Consider the opening of Warren Buffett's 2012 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.
From the second paragraph:
"A number of good things happened at Berkshire last year, but let's first get the bad news out of the way."
Buffett goes on to announce that "for the ninth time in 48 years, Berkshire's percentage increase in book value was less than the S&P's percentage gain." He highlights too his "inability to make a major acquisition."
This unabashed recounting of Berkshire Hathaway's setbacks isn't unique to the 2012 letter; in fact, Buffett frequently opens his letters this way.
According to psychologist Robert Cialdini, this strategy is brilliant. Cialdini is a professor emeritus of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University, the CEO and president of Influence at Work, and the author of the new book "Pre-Suasion," in which he highlights the invisible interpersonal forces behind our behavior.
In the book, he highlights Buffett's letter-writing strategy as a prime example of a "pre-suasive" tactic, or a way to influence people to behave a certain way in the moments before they make their decision. In this case, the decision might be whether to start or continue investing in Berkshire Hathaway.
On a recent episode of The James Altucher Show, Cialdini, who says he's a stockholder in Berkshire Hathaway, explained why Buffett's pre-suasive strategy works:
"It's disarming every time he says, 'You know, we made this mistake.' I believe the next thing he says to me — and that's where he puts the strength of the last year.
He's just readied me to listen to and process the next thing he's going to say more deeply because he's established himself as a trustworthy source."
Cialdini analyzed Buffett's shareholder letters and found that Buffett's been deploying this strategy more frequently in the last few years.
Presumably, Cialdini said, Buffett has "learned that it's an effective strategy for retaining and recruiting shareholders. It reassures customers — not only your existing customers — that you know the drawbacks, you know the failings, and you have undertaken an analysis that allows you to change those failings into pluses."
Interestingly, Cialdini told Altucher that the same technique — opening a conversation with your weaknesses or flaws — might also strengthen romantic relationships.
"It's disarming. It allows people to say, 'Oh, somebody's being really forthcoming with me, not trying to maintain some sort of superiority, so I'm going to give that back that same level of honesty.'
And when you have that I think you have a better relationship."
I’ve spent years thinking and writing about one of the great mysteries of leadership and change: Why is it that the people and organizations with the most experience, knowledge, and resources in a particular field are often the last ones to see and seize opportunities for something dramatically new?
It’s the “paradox of expertise”: The more closely you’ve looked at an industry, the more successful you’ve been in a company or a profession, the harder it can be to see new patterns, prospects, and possibilities. Which is why the best leaders are the most insatiable learners. And why all leaders, wherever they are in the organization, have to keep asking themselves, Am I learning as fast as the world is changing?
In the research for my book, Simply Brilliant, I spent time with lots of leaders with big ideas about the future. But none of them was as determined as Garry Ridge, CEO of the WD-40 Company, to keep learning as fast as the world is changing. Indeed, I’m not sure I’ve met a CEO who has made learning more central to the corporate culture than Ridge has, or has found more ways to develop a thirst for learning among his colleagues. How he is confronting the “paradox of expertise” offers lessons for long-established organizations in all sorts of fields.
Indeed, Ridge is so serious about the commitment to learning that he insists everyone at the company takes the “WD-40 Maniac Pledge,” a solemn vow to become, in his words, a “learning maniac”:
I am responsible for taking action, asking questions, getting answers, and making decisions. I won’t wait for someone to tell me. If I need to know, I’m responsible for asking. I have no right to be offended that I didn’t “get this sooner.” If I’m doing something others should know about, I’m responsible for telling them.
WD-40 is an unlikely setting for such a learning-obsessed culture. It is hardly a glamorous brand, but it is iconic in its own way. Almost anybody who works on cars, or does home repairs, or just wants to get rid of a squeak or some rust, has one of those bright blue-and-yellow cans in their garage or under their sink. In fact, when Garry Ridge took over, WD-40’s flagship offering was used in four of five American households and in virtually every mine, factory, and construction site in the country.
The new CEO quickly realized the product’s ubiquity was both a blessing and a curse. It was truly part of the fabric of American life, almost a cult brand. Yet the company was also a one-trick pony. It basically had the single product, which it sold mainly in its home country. As a publicly traded stock, it paid out almost 100 percent of its profits as dividends — because it didn’t know what else to do with the money. “WD-40 is a cult product,” an article in Barron’s proclaimed, but “it is hardly a cult stock.” The “very nature of WD-40’s past success doomed it to ultimate failure.”
Fast forward to today: WD-40 now sells its products in 176 countries, sales in Europe alone are bigger than the company’s total sales when Ridge took over, and it has launched a collection of new brands and products. The share price has nearly tripled since 2009, and it has become, for the first time ever, a billion-dollar enterprise in terms of market value. (Recently, WD-40 shares were approaching $120 apiece and its market value was nearing $1.7 billion, unheard-of territory for the company.)
There’s no question that Garry Ridge has made WD-40 Company more interesting than when he took over. But he did it by demanding that he and his colleagues became more interested in what was possible for the organization, its products, and the brand. Ridge overhauled the culture, redefined the work of its leaders, even embraced a whole new language, to put a premium on learning, experimenting, improvising — transforming a stale, insular business into something agile and open-minded.
“We had such huge growth opportunities,” he told me, “but people were afraid to step out of their roles. The fear of failure is the biggest fear in the world. We had to go from failure to freedom.”
That’s why the central ritual of life at the company is what Ridge calls the “learning moment” — a period of frustration, a burst of inspiration, a breakthrough of collaboration in which people stumble upon a problem, unearth an opportunity, or fail miserably at an initiative, and then communicate what they’ve learned without fear of reprisal. “Learning moments can be positive or negative, but they are never bad, so long as they are shared for the benefit of all,” he says. “I want people to be inquisitive, I want people to ask questions and take chances. My job is to create a company of learners. I like to ask my people and myself, When’s the last time you did something for the first time?”
To underscore his personal commitment to the culture he is creating, any time he replies to an email, Ridge affixes an electronic signature with the message “ancora imparo,” Italian for “I am still learning.” The phrase was a favorite of Michelangelo, according to the CEO, and the artist signed it into many of his works.
“One of my huge learning moments in life,” Ridge says, “was getting comfortable with those three magic words, ‘I don’t know.’ It’s great to hear people across the company, anywhere in the world, say, ‘I just had a learning moment’ and share it with other people. Or to hear one of our people say ‘Maniac Pledge’ — knowing they have permission to ask about something they need to know or learn. My dream is for this organization to be viewed as a leadership-and-learning laboratory for business.”
In the spirit of learning, I’ll ask you to consider the question that Garry Ridge asks his colleagues: When’s the last time you did something for the first time?
Author’s Note: You can download my in-depth case study on the “culture of learning” at WD-40 from my website. It’s free, but you do have to enter your email address to get the case study.
Do you care what the other salespeople on your team think of you?
If not, you should.
Sales isn’t an individual, every-rep-for-themselves game. Although healthy competition can raise the bar for everyone, you shouldn’t make enemies of your teammates.
Doing so is literally bad for business. A top-performing sales team is twice as likely to have a collaborative culture than an average one, and four times more likely to report sharing top performers’ techniques with the rest of the team.
So if you’re pissing off your teammates, you’re not just hurting yourself: You’re bringing everyone down with you.
Read on to learn the seven behaviors that’ll earn you a terrible reputation.
1) You Don’t Take Meeting Times Seriously
Showing up late to meetings or to meetings won’t just vex your manager, it’ll also seriously annoy your team members.
It’s much harder for the other meeting attendees to focus when people are wandering in and out like it’s a coffee shop. Setting your own schedule also shows you think your time is more valuable than anyone else’s -- and the other reps won’t take kindly to that implication.
Of course, sometimes your calls with prospects will run long or otherwise conflict with internal meetings. When you can, leave a buffer between your meetings. If you can’t avoid scheduling them back-to-back, give your team members a heads up that you might be late, or send them a quick note via Slack or email when it looks like your previous conversation is going to end later than scheduled.
2) You Always Think the Glass Is Half Empty
A little pessimism in sales can actually be a good thing: It’ll motivate you to ask your prospects tough questions and plan for potential roadblocks.
But if you’re constantly bringing the doom and gloom, your team members will run in the other direction. It’s challenging to stay motivated when someone is always insulting the company, putting down the product, or criticizing the team’s strategy.
Plus, a single negative rep can sabotage an entire sales team meeting. Emotions are actually contagious -- so when one person goes on a rant, they infect the entire room with their mood.
3) You’re a Lone Wolf
Many sales reps are naturally competitive, so when you come up with a creative technique or effective strategy, you might want to keep it to yourself.
However, prioritizing yourself over the rest of the team never helps build strong relationships. Not only will your fellow reps like working with you far more if you freely share your ideas and insights, the entire company will see better results.
According to a CEB report, a sales team’s “network performance” (the positive effect teamwork has on average performance) determines 44% of company profitability.
“The value of all of that shared information increases dramatically as more and more reps opt in to learn and, in turn, share with one another,” CEB directors Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, and Nicholas Toman explain.
4) You Never Accept Responsibility For Your Mistakes
When you strike out on a call or miss your quota, where do you assign responsibility? Some salespeople are eager to point the finger everywhere but themselves, blaming their territory, the quality of their leads, the product, and so on.
But if you’re constantly shifting the blame around, you’ll earn contempt rather than sympathy.
Your fellow reps don’t want to hear your excuses. After all, they have the same job as you -- and when they fall short, they own up to it.
5) You Don’t Do a Good Job Qualifying
Lazy qualifiers are never popular.
If you’re an SDR, booking meetings without properly qualifying leads will force your salespeople to spend valuable time on poor fits, uneducated prospects, and tire-kickers. On the surface, it’ll look like you’re doing a great job -- but sending your reps bad meetings will cause you both to miss quota.
The takeaway? Do your due diligence. Ask the right questions, and walk away if necessary.
6) You’re Pursuing Their Leads
It’s not a shocker that contacting the same prospects as your fellow reps will piss them off. Stealing leads from your colleagues is literally taking money out of their pockets. And there’s no guarantee those deals will close -- even highly interested buyers will be aggravated by multiple calls from different salespeople at the same company, so you’ll sabotage both your team member’s chances and your own.
Being competitive is a good quality in a salesperson. But make sure you’re not taking things too far, as stepping on your team member’s toes will only hurt you.
