Recently my “Pending Invitations” box has been full of new, and frankly, unknown Connection requests. Being a millennial, that’s awesome right? I mean, think about Facebook or Instagram – when you get a notification saying “so and so has requested to follow you” or “John Doe has sent you a friend request.” Who cares if you know them or not; that’s another potential “like” on a picture! But when it comes to the world of LinkedIn, let’s leave those unknown requests for someone else.

When growing your LinkedIn network, you want to make sure that you are Connecting with people who you know first-hand, or people that are Connected to your 1st level connections. Think about going to dinner with your friends. Obviously you are going to say yes if your friend is attending, right? So you go to dinner with your childhood friend and they bring their roommate from college along. Normal? Absolutely! The three of you have a great time and now you have formed a friendship (Connection) with this new person. After dinner you check your phone and now you have a new friend request. Not creepy.

Now let’s say you go and grab a coffee at your local spot. You order your drink and then 5 minutes later, you have a follower request from someone who said they saw you grab your coffee and heard the barista call your name when you picked up your order. That’s creepy and their reason for the request isn’t clear.

The same applies to LinkedIn. When you think of LinkedIn, you think of it as a business tool rather than a social media site. You’re using your Connections to grow your network, in order to better your business. We all can agree that sometimes our Home Pages are a little overwhelming with constant article shares, job updates, new blog posts…and these are all from people we know! Why exhaust yourself by adding unknown Connections that come with even more shared content? That will only overwhelm you more! Your homepage should be full of only one thing; beneficial and valuable content. How many times can you say that you have seen a shared article pop up that has zero value to you? You’re not alone! Trust me, I have witnessed many articles that then make me go back and say “Wait, who is this person?”

So, before you accept that Connection request from someone that you don’t know, think about it and ask yourself “how is this of value to me” or “how is my network going to benefit from this?” Happy Networking!

24 Jan 16:18

7 High-Converting Landing Page Examples for Your Personal Swipe File

by Lucas Miller

7 High-Converting Landing Page Examples for Your Personal Swipe File

Many of us know of David Livingstone as a well-known Scottish explorer of Africa, perhaps most famous for being greeted with the underwhelming line, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

At the time of the famous greeting, he’d gone years without any kind of contact with the outside world, hence the fame surrounding the memorable, first-time interaction.

But what many people don’t realize is that one of Livingstone’s primary goals wasn’t just to explore Africa – he was also set on serving it as a Christian missionary.

Despite only officially converting one person to his faith in six years, Livingstone actively preached in an effort to share his beliefs with the tribes he encountered during his explorations.

David Livingstone

Most noteworthy, however, is that his standard of treating native tribes respectfully opened the door for future missionaries who used the foundation he’d built to convert people at a later date

Sticking the landing (page)

If you’re starting to wonder what any of this could possibly have to do with digital marketing, allow me to offer a friendly transition – we marketers generally speak of converting audience members into paying customers.

Truth be told, there are few digital marketing areas where conversion is more commonly (and passionately) talked about than landing pages.

Just as other missionaries based their preaching efforts off of Livingstone’s actions to achieve success, you too can use the tactics others have perfected to improve your own landing pages.

Seriously, don’t make this harder than it has to be. If it’s worked for others, it’ll work for you.

In fact, starting right here, right now, add the below seven landing pages to your ever-expanding swipe file. They’ve proven themselves in the ways of conversion, and will allow your brand’s landing pages to do the exact same thing:

1. White Space – Skype

White space helps you avoid clutter and ensures that potential customers’ attention is drawn to where you want it to go. It makes your text more readable and ensures that images and call to action (CTA) buttons stand out from the rest of your content.

Skype provides a perfect example of this.

Above the fold, viewers are treated to a logo, a brief headline and a CTA button, all of which are surrounded by plenty of white space. Because of this, the eyes are instantly drawn to the CTA button. Without having read anything, visitors know what’s most important.