7) You’re Not Using the CRM
Logging data probably isn’t the most exciting part of your job -- but do it poorly (or worse, not at all), and your office reputation will take a hit.
This is another mistake that SDRs should steer clear of making. If you’re booking meetings for an inside sales rep, their ability to take over the prospect relationship depends on the information you enter in the system.
If you don’t explain the prospect’s pain points, the rep will be forced to redo the discovery step -- annoying the buyer and slowing down the entire process. Or say you leave out the crucial fact that your lead doesn’t have budget authority. Your rep will waste valuable time before realizing they need to loop in the decision maker.
Did any of these seven behaviors ring a bell? If so, you’ll want to change your ways immediately. One toxic rep can poison an entire sales team -- make sure it’s not you.
With all the tools and technology we now have at-hand, it’s a great time to be a demand-generation marketer.
Demand-gen is the umbrella under which all other customer-attention and early funnel efforts find their footing. With strong demand-gen leadership, many other marketing specialties can thrive.
Reaching new markets, building buzz, promoting new offerings, and initiating and nurturing customer relationships are just a few of the activities that demand-gen marketing takes the lead on. Success in those areas trickles down to almost every other marketing sphere, from PPC to inbound marketing to conversion optimization.
To become a demand-gen success, however, you must master these 5 skills.
Demand Gen Skill to Master #1: Google Analytics
How do you know that your demand-gen efforts are producing fruit? You look at the data.
Google Analytics is the widely accepted standard in content measurement tools – and the first thing every demand-gen marketer should master.
Even if you eventually move to a different analytics tool like Omniture, an understanding of Google Analytics is an important foundation for understanding tracking and reporting.
Only 21% of marketers are using analytics to measure marketing ROI for marketing engagement. In other words, most marketers are doing their jobs with blinders on.
Smart demand-gen marketers know better. They let the numbers be their guide.
Not sure where to begin? Google Analytics Academy is a great place to learn the fundamentals.
Demand Gen Skill to Master #2: Excel
Excel isn’t just for numbers people and data nerds. This Microsoft Office tool helps you make smarter, data-driven decisions.
With Excel, you can combine data from multiple sources, get a bigger picture of your demand-gen results, and get insights that analytics software alone can’t provide. It takes all that data and helps you see patterns, trends, and connections you wouldn’t have otherwise spotted.
“If you can become fluent in Excel, it enables you as a marketer to be 100 times more powerful at using data to drive your decisions, because you can analyze data from multiple systems and do analysis not possible in your software tools.” — Mike Volpe, Chief Marketing Officer at HubSpot
A great place to start is this HubSpot article with 10 Excel tricks for marketers.
Demand Gen Skill to Master #3: Designing a Marketing Experiment
Demand generation is equal parts art and science.
Optimizing content can dramatically increase the effectiveness of your demand-gen efforts. The only way to know what to optimize, however, is to test.
Marketing experiments give you the data and insights you need to make your content perform better, hit your lead generation goals, and create an optimum user experience.
Unfortunately, many marketers approach this with a “throwing spaghetti at the wall” methodology. Learning how to effectively design a marketing experiment will help you avoid wasting your time (and marketing budget).
Start with SnapApp’s Beginner’s Guide to Designing Marketing Experiments. That’ll get you on the road to success in no time.
Demand Gen Skill to Master #4: Ability to Assess New Technology Tools
Marketers have more technology at their disposal today than ever before. From CRMs to marketing automation systems to analytics software, you have a wide variety of powerful tools to choose from.
But as you know from being the excellent marketer you are, more choices can actually make it harder to decide what to use.
Smart marketers know how to do their homework and assess new technology tools. But they don’t stop at tool analysis. They also consider how the technology will align and integrate with the tools they already use and how it will impact their customers.
Scott Vaughan, CMO of Integrate, shared an effective assessment framework in his article on Chief Marketer. This is a great starting point for creating a process for assessing new technology tools and their potential impact on the business.
Still feeling overwhelmed by all the options? You’re not alone. This SnapApp post will help you get more clarity.
Image source: chiefmartech.com
Demand Gen Skill to Master #5: Creating a Clear Picture of the Buyer by Connecting Opportunity and Activity Data
Demand-gen marketers are experts at spotting opportunities. Really successful marketers, however, don’t forget the data.
Connecting opportunity and activity data can give you a clearer, more detailed picture of the buyer, and help you identify the best content type and placement. This of course leads to more robust buyer personas and a deeper understanding of the marketing landscape.
This clear picture also helps you weed out ineffective content, narrow in on the correct timing of offers, and eliminate unproductive locations from the marketing plan.
Where do you start? This Demand Gen Report article includes specific information on creating a structured approach.
Demand Gen Marketers Set the Bar
Demand-gen marketers create the systems that initiate the customer relationship and set all other marketing into motion. A successful demand generation program leads to more qualified sales opportunities.
Master the five skills in this post and you’ll get to the top of your demand-gen game faster and experience more lead-generation success.
Thirteen years ago LinkedIn launched Groups, an online space for lively discussion and ideas. So what could possibly go wrong?
Well like every other free online forum on the web it quickly filled with people more interested in prospecting for clients than actively contributing to the conversation. As a result things became very spammy and the “real” discussions waned.
Seeing the need for reform, LinkedIn retooled Groups and instituted a set of rules, guidelines, policies and features designed to make it far less of a spam factory.
So how can you use LinkedIn groups for sales without annoying the very people you want to connect with?
The first rule is don’t be the “real estate agent” who only goes to parties so he can get his card in everyone’s pocket.
People can sniff this out a mile away. And they can see you don’t care about anything other than making money off those in attendance. Even the host is left wondering how you even got in.
So the trick is to be tactful about your approach.
Here’s one way…
On the Groups page, type into the search bar a topic that your prospects might be talking about.
So I type in the keyword ‘training’ and a message pops saying, “Hey, here are some discussions within the Sales Management Executives Group that include the word ‘training’.”
Seeing some useful groups in the search results, I would then post some useful content in the conversations there to further the discussions. The idea is that people would notice my statements, comment on them and ideally want to reach out to connect with me to discuss further.
The other way is a little more proactive. Look at the various comments on the subject and explore who is doing the liking and commenting. Then take a look at the commentor’s profiles and if appropriate, reach out to them about their comment in the group and set a conversation in play.
Both approaches require a fair bit of tact and finesse to ensure that those you reach out to aren’t made to feel like they’re a mark. That means, coming with your A-game with good content to add to conversations and a willingness to invest in the discussions.
There are two reasons for doing this. One, is to ensure that Groups are seen by users as a good place for discussion. The other is to ensure that you, and by affiliation, your company are seen as high-information contributors in the groups.
Because if you’re spotted as someone merely on the prowl for prospects, you’ll be as clearly identifiable as a tin of spam.
Like many people who suddenly realize how bad their financial situation is, we dove hard into frugality during the first few months of our financial turnaround.It makes sense, really. Frugality is the best personal finance tactic there is for seeing immediate results.
Sometimes prayers work real fast. On 14th September 2016, Monks had released an article on various HTML email hacks while coding for Gmail and we were hopeful for a miracle. As a recent update, Google’s Developer Page came out with news that sent shockwaves around the email marketing world.
Google Announced Embedded Styles and Media Query Support …
What does this mean for your subscribers?
This bold move from Google is all set to translate into a very well-developed end-user experience. With media queries being supported, Gmail (mobile and desktop) and even inbox can easily display responsive emails. So, no more squinty eyes and constant zooming in and out (who has that patience!!!) to read the miniature text incase the desktop layout of your email is displayed in their mobile or Gmail automatically bumping up the font by up to 50%, thereby destroying your email design and many such catastrophes.
What difference would it make in the way emails are built in the future?
Even though Google has been playing cat-and-mouse assuring that Gmail supporting media queries is a priority for 2 years, the announcement on their app developer blog is a sign of Google actually implementing media query support and adopting of embedded CSS styles in Gmail is an added bonus.
No more Hybrid emails
Nothing is written in stone but the code written for any responsive email shall work in Gmail too. To emulate responsiveness in Gmail, email developers code first without media queries and then enhance it using media queries to get set in hybrid layout. This will no more be required as simply using media queries would now support responsive emails.
No more mobile-first
The rule of thumb for developing any email was to be a mobile-first approach, keeping in mind that Gmail often renders the desktop layout in mobile. That’s how the design was restricted to either single or max two columns.
No more Outlook DPI v/s Gmail conflict
In large displays (23” and above), Outlook often wreaks havoc to email layouts. In such cases, the emails are coded using fix widths on all elements. On the other hand, for the Gmail app, without a media query, it was mandatory to let elements in percent to allow them to float and stack in mobile or smaller screens. So DPI for outlook can never be mixed with Responsive in Gmail app.
Gmail earlier stripped away classes and IDs and this meant individually providing inlining for every line of code that we wish to style. With Gmail supporting embedded styles, any change in the stylesheet shall be reflected in the body of the email. Thereby reducing the overall coding and in turn reducing the file size of email significantly.
Changing content on Gmail app on mobile layout
Now the prospect of a separate mobile layout of the same email wherein different elements to be shown on mobile would be possible, to make it more appealing or clickable. For example, showcasing CTA on top in mobile, which might be at the bottom in desktop, can now be achieved using different content on mobile and desktop.
Background position Support
Monks had also pointed out the lack of support for background-position. Even though not supported by Outlook, it shall be good to experiment with responsive background with support on Gmail desktop and Gmail app.
Some expectations from Gmail new update apart from above:
- Support of Radio buttons, checkbox and interactive elements since new Gmail version promises media query support and .
- Support of iOS Gmail app not increasing the font size automatically; this would help render a good responsive email in iOS gmail app as its suppose to.
- Support of Fonts, Google fonts, Websafe fonts using Fontfact or import allowing fonts to get inline and thus render on gmail app.
- Unlike Yahoo, it won’t restrict CSS or media queries selectors to be defined separately.
- Hoping to remove the 102kb limit of emails. Emails are getting converted to “mailable websites” and the chances of code being heavy are higher, so to avoid any clipping, the limitation on 102kb needs to be increased and thus entire email can be viewed irrespective of its height.