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Even when you scroll down, text and graphics are kept in small, concise areas. They’re large enough to be read, but have enough separation to keep them from looking cluttered or overwhelming.

The use of white space makes Skype’s landing page easy on the eyes, as well.

When you do the same with your landing pages, and visitors like what they see, they’ll be far more likely to stick around to consume the rest of your page’s content.

2. Making extra links work for you – QASymphony

In general, throwing a ton of extra links onto your landing page is the last thing you want to do. This is especially true when your links lead users away from conversion-focused content and distract them from taking a desired action.

But what happens when visitors want more information than you can provide without making your landing page look jumbled, crowded and confusing?

While not all leads require much convincing before conversion, QASymphony worked around this potential problem by providing links to in-depth information regarding their software.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-1-14-30-pm

Rather than taking users to a standard information page, however, the links redirect to what is basically another landing page, complete with the same call-to-action buttons that are featured on the main page.

Site visitors who are still on the fence about QASymphony’s software get the details they need without abandoning the landing page platform.

3. Info submission – WebDAM

How much information to ask for (and what information to ask for) on a landing page submission form is a source of frequent debate.

For starters, should you use multi-step or single-step forms? And once you’ve figured that out, how do you make your submission form stand out from the rest of your landing page’s content?

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-1-15-40-pm

WebDAM provides a great example of an effective submission form, in large part because of how much the form stands out from the rest of the page’s content.

The bold blue color contrasts sharply with the mostly-white background, and by using a contrasting orange for the “Download Now” CTA button, site visitors know exactly where they need to go to get what they want.

Take a look at the small icons next to the requested information fields, too.

Though seemingly insignificant at first glance, they do an excellent job of attracting attention to what are often boring and underutilized parts of a landing page.

4. Worthwhile testimonials – Outbrain

As great as it would be to have the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies writing testimonials for your business’s products or services, for the vast majority of brands, this isn’t likely to happen.

But that doesn’t necessarily put a nail in the coffin of your testimonial-gathering plan…

While it’s true that poorly-written testimonials can actually be negative social proof for your business, there are still ways to turn testimonials from non-famous entities into something that convinces leads you’re worth their hard-earned dollars.

Outbrain’s client testimonials come from a mix of better-known companies (GE) and lesser-known entities (The Austrian National Tourist Office of France), but each of these testimonials is presented in the best, most effective way possible.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-1-16-34-pm

What makes these testimonials work, you ask?

For starters, they’re very specific with regards to how Outbrain helped their business.

They’re also accompanied by a high-quality photo and a job description of the person who provided the testimonial, proving that yes – these are actual people using their software.

Needless to say, specific, well-crafted testimonials such as these are one of your best bets for converting shaky leads.

5. Keeping it simple – TryTow

There’s no denying the obvious—some landing pages are painfully long…

And though sometimes appropriate, this information overload can be extremely distracting to site visitors, ultimately making your products or services seem more complex than they really are.

Digital audiences want you to get to the point quickly, especially when selling something.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-1-17-46-pm

TryTow does this by providing everything a potential customer would need to know in short, concise textual chunks. Once a site visitor scrolls below the fold, they’re presented with a quick, four-part overview of TryTow’s service, telling readers everything they need to know.

Literally, a prospect can read through this entire landing page in two minutes. By making the process easy to understand, potential customers can make their decision that much quicker.

6. Beautiful imagery – Plated

The old adage of a picture being “worth 1,000 words” is especially applicable to your landing page. High-quality photos can showcase your product or service in a positive light, while poorly-designed images could prove to be an instant turnoff for future buyers.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-1-19-12-pm

In a day and age when we’re inundated with tips on how to take great food pictures on Instagram, the use of a beautiful, non-stock photo (it’s possible) makes Plated’s food look wonderfully appetizing, doing far more to sell the product than blocks of text ever could on their own.

The use of top-tier photos (and video) help customers better understand what they’re signing up for when they choose to work with you, giving them greater confidence and helping you secure warmer leads.

7. Eye-Catching Headlines – Hootsuite

By the time a user has clicked through to your landing page, they’re likely to have already been inundated with all kinds of sales jargon. As such, the last thing they want to do when visiting your page is wade through even more advertorial filth.

Think about it – all they really want is to know whether you’re worth their time and energy.

The key to quickly making this happen? Headlines. Hootsuite’s landing page is a perfect example of using a large, direct headline that tells site visitors precisely what its software does.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-1-19-55-pm

There’s no flowery, glittering language to speak of – just a simple, direct and powerful statement that tells site visitors what they want to know.

The use of concise language allows a landing page’s main message to be digested in a matter of seconds, which is often all it takes for a user to decide whether or not they want to learn more about your offer.

You don’t have much time (50 milliseconds, to be exact), so use it wisely.

Go forth and convert!

Just as David Livingstone’s successors used his principles to build the basis for their own conversion efforts, you too can solidify your swipe file with the above landing page examples, using them to craft your own high-conversion landing pages.

I’ll be the first to admit that this list of landing pages is hardly exhaustive, and you should definitely keep searching for other great examples to add to your swipe file.

But if nothing else, this gives you a good place to start when designing your own company’s landing page. Even better, the odds are stacked in your favor – using tried-and-true templates that’ve worked for others, they’re likely to work for you, too.

I’ve said my piece, and now it’s time for you to say yours…

What practices have helped you get great results when creating your own landing pages? Also, what pages have you looked to for help? As always, I can’t wait to see what you have to share!

Until next time, best of luck as you and your company go forth to convert the masses!

24 Jan 16:18

How to Sell to a Complex Buyer

by jillkonrath@jillkonrath.com (Jill Konrath)

In Part 2 of the CEB Sales Roundtable, we discuss how B2B buyers are becoming more complex—and what we need to do to make the sale. The transcript is below or you can listen here.

24 Jan 16:18

Don’t “Go All In” on In-Market Buyers

by David Dodd

illustration-for-012417-li-post

Some providers of B2B predictive analytics solutions are describing the benefits of their technologies in rather effusive ways. Consider, for example, the following language in a content resource from a leading PA vendor:

“Imagine a world where you can find buyers early in the sales cycle and predict who your next customer will be with 85% accuracy. [XXX’s] predictive intelligence engine gives you the ability to see your entire universe of potential buyers at every stage of their buying journey. We uncover net-new, in-market prospects based on powerful data science and billions of time-sensitive intent interactions.”

This is heady stuff because the ability to know which prospects are engaged in an active buying process could enable fundamental changes in the practice of B2B marketing. For example, suppose that your company uses account-based marketing. With predictive analytics, you could select ABM target accounts based on both fit (how closely a prospect resembles your best existing customers) and interest (whether a prospect is “in-market”). You could also use your PA solution to frequently update your list of target accounts, so that you have a near real-time view of which accounts are engaged in an active buying process.

This sounds like marketing nirvana, right? When you know which of your prospects are actively in-market, you can focus your marketing programs on this “low-hanging fruit,” which should result in higher conversion rates, greater marketing efficiency, and lower customer acquisition costs.

There Be Dragons Here

Focusing marketing efforts on in-market prospects has undeniable benefits, but this strategy also carries some less obvious hazards. If taken to the extreme, it can lead marketers to ignore prospects who don’t make the “in-market” cut. This is a dangerous approach because of changes in how business decision makers consume information.

A B2B buying process usually begins when a company’s leaders or managers recognize a need or a problem, and decide to do something about it. These “buyers” then gather information about the need or problem, evaluate possible solutions, and may or may not decide to buy a product or service to address the problem or need.

So, our traditional view of buyer behavior is that most information gathering and learning occurs after an intentional buying process is underway. Today, however, information is so readily available that many business leaders and managers routinely consume information about business issues long before they’ve formed anything close to “buying intent.” I’ve used the term casual learning to describe learning and information-gathering activities that occur before an intentional buying process has started, and it’s clear that this type of “low-intensity” learning is becoming more and more prevalent.