- Non-Gmail id configured on gmail app would now start supporting background images
- Patching up one issue should not give birth to a new issue. i.e. finding out hacks to then render it well on Gmail and Gmail app
We dream of a time when all email clients shall offer WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get). No email should be unsubscribed due to poor layout rendering. Share your thoughts on how excited you are on Google’s newest advancements.
Email marketing is a tough game to play. Though most people communicate through email more than any other avenue today, using email as a means of marketing is another story. This is because there are a lot of reasons why email marketing can fail. Sometimes, people aren’t interested in subscribing for whatever reason, and those who are subscribed just don’t have the time or the appeal to read them.
Each and every day, marketers are trying different approaches to email marketing, some of these being new tactics and trends. That being said, is it possible we’re already in the future of email marketing? Let’s see.
It’s All About the Data
If companies want to know whether not their email marketing strategy is working, they need to look at a few select things. One of these things is data. By analyzing the data revolving around user behavior, companies can learn a lot about themselves and their customers. We may tend to think that only some companies are using data to help with their email marketing. But, it’s actually likely that more companies than not are relying on data to completely direct their strategy.
And, what they’re doing with that data says a lot about our “presence in the future.” In the past, companies would look at their email marketing data, but not necessarily know what to do with it. But, the future of email marketing means that this has all changed. Marketers are using specific information to personalize emails, target audiences, and use promotions as a means of bringing in more profit. Perhaps not every company is utilizing the data they have to the fullest, but we’re likely to see companies turnover very quickly.
It’s Out with the Old, in with the Easy-Click
As email marketing strategies are learned, people’s attention spans decrease. Companies are finding more efficient ways to get their customers to do what they want, without deterring them by having too much text. One of these ways is the easy-click email.
An easy-click email is exactly as it sounds. Behold, a way for customers to waste absolutely no time checking their emails and providing companies with useful information. Some examples of easy-click emails include hotel or booking companies asking clients to rate their stay. This may be selecting how many stars you feel represent your experience, or simply clicking a face that represents your feelings. If your company is already doing this, then congratulations; you’ve made it to the future. If your company isn’t quite on board yet, then you still have some time before easy-click emails become the norm.
Say Goodbye to the Classic E-mail Blasts
These kind of emails are truly a “blast from the past.” Sending out one email to a ton of people seems to be a lot easier than sending a personalized one to each person. But, the future of email marketing means that personalizing emails does not need to be stressful. The Mission Suite makes it super easy to do a task like this, so you can spend more time making deals with each one of your customers.
Engagement is the Main Goal of Email Marketing
Whatever the goal of email marketing was in the past, that ship has sailed. It’s not so much about people opening their emails or even reading them anymore. The future of email marketing is solely about engagement. This means anything from using those easy-click links, to adding social media and sharing icons directly in the email to get people to engage. It’s about offering incentives to those who read your emails, like discounts for referring a friend, or subscribing. The future of email marketing is not just about who can get more emails read. It’s about how many people are actually engaging in those emails.
If you’re focusing on engagement now, then it’s likely you’ve already gone through the email marketing time machine.
There’s a lot of talk about the future of email marketing. However, if you take a look at what your company is doing, it’s likely you’re already there.. In the meantime, request a demo to see how Mission Suite can help you with your email marketing strategy overall.
It’s safe to say he knows a few things about making online, isn’t it?
We’ve been begging him for months (seriously) and he’s FINALLY agreed to host a closed-door workshop which only 25 of you can attend.
Registration is open for only 48 hours (until Friday, September 16th, 11:59 PM CST).
For those who are accepted, you’ll join Ronak in a private workshop where he will:
- Teach you how to double your email list (and why that matters)
- Show you how to drive thousands of visitors to your site
- Share how this all translates into money in your bank account
- Work with you and your site directly to show you exact steps you can take right now to increase your income.
One thing: In order to participate in the workshop and learn everything Ronak has to share, you’ll need to get SumoMe Pro to begin with.
Since you’re reading this, you’ve seen our newsletter signup pop-up box – that’s SumoMe in action. Before SumoMe, we struggled growing our email list. We tried different list builders – free and premium – but they didn’t give us the experience and results we wanted.
Then a fellow writer told us about SumoMe and we decided to give it a go. Guess what? Our email subscribers skyrocketed.
It’s not only about the numbers, though. We’ve decided to stick with SumoMe because it’s easy to use – the Pro version is easily integrated with your existing email platform (Aweber, Mailchimp, etc.) and it has a lot of added features (analytics, A/B testing, a lot of beautiful templates, to name a few). From the design to settings – everything’s all set up so you don’t need a lot of technical know-how.
That being said, make sure to get SumoMe Pro first so that you can take advantage of Ronak’s experience. The plan costs $20 per month and is normally payable annually. For participants of the workshop, however, the option of paying per month is available.
These 25 spots won’t last long so register here right now.
Remember, you have 48 hours to register!
If you’re looking to seriously grow your freelance business and not waste any more time, take action and join this workshop.
We’re looking forward to seeing you!
There are different kinds of companies when it comes to marketing strategies – those that want to be the first to try something new and those that are content letting others work out the bugs before they step in to a tried and true strategy.
The benefit to being first is you stand out from the crowd and you usually get the best pricing because there is no competition.
The benefit of not being first is you know something works before you try it. There is less risk of getting it wrong, making a mistake, or upsetting your potential customers.
But there is a risk to waiting. And it’s one that not many people will tell you.
Marketing strategies – whether they are new advertising mediums, new ways of following up, messaging, etc. – have a lifecycle. At first, they are brand new and only a few companies are using them. They go through growing pains trying to find their place in the world, getting consumers used to this new concept. Then the good ones start to work really well for the companies that figured out how to make it work. Then other companies come in and drive up the price as consumer acceptance becomes greater.
And finally, every other company comes in, the market becomes oversaturated, the consumer learns to ignore it, the price goes up and performance goes down.
The risk for being late to a new marketing strategy = when everyone starts doing the same thing, the relative effectiveness of that activity goes down.
Let’s use Facebook advertising as an example. At first, very few companies were doing it. There may have been some hiccups, but because they got in early, the prices they paid were much lower and they had more time to optimize their campaigns than other companies who joined up later. As time went on, it got more expensive to advertise on Facebook due to increase competition. Eventually, every company in your market will be advertising on Facebook. And it may still work, but it won’t give you any competitive advantage anymore. You will simply be doing the same thing as everyone else.
Billionaire businessman Mark Cuban vigorously defended the Clinton Foundation against allegations of "pay to play" that have swept up headlines in recent months.
In a recent interview with Business Insider, the owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and star of ABC's "Shark Tank" said the media is missing what he considered to be the two most important questions regarding the foundation. Those two questions, he said, would provide much more clarity to the situation.
The first question, he said, is "What's the market for [former President Bill Clinton's] speeches?"
"I know how much I get paid," Cuban said. "I can get $250,000 for a speech if it's a big organization. And I'll ask for more if you're making my ass travel somewhere f----- up."
He said, if Clinton were engaging in a pay-for-play, he'd be asking for a lot more than market value for those speeches and engagements on behalf of the foundation.
"If you're doing pay for play, you better get a whole lot more than the market value for the risk you're taking," he said. "Why hasn't anybody asked the question?"
The second, he said, is asking what the former president's "sales pitch" is.
"What's the sales pitch? Why are they giving you the money?" he asked.
Cuban was recently searching through WikiLeaks for information on Qatar, and stumbled upon one of Hillary Clinton's leaked emails.
That email was from Cherie Blair, who runs a foundation for women and is the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and it was focused on how Qatar’s young crown prince, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, wants to build an international profile as a fighter for global food security. Blair wanted to set up a meeting between the two. The former secretary of state agreed to meet.
"So that's what, that's not unusual," Cuban said. "Who has the best brand in the world or global brand for dealing with health initiatives? Bill Clinton."
He added if he wanted his daughter to have a great global brand regarding the issue, there's no doubt enlisting the former president's services would be the best course of action.
"That's what he's selling!" Cuban exclaimed. "No one asks what he's selling. I mean it's perfect for Business Insider: 'Learn from the Bill Clinton sales pitch for the Clinton Foundation.'"
The billionaire called Trump and his foundation the "perfect contrast" to the Clintons.
Whether the dealings of the Clinton Foundation while the current Democratic nominee held her post at the State Department are controversial comes down to whether a "premium" was paid.
"If there's no premium, then either the guy's an idiot or there's no pay for play."
The latest allegations of impropriety against the foundation came after Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog organization, published emails that it said proved Clinton gave donors special access to the State Department while she was running it.
Clinton had denied such allegations in July, and her campaign chairman dismissed them in an August statement.
"The Foundation has already laid out the unprecedented steps the charity will take if Hillary Clinton becomes president," campaign chair John Podesta wrote.
Multiple outlets' editorial boards have called for Clinton to cut ties to the foundation, and Trump has seized on the foundation controversy in his attacks against the former secretary of state.
Trump's foundation is embattled in its own "pay to play" controversy regarding a 2013 campaign donation it made to a group supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was considering whether to pursue fraud allegations against the defunct Trump University.
Bondi did not pursue the investigation.
Trump was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine to the IRS over the $25,000 donation. The Washington Post found that the foundation did not list the contribution in its tax filings, and Trump later reimbursed the foundation for the donation. A Trump Organization senior vice president told The Post that it was "an honest mistake" that the contribution wasn't properly listed.
On Thursday, Donna Shalala, the president of the Clinton Foundation and the former secretary of health and human services, told CNN that the foundation does "magnificent work" and that "there was a process set up to make sure their lines were not crossed" while the former secretary of state was in power.
But, she added, "when she's president" the foundation will have to "actually eliminate any aspect of conflict of interest."
Cuban endorsed Clinton at a rally in Pittsburgh, his hometown, in July. He called Trump a "jagoff" — a demeaning slang term frequently used in western Pennsylvania — during the event. In recent months, Cuban has ripped Trump repeatedly on social media in recent months.
Earlier in the cycle, Cuban expressed interest in serving as either Trump's or Clinton's running mate before souring on the real-estate magnate's candidacy. In a tweet last month, he wrote that he knew there "was no chance [that being picked as a running mate] was happening."
Recent research shows a third of consumers prefer that companies thank them in the form of points or miles – indicating the pervasiveness of loyalty programs. But retail interactions occur well outside purchase, and recognition extends beyond loyalty programs. How some retailers are thanking customers in fresh ways.