What marketers need to remember is that casual learners will form impressions and embryonic preferences based on the content they consume, and that those impressions and preferences will remain influential when they get involved in an actual buying process. Therefore, marketing to casual learners is important, even though most casual learners probably shouldn’t be characterized as “in-market.”

As predictive analytics solutions get better and better at identifying companies that are in an active buying process, it will be very tempting for marketers to focus more and more of their marketing efforts on active buyers. That’s not a bad strategy, so long as you remember that you must continue marketing to prospects who aren’t currently “in-market.”

There’s nothing wrong with harvesting the low-hanging fruit, so long as you continue to tend the immature fruit that’s higher on the tree.

Illustration courtesy of Rafael Antonio via Flickr CC.

24 Jan 16:16

How Sales Teams Can Use Social Data to Reel in the Perfect Lead

by Aseem Badshah

sales-social-lead-scoring.jpg

#Instagood. #DebateNight. #tbt.

#ICYMI, social media rules. With an increasing number of hashtags, trending topics, and shares, the social sea is flush with leads. But while all of that data can be incredibly useful, the crowded waters have made it difficult for business leaders to tell a minnow from a marlin.

When casting a net for legitimate sales leads, social data is indicative of a lead’s interest level or readiness to consider a category of products. This information can help you figure out which fish to keep and which to throw back into the water.

When people conduct research, ask questions, or gather information to solve a business problem, their social data offers real-time signals that they’re about to enter the buying cycle. Routine social media actions such as follows, likes, or mentions are all readily available data. The trick is tapping into these social signals and scoring these leads appropriately based on their activity.

Keeping Score of Social Media Data

When someone is interested in your brand, he generally follows an established pattern: He follows you, clicks on one or two posts, and shares some of your content. He might even comment on a few of your posts or download a piece of content.

My company, Socedo, uses a two-tiered lead scoring model. We start by considering fit: Does this lead have the characteristics of someone we want to do business with? What’s the size of his company? What’s his job title? Does he have responsibility over social media or demand generation? What’s his industry?

We then look at technographics. The technology the lead already uses can tell us a lot about his sophistication level. If the person already uses a marketing automation system or a customer relationship management system, we consider him a great lead.

Once a lead passes our “fit” test, we score based on behavior or engagement with our content and key channels. We consider the lead’s direct interaction with us and within our social sphere. Did the lead mention an event we’re sponsoring or a hot topic that’s relevant to us? Did the lead mention an influencer we’ve worked with to create a webinar?

Our marketing automation system is set up to “listen” for these events and update lead scores whenever someone engages with our social media channels, website, or emails. We assign a numerical threshold to determine when a lead has enough points to be passed off to our sales team.

How Your Sales Team Can Use Social Media Data

Once we pass leads to sales, we monitor two key metrics to determine whether our scoring model works:

  1. Conversion rate: Measures lead movement from stage to stage and shows how Marketing is performing throughout the sales cycle
  2. Velocity: Tracks the number of days it takes a lead to move through the funnel

We use these metrics to refine and optimize our approach over time. For example, if we notice that leads who engage with Socedo’s corporate handle on social media are converting into customers at a high rate but social media engagements have low lead scores, we might give more weight to social media engagements relative to other interactions.

Social data can be powerful in the hands of your sales team. If you know someone tweeted about an event using a specific hashtag, for example, one of your sales reps can personalize outreach to that prospect by mentioning a keynote speaker or a session from that event. Similarly, if you've added the URL of each prospect's relevant social media profiles as a field in your CRM system, individual sales reps can use details from those profiles -- the prospect's role and responsibilities in the company and her unique challenges, for instance -- to inform sales conversations. Additionally, the rep can ensure she's on the prospect's radar by connecting with her on LinkedIn or following her on Twitter.

With the following tips, your organization can likewise incorporate the wealth of useful social data into your lead scoring model.

1) Integrate your social media management platform with your marketing automation system.

This integration will allow you to attribute leads coming from social media. Doing so will give you custom fields to store information about your leads in your marketing automation system. You’ll have data on which campaigns the lead clicked, which social network she came from, and which URL she clicked, among other details.

You can score leads based on any of these new data fields. For example, you can increase the lead score by three points for anyone who clicked on a link in one of your social media posts. Depending on where your target audience does research, you can even give different scores to leads coming from various social networks.

2) Use a social demand generation system to discover and engage new leads automatically.

This type of system allows you to use social media keywords, handles, and hashtags to identify and engage with warm prospects on Twitter. It also enables you to incorporate their contact information and relevant social activity data into your marketing automation system. You can score prospects based on their interactions on social media with certain topics, events, influencers, and brands. For instance, someone who follows you on Twitter might get two points, while someone who clicks on a link or replies to your direct message might receive 10 points.

It’s important to put your own social data into the context of the broader social conversation. People often attempt to learn about solutions to their problems and consume content on social media, conversing with their peers before eventually hearing about various options. By listening to the broader social chatter in your space rather than solely looking at interactions with your own page, you can discover prospects early in the buying cycle and offer them relevant content.

3) Score people who share your content.

Add social sharing buttons to your landing pages or blog posts so that anyone -- general site visitors or converted users -- can easily share your them on social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Then, score those shares. If someone shares your landing page on Twitter, for example, his lead score might increase by five points.

4) Use technology to update your lead records with real-time social activity.

Microsoft has a social selling team that qualifies leads on social media. It uses a lead acceleration product to get real-time social insights on the leads in its database. With this data, Microsoft is able to understand which of its existing leads are actively engaging or have previously engaged with its Twitter handles, as well as what they’re saying. This helps its social selling team identify which leads to reach out to proactively on social.

You can track and increase the score of any leads who interact with your corporate Twitter handle, your competitors’ Twitter handles, or hashtags from industry events. Based on those real-time social engagements, you can send leads automated emails that acknowledge their social media activity and suggest relevant content. Then, if someone clicks on a link in that email, you can increase her lead score further.

5) Embrace inferred social scoring.

While direct interaction with your brand or the use of certain keywords can demonstrate a lead’s interest in your business, other social behaviors can provide insight into a lead’s mindset.

LinkedIn groups or who someone follows can provide clues about the lead’s interests and job function. Followers of a relevant industry leader or members of an industry LinkedIn group will likely be interested in learning more about your organization. Followers of your competitors might be far into the sales cycle, so you might consider increasing their lead scores.

Score Social Data With a Grain of Salt

All of these actions can -- and should -- be scored, but be mindful that they still represent one lead. It’s important to ensure your lead-scoring model reflects the fact that actions are additive. A lead who clicks on one of your blog post links on Facebook will probably also sign up for a webinar or download an ebook. You don’t want to give too many points to any one action.

Further, social media interaction should not be scored like email. Most behavioral scoring models include negative scoring for a lack of activity over a period of time, but social is a different beast. A lead who doesn’t open an email for a month might have gone cold, but a quiet lead on social media might simply mean that person hasn’t logged into Twitter for a while or missed your content in her stream.

Think of social data as sonar for your fishing boat. It will help you pinpoint leads nibbling at your bait and track their behaviors over time. Identifying your opportunities today with social data can help you reel in qualified leads, sync social activities, and accelerate demand generation.

There are whales swimming through nearby waters as you read this. You just need to find them.

HubSpot CRM

24 Jan 16:16

3 Signs Your Sales and Marketing Team Need Better Alignment

by Chris Hawkins

In the mid-1990s, I managed a retail store for a furniture chain in a small Southern town. Each month I was given 20% of my total marketing budget to spend at the local level—the corporate office spent the other 80% with various mailers and themed promotions.