If love means never having to say you’re sorry, then loyalty should mean always having to say thank you.
It can come as a verbal word of gratitude, or in the form of rewards points. One factor does not change when it comes to retail: Consumers like to be thanked and recognized for their patronage.
That’s my takeaway after reviewing the results of a recent survey by TD Bank, which measured consumer attitudes about giving and receiving thanks in both personal and commercial settings. Not surprisingly, when it comes to being thanked by others, 84% of those surveyed said they prefer their thanks to come in person.
However, just how consumers like retailers and other companies to deliver their thanks is a different story.
For instance, 33% of those surveyed prefer companies to thank them with points, miles or other loyalty rewards. This is a great boost for loyalty marketing and rewards programs, but I don’t think the takeaway should be so cut-and-dry. Retail interactions involve much more than a purchase, and a rewards program will realize its full potential only if a retailer shows its thanks across all shopper touchpoints, such as the online experience, its social channels and customer care.
There are ways to generate customer recognition beyond traditional loyalty programs, as Apple, Lululemon and REI have proved. Let’s explore them; but first, let’s look at the research.
Gratitude Generates Loyalty
More than three-quarters of consumers surveyed (77%) said they are more likely to be loyal to a brand that expresses gratitude, according to TD Bank’s online survey, which took place in July.
That loyalty figure skews slightly higher among consumers ages 18 to 34 (81%) and women (80%). Meanwhile, 60% of the respondents said a direct thank you is more genuine, while 44% find a personalized thanks to be more authentic.
However, when asked specifically how they would like a company to thank them, 68% of all respondents chose rewards such as points, miles or other loyalty program benefits. Just 34% chose a verbal thank you.
As earlier stated, one-third of the respondents said loyalty program rewards are their most preferred way to be thanked (a close second to freebies). Just 13% of the respondents chose a verbal thanks as their most preferred form of recognition.
- Younger consumers ages 18 to 34 are more likely to say freebies are their most preferred way to be thanked (39%, versus the 55-plus set, of which 25% most preferred freebies).
- Of the 34% who said they like a verbal thank you overall, 38% fall into the millennial category (18 to 34) while 29% are older than 55.
- The survey results aren’t good news for the stationery industry, as the good old-fashioned, hand-written thank you note did not fare well across any segment. Just 7% of millennials and 4% of consumers between 35 and 54 most prefer receiving a written thank you note from a brand. The figure does not much improve among those 55 and older – 9%.
3 Fresh Ways of Giving Thanks
It is not a revelation that consumers crave acknowledgment, but it is surprising to me how few consumers, across age groups, prefer a verbal or written thank you to a reward or freebie. I suspect this is a sign of conditioning because of the pervasiveness of loyalty programs.
But with that pervasiveness comes a higher bar – to stand apart and remain relevant as a retailer and a brand. This means resonating with the shopper, and making him or her feel genuinely appreciated, at all retail touchpoints as well as in unexpected places. Here are a few examples.
Teach them something new (about you): Retailers can invite customers to free events that educate them about products or processes central to that brand – further ensuring their relevance. REI, the outdoor activities company, offers a broad selection of free courses, from bike maintenance and GoPro training to land and water conservation. (Fee-based classes such as photography are discounted for those who become REI members.) Similarly, Apple offers free workshops that extend from the basics of using its products to digital photography, as well as free field trips for kids and teachers.
Bowl someone over: Retailers are familiar with the concept of surprise and delight – wowing a shopper with an unexpected gesture that will remain fondly in his memory for years. The classic example is when a call center employee at Zappos.com sent flowers to a customer whose mother died. In this area particularly, loyalty programs help because the insights they gather enable more tailored communications. Morton’s The Steakhouse once blew a customer away after he tweeted the chain jokingly requesting that a steak be delivered following a long day of business travel. To his surprise, an employee met him at the airport with a porterhouse steak, a colossal shrimp, a side of potatoes and silverware to boot.
Feed their passions: People choose brands that support their lifestyle interests; they stick with brands that encourage and share them. Lululemon, the seller of yoga, workout and athleisure clothing, provides its regular shoppers complimentary in-store yoga classes led by local instructors. For those who are not near a store or cannot make it, Lululemon offers free online classes. By extending these free services, Lululemon is reinforcing its support of a passion that is increasingly shared by its best shoppers. And so the bond strengthens.
Thanking customers across all touchpoints is good practice simply because it is good manners. It also could be good business. If practiced genuinely, an unexpected thank you brings its own rewards in the form of many welcome returns.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com, you can view the original story here.
Forming Partnerships, or Strategic Alliances, is one of the key elements that make up the business development function in technology companies. I believe that alliances are underutilized in many ways. Conceived and executed properly, alliances can greatly extend each of the partner companies reach in the marketplace.
VARIOUS AND SUNDRY PARTNERSHIPS
There are many types of collaboration that fall under the umbrella of “Partnering”. Let’s take an expanded view and examine a few of the most common:
Formal Third Party Programs—Probably the best understood category of partnering. Partnering in this manner is generally low risk, but low reward for both parties. A program usually consists of many smaller partners gaining modest benefits from a larger company. The larger company gains (at least the illusion) from having a large number of partners working with their product/technology.
Industry Consortiums—Represents another well-understood category. Mild benefits are usually obtained by the participating parties, including some publicity, a stamp of approval, and the opportunity to network with other consortium members. The unique aspect of this form of partnering is its one-to-many relationship, as opposed to “one-to-one” or “one-to-few” relationships found in most partnerships.
Sales Agents—Many people might not consider sales agent relationships partnerships; or at least not strategic. But they certainly are. There is usually a minimum of entanglement here; usually simply a contract that provides a commission for sales generated or leveraged. The product doesn’t change hands between the partners and there is often little training and support involved, relative to other partnership types used for product distribution.
Service Agreements—These agreements occur when a company doesn’t want to relinquish the sales function for its products, but for some reason it needs a third party for servicing. These agreements are most common in high-end hardware markets, where 24/7 on-site support is critical. Storage Hardware and Mainframes are good examples. They are also seen in more commodity-type markets, where a company has decided that service/support isn’t their core competency and that a third party can handle service/support at a lower cost. The use of Indian Call Centers by PC manufacturers such as Dell is an example of this concept.
Distribution Agreements—This is a common but often poorly executed form of partnership. The errors usually occur when the Channel partner is treated like an end-user to be sold to, rather than a hybrid or a true partner as should be viewed. Distributors and Resellers need to be treated as an extension of a company’s sales force, although of course they still need to be “sold to” as end-users due. Sadly they often are not, leading to such misguided policies such as channel stuffing and over-distribution, which lead to problems that become extremely difficult to resolve.
Joint Marketing—Cooperation on marketing matters should be where most companies reap the greatest benefits. Partnering in this area is really low risk, can have great benefits and is a great way to get started with a new partner. There are so many ways that companies can cooperate in joint marketing; the list is really only limited by your imagination. Some of the ways I’ve been able to utilize these types of partnerships include discounted product promotional bundles, trade show space cost-sharing, joint press releases (of course!), sharing of prospect and customer lists, prospect referrals and joint direct mailings. The great thing is that there are many different areas to explore to find overlap in the two companies interests.
Product Integration—Integrating the products of two companies is what often comes to mind when you think of partnerships. It can make great sense and the potential rewards are great. However, there are some reasons for caution, prior to jumping straight into this, as I’ll discuss below.
As discussed above, a partnership or alliance can take many forms. As a result, there is a lot of confusion and disagreement as to what even constitutes a “good” partnership. Let’s take a closer look at two frequently seen partnering categories and some common missteps:
You see a great many press releases go out trumpeting the partnership between company A and company B. The release goes on to discuss the great benefits that will accrue to customers and the two companies making the announcement. The language tends to be vague and laced with buzzword terminology like “synergy” and “market leading value proposition”. More often than not, that initial press release is the high point of the partnership and little is heard about it subsequently. You may have heard the term “slide-ware” to describe products that exist only in PowerPoint. This type of partnership is the PR alliance equivalent to slide-ware—I call it a “PaRtner-ship.”
Product Integration Fiasco
On the other end of the partnership pitfall spectrum are technical folks who usually think of alliances in terms of product integration. Technical integration can be the basis for a great partnership. However, it’s a lot of work and a big commitment for both parties. The danger is that the partners too quickly dive head long into the product integration work, basing their decision on an impulsive belief that it “makes sense”.
In a not unusual scenario, the two products are complementary and from an engineering (and often customer) perspective it looks like a marriage made in heaven. Several dangers are lying in the weeds, however. First of all, any product development effort runs a high risk of failure. When you put together two disparate engineering teams who have never worked together on a project, that risk rises exponentially. Usually both engineering departments have their own product releases to worry about concurrently, which are always higher priority. Lack of communication, low priority, cultural differences and ego can easily conspire to lead to a failed integration project, or at least one lacking the features to be of much leverage in the market. At this point, the partners have spent a lot of money and precious engineering resources with little in return, leaving finger pointing and a search for scapegoats as the next step.
In addition, it takes much more than good product integration for commercial success by the partners. If there isn’t a solid plan for marketing cooperation and distribution (see above!), even technically-elegant product integration partnerships will leave both parties disappointed. Alliances that are born from product integration, unless carefully thought out and efficiently executed, can lead to disappointment by one or both of the partners.
There are many “gotchas” involved with working together to push and pull the combined solution in the market. It helps to have some practice working together prior to making the big bet on technical integration. That’s why I often recommend to my clients that product integration is usually best as a step down the road in an embryonic partnership, not as the beginning of one.
PARTNERSHIPS MAKE SENSE—BUT EXECUTION IS KEY
So are partnerships to be avoided? Not at all! They are one of the areas that can make be a huge differentiator for your company in a competitive market. But the take-away message here is that too many partnerships are conceived as great ideas—and peak right there. Like most business activities the devil is in the details and execution is the key to success. When I’m working with smaller clients with limited capital for marketing and sales, I often recommend an aggressive partnering program. If executed correctly, the company and its partners can gain cost-efficiencies and marketing economies of scale far exceeding their own size. But I have two final key pieces of advice before you embark on a new partnering program:
1) The very definition of a partnership is a “win-win” relationship for BOTH parties. Takers don’t build winning partnerships—givers do. Offer to take the first step, do the first piece of the project. A partner that believes you are acting in his best interests will be very impressed and willing to provide support that you never dreamed of. Build that relationship by being the first to “give”; the trust you build will came back to you multiple times and set the stage for a profitable, long term partnership.
2) Do start, but start small. I’ve discussed above the many pitfalls of moving too fast. It’s best to pick something easy with obvious benefits to both parties. Working successfully on a small project creates momentum and helps build the trust and familiarity that is crucial to success on more ambitious future projects. I will often suggest a simple list swap of prospects as an initial step. If either party views even that with suspicion, a blind mailing can be done to each company’s list where the actual lists don’t change hands. Building a prospect or customer list is very capital-intensive; by partnering with just one other company, you can each double your lists overnight. It’s almost a certain Win-Win, creating excellent leverage, and no financial investment by either party. It’s easy to succeed, and sets the stage for discussions on additional collaboration.
I’m sure you get the picture—does this make sense to you? Post me a comment below with your own partnering success stories and failures.
The post Technology Industry Strategic Partnering appeared first on the Morettini on Management Blog.
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All leaders know to be proactive when times are challenging. They don’t always know exactly what to do, but they know they need to do something.
I am surprised at how few leaders work to capitalize when things are going well. When market conditions are favorable and business is booming, this is not the time to just sit back and enjoy the spoils. Great leaders know that they need to be even more strategic and proactive during boom times as responses to “sunny day” temptations can make the difference between being good, great or even awesome.
A great leader making the right choices regarding the following seven temptations can move mountains and create wealth for all, leaving behind those who have to start the hard work again when the bust inevitably happens.
1. Temptation: Save praise for later.
When things are busy and bonuses are high, the positive morale makes praise and compliments seem superfluous. Plus, people are busy, and as the saying goes, “good news waits till noon.” But noon often becomes never.
What great leaders do instead: Now is the time to make sure that people feel appreciated for the growth and hard work. Make a point of offering small bits of specific, positive feedback on a regular basis. Put systems in place that help the team members celebrate their accomplishments — beyond the extra cash in their check.
2. Temptation: Give in to “good enough.”
When things are going well, it’s hard to see the little errors and systemic breakdowns that occur. Often the lost deals and customer dissatisfaction are hidden by increasing top-line revenue and margins. Robust times are when it’s easiest to coast and let your people do the same.
What great leaders do instead: Heavy volume means you can put the systems to the test with minimal risk. Dedicate time and resources to stretching and testing limits so you can increase capacity and efficiency. There is no better time to look for new opportunities and ways to improve. Use this boom to encourage team members to think of the future and big possibilities. Then empower them with committed resources to go as far as you can safely go.
3. Temptation: Become invisible.
Good times are often busy times, and you may be wrapped up with travel, meetings and communication. You may disappear for weeks at a time. You know what you’re up to, but your staff doesn’t
What great leaders do instead: It’s good to delegate and focus on growth, but the team still needs direction and confidence in the leadership. The more quickly they surpass goals, the more they need guidance toward the next summit. Make a point of being visible and active in goal discussions. Come out of your office and talk to your people. Schedule lunches or happy hours so they can get creative talk time outside of day-to-day issues.
4. Temptation: Over-rely on star players.
Big producers add a lot to the company, but it is a mistake to underplay the rest of the team. Diversification is key to longevity in down markets.
What great leaders do instead: Make a conscious effort to monitor, motivate and cultivate each team member. Repetition of consistent business is a great way to help that “B” player get closer to becoming an “A” sales star. Use the abundant market to build skills and deepen your bench. That way you will have redundancies in place and people ready to step up if your starting players become unavailable.
5. Temptation: Decide you are indispensable.
There is nothing wrong with knowing the value you bring to a company. If things are going well, it is natural to feel a sense of pride and ownership. Just be very careful to avoid thinking or behaving as though the place couldn’t carry on without you. Remember what they say about cemeteries being full of indispensable people.
What great leaders do instead: Stay mindful of the ways you personally can continue to improve, which will keep you learning and keep you humble. Empower your team to grow and aspire to bigger positions that will expand the company exponentially. If they are aspiring to take on your position, you are doing something right.
6. Temptation: Stop asking “What If?” just because you can.
Daydreaming, asking questions, cultivating curiosity — these are the activities that fuel creativity and innovation. When you’re riding high on what’s already working, sometimes you forget to explore new territory just because it is there.
What great leaders do instead: Make opportunities for creative thinking at work and in the personal lives of your team. Create challenging exercises to keep team members on their toes. Schedule regular retreat time away from the craziness of daily operations to address new opportunities and resources only available when abundance is high.
7. Temptation: Give up experimenting.
It seems counter-intuitive to think that success can cause paralysis. But when things are great, you want them to stay great, and if you are not careful, that can lead to a paralyzing fear that they may not. It is easy to become too afraid to try anything new. Unfortunately, what works during the boom may kill you when the bust comes.
What great leaders do instead: Apportion time, resources, and funds to create a laboratory where safe failure can occur regularly. Challenge the team to take calculated risks on a regular basis, so you can learn, grow and capitalize.
This article first published on YPO’s website.
- Write a tweet.
- Leave some room at the end.
- Then keep typing hashtags until you reach 140 characters.
You will probably get more impressions, but the bigger question is: are those impressions worth anything… or are you just attracting spam accounts? Furthermore, are you turning off your legitimate follower-base by using a slew of spammy-looking hashtags?
Since hashtags just celebrated their ninth birthday (check out the first-ever use of a Twitter hashtag here), a lot has changed. What went from being a valuable organizing tool in communication swung across the pendulum to spam and is now finding a balance somewhere in the middle.
Search Engine Journal’s Experiment
In an age where major entertainment marketing campaigns are abandoning Twitter, it’s time to seriously reconsider strategy. A recent infographic from Search Engine Journal, “Why Twitter Hashtags Are Worthless,” puts the contemporary use of hashtags under a critical eye. (We’ve reposted the full infographic below.)
Here’s what Search Engine Journal’s research found in evaluating 137,052 Tweets over a seven-day period:
- 9% of Twitter accounts were “Questionable” (meaning they had a high follower/following count and odd liking/sharing habits)
- 5% of Twitter accounts were “Real” (meaning they had organic following, sharing and liking habits)
- 6% of Twitter accounts were “ZeroSpam” (retweet farms)
ZeroSpam Twitter Accounts…
- Tend to be less than 8 months old
- Follow 0 people and have fewer than 10 followers
- Tweet and Like 5k+ times in less than six months
- Average 6,691 likes and 17,025 shares/retweets
- Total 19.22M false likes and 48.9M shares in less than a year
Accounts identified as “Questionable” follow 4.2x more accounts than are following them. Generally, they use business-related hashtags, most often these:
How Does It Affect Me?
Well, if you use these hashtags for business, then Twitter spam, which brings bad or incomplete data into your analytics, could end up misdirecting your social strategy. Spam of this nature is a growing problem on Twitter; the company reports:
- 5% of the 300M+ monthly users are spam
- 15M monthly spam users spam tweet and like 1,000x/month
- 95B false notifications are generated per month
So, Should You Use Twitter Hashtags?
Hashtags in and of themselves are not bad. However, we have noticed with many of our BuzzPlant clients that conversational Twitter behavior generates much higher rates of impression, engagement and overall value than “broadcast” Tweets.
Do you use hashtags on Twitter? If so, how? If not, why not? Tell us in the comments below.
Paying for Content — This Is Why You Should Never Let an Amateur Write Your Content (and Yes, That Includes You)
Paying for content from a professional marketing company can seem crazy.
Why not just have an intern whip up some content for you?
I’ll tell you why (and you may not like the answer, but it’s the truth).
Because your intern sucks.
Your intern isn’t a trained writer.
Your intern doesn’t know a damn thing about writing content that persuades, informs, or directs customers.
Maybe your intern knows a little HTML and CSS, maybe they know how to put together a sentence or paragraph — heck, maybe they even know some marketing principles!
They took marketing 201 after all.
But that’s insufficient. Having an intern, or your cousin, or your friend’s brother’s wife who published a children’s book in the ‘90s, write the marketing content for your website…
Or your brochure…
Or even your business cards…
Paying for Content From a Professional Is an Investment — Paying for Content From an Amateur Is Setting Money on Fire
(Oh, and FYI, it’s equally crazy to write your own content, but I’ll get into that bit a little later.)
Having an intern or a secretary or an employee who isn’t a professional writer create your content is crazy.
Your website has a variety of functions:
- To display your product or service
- To let people know you exist
- To help people find you and contact you
- To bring in leads
It may also have these functions:
- To sell a product or service directly
- To support existing customers
- To take payments
So ask yourself this — are you willing to lose leads because prospects don’t know what to do once they land on your website?
Or because your content sounds like a college essay?
Do you want people to be confused when they go on your website to make a payment?
Do you want them to have difficulty understanding your product? Or difficulty researching you and your company?
Do you want them to get lost as they search diligently for a way to purchase your service?
Do you want to lose money? Or prospects? Or time?
If you’re not paying for content, or you’re “paying for content” by paying an intern or some random person or employee to write for you, you’re paying a higher price.
You’re paying in lost leads.
You’re paying in lost sales.
You’re paying in unhappy customers.
You’re paying with the integrity of your business and the image of your brand.
You may be thinking, “Ok, fine! I’ll just write it myself!”
Gear it down big shifter.
Even if You Can Write Your Content Yourself, You Shouldn’t
The main reason? Confirmation bias.
Also the blind spot bias.
(Enjoy that list, you can get lost in it for days.)
The point is this — you’re in too deep.
You run the show, you know your business inside and out, you know the minor details that make you the expert you are.
This is bad (at least, it’s bad for writing content).
You’ll make assumptions about what your customers know, assumptions that are completely unconscious, assumptions that are wrong.
You’ll write at a level that’s too high, or too low, for your customers. You’ll miss things that an outside observer will see in an instant.
You’ll even miss simple things — doubled words, typos, missing punctuation.
These are things an outside writer, paired with a good proofreader, will catch in an instant.
There’s Actually a More Important Reason You Shouldn’t Write Your Own Content
If you write it, you won’t be able to evaluate it properly.