During every promotion, my sales team peppered me with comments about the promotions that “corporate” was running.

  • “The merchandise advertised is too contemporary. It won’t sell in our market.”
  • “It feels like corporate is just throwing stuff against the wall.”
  • “We’re trying to be too much to too many people.”

I agreed with most of their points. There was often a disconnect between what marketing was promoting and what our market wanted to buy. Unfortunately, I only had control over a small slice of the marketing pie so we were largely at the mercy of the corporate marketing team.

It’s no surprise these two departments aren’t always well-aligned, especially within big companies. But with all of the communication tools we have now, there’s no reason SMB company’s marketing teams shouldn’t be functioning like one.

Fortunately, the concept of marketing and sales alignment has been gaining traction for the last few years. HubSpot devoted a good portion of their State of Inbound 2016 to the topic, finding that:

“There’s room for improvement on Marketing-sourced leads, but Marketing won’t know what needs to be fixed unless there’s a feedback mechanism built into the Marketing and Sales relationship. Whether it’s truly the case that Marketing is failing to deliver enough quality leads to Sales or not, marketers should be aware of salespeople’s low opinion of their work, and take action accordingly.”

Examples of Misalignment

Some of these signs may seem obvious, but our experience shows, as you’ll see below, that it’s not as obvious to some companies.

Not Doing Your Research or Educating Your Audience

One of our owners got a call from someone I’ll call “Vern.” Here’s his voicemail message:

“Hi, this is Vern, I wanted to see if you’d be interested in becoming a reseller of our software. My direct line is…”

Other than a few throat clearings, that was it. I don’t know if cold calling is dead, but I do know that if you’re calling on marketing agencies to be a reseller of your software you should be less cryptic. Mentioning the name of the company you work for and how your software might be beneficial to us or our clients would be helpful. Adding something personal and specific would at least make us not use the example as “what not to do” in a blog post.

Out of curiosity, I called Vern and found out that he works for a company that sells an all-in-one CRM. He said they purchased a list of HubSpot partner agencies and were emailing (see #3 below) and calling to recruit partners to sell their solution.

Vern talked a lot about their company and product, but only asked me a few questions. He pointed me to a competitor comparison chart, but other than that, there were few resources on their site. No blog or long form content that their target personas might be looking for.

Not Taking the Time to Understand Your Prospect

Too often, salespeople don’t have any idea what marketing is doing (and vice versa) and it shows. The blame can’t be assigned to one or the other—they are both usually at fault because neither is communicating with the other.

Last month, a salesperson sent me an email about partnering to resell their data protection services:

Example 1

Yes we have clients and they have data, but that’s where the fit ends. This salesperson took the time to send an email and then follow up a week later. A 20-second perusal of our site would have shown we are not remotely the right fit.

Was she handed a list of prospects and told to send emails all day until she got a bite? Does marketing know sales is targeting “prospects” like us? Does sales know who their target market is? I don’t know, but there’s clearly a disconnect.

Including Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Typically, “less is more” in sales and marketing, especially when it comes to email. However, the emails we get at SPROUT Content are usually all over the place. Some are too short and provide no context. Others resemble a James Michener novel in length and sweep.

At 363 words not including signature, the below email is the length of a short blog post. It proceeds to list everything about them and not a word about us (side note: this email blast was addressed to Dechay rather than me—but even in two subsequent personally written emails from this person, I was still addressed as Dechay).

I don’t know if this company’s marketing or sales team decided this was an ideal first email to a prospect. It came from the VP of Sales and Marketing so it’s hard to know. Either way it’s just too long.

A study of 40 million emails by Boomerang found that the sweet spot for emails is between 50-125 words. These shorter emails tested had a 50% response rate, but as they got longer, response rates dropped.

The moral of this story is if you’re going to do a blast, keep it short. Also keep it targeted to your particular audience so the messaging resonates with that group. Speaking of messaging, more of me and less of you is better. And sales and marketing must communicate about the communications they’re sending out.