If you’re paying for content from a professional, you can read over what they’ve written and notice mistakes or issues immediately.
It will be much simpler to get your content where you need it to be.
If you write it yourself, you’re just going to have a harder time finding issues.
Oh, and it will probably take you a lot longer to write it than you think it will.
Paying for content lets you avoid these issues.
Your Website or Print Content Is an Investment in Your Business — Don’t Skimp
You get what you pay for — that’s the ugly truth about marketing.
If you don’t pay someone who’s trained to write marketing content, you’re making your marketing less effective.
You’re paying for mediocrity.
Which is crazy.
Because you’re anything but mediocre.
Your brand is anything but mediocre.
Why wouldn’t you want the best for both?
Great marketing content can increase your sales.
It can generate more leads.
It can reduce customer complaints and customer service calls.
It can make your job a heck of a lot easier.
Your website, or your brochure, or your pay-per-click ad, or your Facebook page, can become useful tools in your effort to bring customers into the fold.
If they’re written right.
That’s the real value of paying for content — it’s like bringing on a new salesperson and customer service agent all wrapped into one.
You’re investing in the future profitability of your business.
You’re ensuring that your website supports your brand, helps your customers, and does what you need it to do.
Pay a Professional so You Can Get Back to Being a Professional
You’re a professional.
You have work to do.
You don’t have time to clean up messes (which is what you’ll have to do if you pay an intern or family friend to write your marketing content).
Paying for content is the best way to ensure you can focus on your business (and not marketing).
Get it taken care of now, so you don’t have to worry about it in the future.
Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead.”
Getting your point across in as few words as possible takes time and effort. But it’ll pay off: According to an analysis of more than 40 million emails, the most effective were between 50 and 125 words.
Wondering how you can cut your messages down to this length? Here are the most common ways you may be wasting space.
1) Being Too Wordy
Make your sentences as short as possible. If your prospect struggles to get your point, they’ll probably stop reading.
Keep an eye out for these wordy phrases:
- “First and foremost”: Replace with “first.”
- “At this point in time”: Replace with “currently.”
- “For the purpose of”: Replace with “to.”
- “In the near future”: Replace with “soon.”
- “Whether or not”: Replace with “whether.”
- “With the exception of”: Replace with “except.”
- “Make an effort”: Replace with “try.”
- “Consensus of opinion”: Replace with “consensus.”
- “In view of the fact that”: Replace with “because.”
2) Introducing Yourself
Never begin an email by stating your name, title, and company. Not only is this exactly the kind of run-of-the-mill opening an old-school salesperson would use -- which’ll immediately put your recipient on guard -- it’s also a waste of valuable space. Prospects can find this information in your email signature and the “From” field.
(Need to update your email signature? Use HubSpot’s free email signature generator.)
3) Repeating Your Subject Line
Your subject line should act as the prologue of your email. It sets the stage, piquing your prospect’s interest so they open and read your message. Recycling your subject line in the first sentence of your email isn’t just lazy -- it’s ineffective.
Does Holden have a social media policy for its employees? Many companies of your size have trouble monitoring their employees’ posts for potentially sensitive or damaging content …
Congratulations on adding 50 employees to your LatAm team. When CDN companies expand at your rate, most struggle to keep track of what their employees post to social media …
4) Inserting Full URLs
Providing helpful blog posts, web pages, or resources lets you add value and position yourself as a trusted consultant. But you’ll lose valuable real estate if you just copy and paste the entire URL -- not to mention that full links make your emails look messy.
It might sound obvious, but you should always use hyperlinks.
Check out this blog post on going from door-to-door selling to the C-suite: http://blog.hubspot.com/sales/aol-svp-slideshare?_ga=1.54227437.455576106.1468247616#sm.001gax27mwqzfg510vh1c8izdcqc2
Check out this blog post on going from door-to-door selling to the C-suite.
5) Explaining Your Purpose
Telling your prospect why you’re emailing by writing, “I’m just emailing to … ” or “I just wanted to check in after … ”, is a waste of time. They already know you’re emailing them. Your point will be more effective if you simply get to it.
“I’m following up on our consultation. Have you thought about sourcing your supplies through a single OEM?”
“Have you thought about sourcing your supplies through a single OEM?”
6) Including Too Many Ideas
You might have a thought-provoking question, four eye-opening statistics, and three compelling benefits to share with your prospect. But stick to one or two per email.
The goal is to connect with your prospect, not sell them. If they’re confronted with a ton of information, they’ll be overwhelmed rather than intrigued.
As an added benefit, keeping a few factoids up your sleeve will come in handy if the buyer doesn’t respond to your first few emails. Giving each message a different focus keeps them from feeling repetitive.
7) Using the Passive Voice
Tighten up your sentences by changing them from passive to active voice. You can identify the passive voice by adding “by zombies” to the sentence’s verb. If the new sentence makes sense, it’s written in passive voice.
Take this sentence: “Improvements were suggested … by zombies.”
To rewrite a sentence in the active voice, determine who’s performing the main action, then use them as the sentence’s subject.
For example, the rewritten sentence might be, “Our team suggested improvements,” or “The client suggested improvements.”
Once you rewrite it in active voice, adding “by zombies” doesn’t work:
“The client suggested improvements … by zombies.”
Getting rid of the passive voice won’t just make your emails shorter: It’ll also make you sound more confident.
8) Including Generic Statements
If you want to grab your prospect’s attention, you can’t waste any time on unrelated statements or questions. Immediately diving into your main purpose might feel rude, but it actually shows thoughtfulness for the buyer’s busy workday.
Wondering what’s considered superfluous? Here are some common offenders:
- “I hope you’re having a nice [day, week, month].”
- “Hope you’re doing well.”
- “I trust you’re doing well.”
- “Happy [day of the week].”
- “How has your summer been?”
Notice the common theme? Each of these lines could apply to anyone. If your opening sentence isn’t personalized to the individual buyer, delete it.
Trimming down your emails makes them easier to read -- and therefore, easier to respond to. If you want your prospects to take action, write less.
The key in building a successful product is about building the right thing for the right target audience.
If you think it’s all about the product you are selling, you’re missing the point. It’s about creating the product your users need and want.
Listen to your users, but really listen. That way, you’ll be able to fine-tune your product into something they will want to use and be willing to pay for. You need to get inside the mind of your customers.
Any good customer success manager will tell you that the real secret lies in the acceptance that it is all about them. It’s about making them feel like you truly get them. Like you’re really there just for them.
But how can you uncover your users’ needs? How can you put yourself in their shoes in order to truly understand them?
Four tactics that will help you get into your user’s mindset.
Pro tip before we go in:
If you really want to strengthen the relationships between your users and your product, don’t just read these tips, bookmark and go on with your life – act now!
1. Create a Buyer Persona, find their Online Habitat and do some spy work.
One of the best ways to stand out while providing quality beyond what anyone else is doing in your field is by truly understanding your target market.
Dig in and learn more about who they are and what they’re trying to achieve by using your product.
After your Buyer Persona is all set, write a list of groups, forums, subreddits, wherever you think your audience spends their spare time. Spend some time in these groups – see what they care about, what their needs are, even interact if you feel comfortable enough to do so. Learn what they’re thinking by seeing them interact with others.
2. Watch User Session Recording to understand their experience.
The hardest lesson I learned as I watched my first user session recording, was that I didn’t know my users as well as I thought I did.
I was sure I had planned everything out to the smallest detail, that our design and flow was magnificent and that they would intuitively know what to do.
And then I started watching our user session recording.
Wherever I thought they would scroll, they hit “next” and when I thought they would hit “next” they were searching for more information.
These are not mistakes done by a newbie. Anyone creating a new product or launching a new feature will most likely make a few mistakes while making predictions. It is almost impossible to predict exactly the way the user is going to behave.
Therefore, analyze user behavior along with analytics and try using tools like User Session Recordings, which allow you to segment your users by actions, session characteristics, and demographics, to see exactly how they behave on your site and where they’re having trouble.
Seeing what the real experience feels like for your customers, as a Customer Success Manager, will allow you to help them further than expected and improve their experience with empathy (we will get into that later).
3. Align your goals with their goals.
As a customer success manager, your only goal is to make sure your customers are getting what they want to get out of your product and that they are happy and delighted by the experience.
You should aspire to create value for your customers by helping them get what they need.
By aligning your goals with theirs, you can improve customer communications and you can make sure you’re focusing on the right things.
Even if your product is still crude or has some technical growing pains, understanding your customer’s goals and showing them that you’re working with them towards these goals, will get them to love the entire experience of using your product.
People want to belong to something they feel they can relate to. If they feel you really understand them and their needs, it is more likely that we will have customer retention.
4. Be empathetic.
It might surprise you to hear empathy in terms of customer success or product development but it is a core value in the course of making smart choices.
It implies considering people’s feelings, along with other factors, in the progress of building common ground.
As you modify your product based on data and analytics, you must also take into consideration their emotional reactions. Not only will you be meeting customers’ needs, but you will also overcome their expectations.
You can show your empathy in several ways:
- Run surveys to collect feedback in order to sense the viewpoints of every user.
- Make sure your response time and customer interaction are flawless – stop worrying about your own problems and listen to THEM.
- Spend A LOT of time on the previous 3 tips – every minute you spend learning about your users is an opportunity to raise constructive feedback.
Being empathetic can go a long way:
- Common misunderstandings regarding cross-cultural dialogue and ethnic differences can be avoided.
- Being more empathetic means your customers will see you care and they will love you and your product even more. You will develop and retain good customers.
- The key to being empathetic is once you understand what they feel and their state of mind. This is when you will actually be able to anticipate the answers or solutions you can provide in order for them to be happy.
Empathy is what makes you an amazing customer success manager, because you truly get what goes on inside your user’s psyche and understand what their real problems are.
Now to you
Getting inside the mind of your users is mostly about being able to see the world through their eyes.
It’s not about magic, it’s about listening closely and tuning into their experience.
The more you are able to see what they see, the easier it gets.
A few years ago I created a list of the best books sales people should read to become a badass. You can see the list here. The list included some amazing books. What made that list so special was the surprising number of books that WEREN’T sales books. The original list of must read sales books for sales badasses included some books that address traits and skills that are critical to sales, but aren’t solely sales related.
This updated list is a little different. This list is all sales books.
A lot has changed in the sales world in the last 13 years. Inside sales, inbound, outbound, Account Based Marketing, lead generation, buyers journey, etc. are just a few of the new terms that have penetrated our sales vernacular. Therefore with all the changes, keeping up with the new and valuable selling methodologies of today is critical to success.
This list was built to help sales people and sales leaders crush it in the sales world of 21st-century.
Growth is critical to success, and deliberate learning is the best and most productive way to achieve that growth.
If you’re interested in expanding your skills, broadening your understanding the new world and learning new skills these are the sales books for you. (To order or read more, simply click on book thumbnail)
1) The Only Sales Guide You Will Ever Need – Anthony Iannarino
This book should have been called, “The Anatomy of a Sales Person” because that’s what it describes. With chapters like Self-Discipline, Optimism, Competitiveness, Story Telling Diagnosing and more, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need will snap you in shape. Anthony’s direct approach lives little for interpretation. Broken into, two Parts, Mind Set and Skill Sets, Anthony walks you through how these two very different elements to sales come together to create a powerful description of what it takes to become a true badass sales person.
If you haven’t read a sales book in a while, this is the first one you should read. It will revive those parts of your skill set and mindset you already had AND help you develop new ones to be successful in the 21st-century.
2) Fanatical Prospecting – Jeb Blount
If nothing happens until something gets sold, then nothing gets sold until you can prospect. Prospecting is where everything happens. It’s how we build our pipelines. It’s how we position ourselves for success. If your prospecting is suspect, nothing can save you. Jeb has written a killer book designed help you build a solid pipeline faster. Learn about the 30-day rule, the law of replacement, the P’s holding you back and more. If you want a bigger pipeline, this book can help you get it.
3) How to Get a Meeting With Anyone – Stu Heinecke
This book completely surprised me. It tackles the most difficult challenge salespeople struggle with, getting prospects to respond. Stu Heinecke triggers your mind to think in entirely different ways. Leveraging his own unique stories and those of others, How to Get a Meeting With Anyone, teaches you how to get the attention of your buyers and get them to respond to you. This book is not about email meetings, but rather how to build targeted, specific campaigns for your most valuable prospects. This is a must have compliment to any organization doing ABM (Account Based Marketing)
4) Sales Manager Survival Guide – David Brock
In full disclosure, I consider David Brock a mentor. When I first started my consulting company, David offered amazing insight, support and most importantly confidence building. He convinced me I was capable of things I wasn’t sure I was ready for. That’s what makes David’s book Sales Managers Survival Guide so valuable. David has practiced and lived sophisticated sales leadership for decades and he’s good at it. This book should sit on EVERY sales managers desk and be part of the on-boarding for new sales manager. Sales Manager Survival Guide covers everything from hiring and firing to comp plans, to performance reviews, to succession planning and more. David has written the definitive guide to sales management. Go get it.
5) Deal Storming – Tim Sanders
Tim has written the book for large, complex selling. As you’ll see in the next book I share, the complexity of selling is drastically increasing. This increase is being driven by more and more buyers in the decision process. To drive deals forward in today’s complex selling world that has an average of 5.4 decision makers per sale, sales has to leverage the entire organization. Deal Storming walks you through how to leverage all the intellectual capacity of your organization to compete and win the deal. Deals Storming helps sales people get deadlocked deals unstuck and helps capitalize on the creativity of the entire organization. Deal Storming leverages a 7-Step process that has helped Yahoo, Conde Naste, and Career Builder win their big deals. Don’t lose a stuck deal again, read this book.
6) The Challenger Customer – CEB
Our customers buying process is going through dramatic change. Deals are no longer made by one or two people, they’re made by committee and that “committee” is made up of 5.4 people on average. That’s 5.4 people you need to get behind saying yes to your product or service. The Challenger Customer is a fantastic follow up on it’s predecessor, The Challenger Sale (on the first list). Leveraging their research on the 7 types of buyers and what it takes to move them to a yes, The Challenger Customer helps you understand the different buyer types and whether or not they are friendly “mobilizers” or “blockers.” If you sell to large scale organizations with long sales cycles, The Challenger Customer is a must. Combined with Deal Storming, you’ve got a powerful combination.
7) Sales Development Playbook — Trish Bertuzzi
Broken down into 6 key elements or parts, The Sales Development Playbook takes you on a journey towards sales growth and acceleration. The 6 Parts: Strategy, Specialization, Recruiting, Retention, Execution, and Leadership, are carefully and meticulously laid out in a fashion that doesn’t let you forget the others. Trish had done a masterful job of framing what a winning 21st-Century sales organization should look like. If you’re a CRO, Sales VP and responsible for sales development in your organization, this book should be on your shelf.
8) Social Selling – Tim Hughes
As the digital landscape has changed buyers’ habits it’s increasingly difficult to reach them early enough in their decision-making process using traditional sales methods. Developing relationships with decision-makers through social networks has become an increasingly critical skill – enabling sales professionals to engage early on and ‘hack’ the buying process. Social Selling provides a practical, step-by-step blueprint for harnessing these specific and proven techniques. Social Selling is real people, Tim’s book is a winner that will make you that much more web popular and improve your digital engagment. Don’t start social selling without it.
9) The Perfect Close — James Muir
Have you ever wondered if there were a way to close a deal with out being pushy and obnoxious? This book is your answer. Using science, James Muir offers sales people a simple two-question close that will do just that. In The Perfect Close Muir shares his approach to get customers to close with a 95% closing percentage with zero pressure. Many of you know my thoughts on closing. Closing is a journey and Muir’s book helps you go on that journey with respect for your prospects.
10) High-Profit Prospecting – Mark Hunter
Yeah, yeah, I know two prospecting books, really? Well yup, because prospecting is that important. Plus, Jeb Blount wrote the foreword. High-Profit Prospecting helps sales people maximize the time they spend prospecting in order to fill their pipelines faster and with better opportunities. I especially liked Mark’s don’t cold call, inform call thesis. High-Profit Prospecting addresses everything from email, social media, to gate keepers, referrals and more. Read this and Jeb’s book and watch how fast your pipeline grows.
11) New Sales Simplified
If there is a new sales bible for sale reps, this is it. There are number of new sales books coming out every year touting a new and complex selling methodology and some of them are good. The problem is, like many other things, if you don’t have the basics, those books can’t help you. New Sales Simplified is all about the basics. I recommend this book to every new sales person or any salesperson who feels they need to “hone” their skills. New Sales Simplified is fantastic book that delivers the sales basics with a punch. If every new sales rep read this book before they ever made a sales call, the profession of sales would have an entirely different brand. Get it, read it every two years or so, and don’t deviate from it.
12) Whale Hunting with Global Accounts — Barbara Weaver Smith
We’re in a global economy and yet their are so few books on selling to global account. Barbara leverages the expertise of fourteen current global practitioners and current sales experts to help readers navigate the complex world of global selling. Whale Hunting with Global Accounts walks you through a 4 strategy approach that will help you compete for and win global accounts.
13) Social Selling Mastery – Jamie Shanks
Social Selling is so critical to sale today, I would have felt I was cheating you if I didn’t recommend both of these books. Jamie Shanks is the CEO of Sales for Life, a social selling training company. Sales for life is the permenant social selling training company in the world. Therefore, technically speaking, you could say Shanks wrote the book and training on social selling. Social Selling Mastery helps sales people connect with their buyers and prospects where they live. Social Selling Mastery provides a blue print for sales people trying to engage with prospects all across the Internet. Leverage his companies training curriculums, provide readers with the insight and information required to be seen by their prospects as valuable resources, not pesky sale people pushing and agenda. Social selling is a real thing and Social Selling Mastery makes sure you do it right.
K, there you have it. The world of sales has changed drastically in the past 15 years. Products, methodologies, systems, that are dominating the sales environment that didn’t’ even exist 5 years ago, never mind ten or fifteen years ago. The best salespeople and the best sales leaders stay abreast of the changes and maintain their stock in what it takes to sell in the 21st-century. These 13 books are the foundation to staying ahead of the curve and on top of your game.
Well that is for the next few years. Things change pretty fast these days.
If there’s a book you guys thing should be added to this list, feel free to share in the comments. I’m curious to see what everyone else is reading.
Prospects and salespeople seem to hate cold calling with equal passion. It’s intrusive and annoying for buyers, and it’s ineffective, time-consuming, and draining for reps.
If cold calling is the schoolyard bully, social selling is the new kid on the block. Fortunately for everyone, social selling is more than capable of winning the fight.
Case in point: A study by the Keller Research Center at Baylor University shows that a mere 1% of cold calls eventually become opportunities. Meanwhile, a 2014 Forrester Research report found that social sellers realize 66% greater quota attainment than those using traditional prospecting techniques.
To get more details on how cold calling and social selling stack up, check out this infographic from Sales for Life.
Many organizations start the year with plans to implement new sales methodologies. Unfortunately, many of these plans will fail to boost sales productivity, and many will simply fade away as the year progresses.
If you want your new methodology to stick, don’t treat implementation as the final step. What you do after implementation is every bit as important as what you do before and during.
Here are the five ways to ensure that your company is among those that succeed.
1. Structured Practice
Simply understanding the new methodology does not necessarily translate to actual day-to-day use. Old habits die hard, and busy salespeople often won’t slow down long enough to change their operating rhythm. To overcome this inertia, organize formal role-playing opportunities to practice and reinforce the new methods. Institute official debriefs and feedback from practice calls and meetings. The more often your team practices—and receives feedback on—the new habits, the more effectively they’ll incorporate them into their daily activities.
2. Best Practices Collaboration
Highly effective sales teams have something in common that merely adequate teams rarely possess: a high level of sharing among salespeople. When individual performers hoard information and best practices, it may benefit them individually in the short term, but it does nothing for the whole team.
In order for a new methodology to take root in your company, discourage hoarding and encourage collaboration. Sharing successes and best practices among the team will accelerate adoption and performance among the whole team. Start by instituting a sharing portal to make it easy for reps to learn from one another. Most sales people enjoy “bragging” about their successes, and an internal sales portal will encourage them to share what they’re doing to achieve that success. Reward collaboration and build shared success.