Here’s a Bonus tip:

Make sure your sales and marketing teams know each other.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a joke. We’ve actually witnessed sales and marketing teams meeting for the first time in meetings. Not only should your teams know each other, they should be collaborating on efforts and aligning strategies. After all, isn’t one of the biggest goals of marketing to produce sales?

Find out more about how to better align your sales and marketing teams work stronger together through a strategic inbound marketing plan.

24 Jan 16:16

KiteDesk Interviews the Principal of SalesDrive, LLC

by SalesDrive, LLC

kite-desk-interview-dr-croner-sales-drive

KiteDesk, a company who uses “the most accurate Internet research technologies and databases to find and capture the best Leads,” has chosen to highlight SalesDrive, LLC on their blog. As an avid advocate of SalesDrive’s systems, KiteDesk has seen first-hand the success that SalesDrive, LLC brings to companies.

Representing SalesDrive, LLC in this interview is Dr. Christopher Croner, the Principal and co-author of “Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again.”

Click here to read Dr. Croner’s thoughts and ideas behind SalesDrive, LLC and how it got to be the success it is today.

The post KiteDesk Interviews the Principal of SalesDrive, LLC appeared first on SalesDrive, LLC.

24 Jan 16:16

3 Ways To Improve Selling Results With SAP Integration

by Louis Columbus

The more integrated the systems are supporting any selling strategy, the greater the chances sales will increase. That’s because accuracy, speed, and quality of every quote matter more than ever. Being able to strengthen every customer interaction with insight and intelligence often means the difference between successful upsells, cross-sells and the chance to bid and win new projects. Defining a roadmap to enrich selling strategies using SAP integration is delivering results across a variety of manufacturing and service industries today.

Getting more value out of the customer data locked in legacy SAP systems can improve selling results starting with existing sales cycles. Knowing what each customer purchased, when, at what price, and for which project or location is invaluable in accelerating sales cycles today. There are many ways to improve selling results using SAP integration, and the following are the top three based on conversations with SAP Architects, CIOs and IT Directors working with Sales Operations to improve selling results. These five approaches are generating more leads, closing more deals, leading to better selling decisions and improving sales productivity.

3 Ways SAP Integration Is Improving Selling Results

  1. Reducing and eliminating significant gaps in the Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) process by integrating Salesforce and SAP systems improves selling and revenue results quickly. The following two illustrations compare how much time and revenue escape from the selling process. It’s common to see companies lose at least 20% of their orders when they rely on manual approaches to handling quotes, pricing, and configurations. The greater the complexity of the deal is the more potential for lost revenue. The second graphic shows how greater system integration leads to lower costs to complete an order, cycle time reductions, order rework reductions, and lead times for entire orders dropping from 69 to 22 days.

3 Ways To Improve Selling Results With SAP Integration

3 Ways To Improve Selling Results With SAP Integration

  1. Having customer order history, pricing, discounts and previously purchased bundles stored in SAP ERP systems integrated into Salesforce will drive better decisions on which customers are most likely to buy upsells, cross-sells and new products when. Instead of having just to rely on current activity with a given customer, sales teams can analyze sales history to find potential purchasing trends and indications of who can sign off on deals in progress. Having real-time access to SAP data within Salesforce gives sales teams the most valuable competitive advantage there is, which is more time to focus on customers and closing deals. enosiX is taking a leadership role in the area of real-time SAP to Salesforce integration, enabling enterprises to sell and operate more effectively.
  1. Improving Sales Operations and Customer Service productivity by providing customer data in real-time via Salesforce to support teams on a 24/7 basis worldwide. The two departments who rely on customer data more than sales need to have real-time access to customer data on a 24/7 basis from any device at any time, on a global scale. By integrating customer data held today in SAP ERP and related systems to Salesforce, Sales Operations, and Customer Service will have the visibility they’ve never had before. And that will translate into faster response times, higher customer satisfaction and potentially more sales too.