3. Proof Points
The best sales methodology in the world will fall flat if it doesn’t connect with what customers genuinely want. Similarly, your buyers want proof that you can do what you say you can do. Effective proof points speak to the priorities and the perspective of your customer, demonstrating the value and differentiation your prospects are looking to achieve.
Help your reps demonstrate the value of your solutions. Develop a consistent process for your sales team to gather proof as soon as possible after a successful engagement. Then leverage the skills and resources of your marketing team to turn that information into compelling, easy to consume proof points.
4. Follow-up Training
Even the best training in the world will fall flat if it only happens once and there’s no plan to reinforce it afterwards. The human brain is not wired to absorb and execute on information that is delivered all at once and only once. Provide your team with benchmarks for success, and schedule refresh sessions throughout the year to reinforce new practices and measure performance against the new methodology.
5. Social Technology
Social media tools are no longer only for socializing. The most successful sales team leaders use multiple social media approaches to reinforce sales training, encourage collaboration, and communicate important information to their teams. [If you’ve had Command of the Message training, be sure to download this list of social media posts to help you reinforce CoM with your team]
LinkedIn groups are an effective gathering place to share information, provide key reminders to team members, offer motivation around key initiatives, and share success stories from top performers. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn feeds are a good place to cut through the email clutter and reach your teams with reminders, reinforcement tips, and success stories.
Reaching out to your team on social media allows you to reinforce the language, habits, and collaboration expectations of the new methodology. Integrate social with the tools they’re already using—sales enablement platforms, CRMs, etc.—to achieve highest engagement.Put these five steps in place, and watch your sales methodology take root inside the organization.
It’s no secret that an effective sales enablement strategy requires interdepartmental alignment. A study from MarketingProfs found that companies with aligned sales and marketing functions can generate up to 208 percent more marketing-sourced revenue and 38 percent higher sales win rates than those that are misaligned, and that number can only increase when product, operations, and human resources teams are involved as well. But sales enablement success also requires alignment with the c-suite. Practitioners that have successfully executed a strategic sales enablement function stress the necessity of executive buy-in through building an internal business case for sales enablement, and no one has more experience with this than Tamara Schenk. Tamara, Research Director at CSO Insights, focuses her research on establishing frameworks and models that help sales and enablement leaders navigate the complexity of modern selling. Through her research, Tamara has established a maturity model that helps sales and enablement leaders assess the maturity of their organization’s enablement function, and then recommend the right plan of action to the c-suite.
Tamara was a recent guest on the Sales Enablement Shift podcast, where we talked about this maturity model, how it fits into the bigger picture of building an internal business case, and why this is imperative for getting executive buy-in for sales enablement. You can listen to the full episode here, or learn how to build an internal business case for sales enablement below.
Set your organization’s definition and scope of sales enablement.
“In a previous role, there were people who defined enablement by the goal it set out to achieve, but others were defining it by what they were doing, the activities that were contributing to enablement” Tamara shared. “There were functions and programs with different names that are all enabling the sales force,” but they weren’t working together to cohesively enable sales. While Tamara offers CSO Insights’ definition of sales enablement, this is going to vary from one organization to the next. But it’s imperative to bring all of the functions, individuals and teams that support sales together to agree upon that definition, its goals and its metrics before planning the business case. Without a clear definition and alignment among cross-functional roles, enablement can’t succeed.
Develop a maturity model.
“A maturity model helps people to better understand where they are with their enablement practice and gives them an idea of where they could go and what it would take to get there,” Tamara explained. CSO Insights’ maturity model for sales force enablement has three levels: required, recommended, and world-class. Assessing the current state is important because it gives a baseline to organizations to figure out the “health” of its enablement strategy, and determines the most demanding inefficiencies that must be addressed. The maturity model helps to build a scalable platform and identifies a “next step” for enablement leaders to strive for.
Gain an understanding of the business strategy
A maturity model is undoubtedly necessary when assessing the effectiveness of sales force enablement. But if it’s not aligned to the business strategy and current activities of the sales force, the entire process is futile. “The sales enablement leaders have to reach out to many functions, including sales leadership, marketing leadership, product teams, and if available, learning and development groups, HR, and IT” in order to gain a holistic understanding of the business strategy. Coupling the sales inefficiencies identified during the maturity model exercise and the goals of the sales organization within the business strategy, enablement leaders can begin to build a business case for enablement.
Create the charter for enablement
A sales enablement charter is the final step before presenting the enablement business case to key stakeholders in leadership positions. The charter clearly defines the roles and goals of enablement in a clear and concise way, which helps keep the strategy and its processes in line. “In enablement, every week there is a new requirement from someone that enablement is tasked to solve, and you can’t do all of these things at the same time,” Tamara shared. A charter defines the mission, vision and purpose of sales enablement, and should identify the key audience (internal customer), intended results of executing an enablement function, and a breakdown of goals, objectives, and activities that lead up to the mission and vision. The charter should be the document that leads the business case, and should be referenced by all involved groups to avoid getting off-track or misaligned.
Present the business case to stakeholders
It may seem oversimplified to boil the extensive process above down to a single-page charter, but it is imperative to understand the sales pain points and goals, the overarching business strategy, and the executives behind these before creating and presenting your charter. If you’re unable to effectively speak the language of your internal customer, it’s impossible to make a case for enablement in a way that makes sense to your stakeholders. Presenting your case in a clear, concise, and sales-centric way (complete with sales-aligned metrics and goals) will help to make the strongest possible internal case for enablement.
This process is crucial for any sales enablement practitioner looking to get executive support and buy-in for an enablement initiative. Thank you to Tamara for sharing her valuable insights with our listeners and readers—you can connect with Tamara on LinkedIn or Twitter.
But then, when it comes to strategy and execution, you’re getting pushback on any content that isn’t strictly focused on promoting products and services. It’s like everything you said about valuable, relevant, audience-centric content was forgotten, and the decision-makers really just want thinly veiled advertising materials.
This kind of sales-focused mindset is one of the most common pitfalls preventing successful content marketing programs. It feels like an endless cycle of two steps forward and one step back when a program is approved but executives don’t understand how something that doesn’t directly drive sales is of any value.
What else can you say when you’ve already offered all the data and research available?
Try an appeal to common sense. Sometimes, all it takes to understand effective content marketing is to put it in relatable terms. While numbers and case studies are crucial for validation, experience tells us that often a simpler approach, using analogies and metaphors drawn from everyday life, is likely to be more effective in gaining buy-in and breathing room to create content that works.
To gain #contentmarketing buy-in, use analogies & metaphors drawn from everyday life says @leeprocida
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Here are six such common-sense reasons why content should go beyond products and services.
How to Win Your Battle for Content Marketing Buy-in [50+ Stats]
1. Because you want a second date
Dating is a classic analogy to explain effective marketing. When you’re dating, you’re marketing yourself, and we all have some experience seeing what techniques work and which approaches are downright embarrassing.
Here’s how David Beebe, vice president of global creative + content marketing at Marriott International, explained it to The Washington Post: “It’s kind of like being on a first date. If all you do is talk about yourself, there’s not going to be a second date.”
Now, it is true that you’ll still have one-night stands. If someone’s desperate enough or just has low standards, it almost doesn’t matter what you say. But take your mother’s advice — going home with any old thing isn’t how you build a valuable, long-term connection. Word gets around, and your brand gets tarnished.
If you want people to really form a favorable opinion of your brand, consider their interests, and indulge those interests through your content. You’ll find that they keep coming back for more.
How to Make the Leap from Product Marketing to Content Marketing
2. Because it’s a natural part of the sales conversation
Many executives question how an article, video, infographic, or any other piece of content contributes to sales if it’s not solely pushing a product or service. But even effective salespeople don’t solely push a product or service!
Consider this example from a piece of content marketing itself. In 1908, a niche oil-and-chemicals company named Houghton International launched a magazine for its sales agents named The Houghton Line. The company president was also editor of the magazine, and in the debut issue this is how he described his editorial philosophy: “All the talk is not going to be relative to our goods or details of their sale, any more than all the talk of a personal call would be so.”
Isn’t that a clear and compelling rationale for why content marketing shouldn’t just focus on selling? He’s absolutely right — no savvy, effective salesperson only talks business. People who do are boring, impersonal, and unlikable.
#Contentmarketing shouldn’t just focus on selling says @leeprocida.
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Meanwhile, people who make good small talk, share personal information, and tell entertaining stories are more friendly, trustworthy, and charismatic. Do you want to be a bore or a charismatic brand?
3 Ways Content Can Build a Bridge Between Marketing and Sales
3. Because it helps you win the fight
Typical outbound promotion is about pushing people to take an action. Content, conversely, is about pulling people in. It’s a new dynamic, and in many cases pulling offers more leverage than pushing.
Outbound promotion pushes people to take an action. #Content pulls people in says @leeprocida.
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Consider the martial arts. Annette Simmons, in her great book The Story Factor, compares storytelling to aikido, a martial art in which you use your opponents’ momentum against them. You actually pull an attacker toward you, destabilizing the person, and then moving the individual in the direction you want that person to go (typically the ground).
Simmons makes the analogy to content: “The physics of story may run counter to your instincts when faced with a situation where you want to influence so much that every fiber of your being tells you to ‘do something!’ If you push, you activate resistance. The pull strategy of story taps into the momentum living in your listeners rather than providing momentum for them.”
Too many marketers want to box their consumers into submission. And sure, you might win sometimes. But you’ll find that you won’t spend nearly as much energy or money by pulling rather than pushing.
5 Not-So-Obvious Ways Sales Can Leverage Content Marketing to Close Deals
4. Because it’s an investment that keeps on giving
Everyone’s heard the old personal-finance line, “Don’t work for your money; make your money work for you.” That’s smart advice if it leads you to investing in funds that grow in time using the power of compound interest. See Prudential’s brilliant, record-breaking branded video series for evidence of that.
Interest is powerful in content marketing, too. If people are interested in your content, more and more people will find it and share it, continuously generating returns over time. If it’s something that’s not interesting to your audience, few people will seek it or share it, limiting its ROI.
CMI’s Joe Pulizzi has made that point exactly: “You can increase the bottom line while, at the same time, help your customers live better lives or get better jobs. Content marketing is the only kind of marketing that provides ongoing value, whether you purchase the product or not.”
#Contentmarketing is the only kind of marketing that provides ongoing value says @joepulizzi.
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That’s only true, though, if you hit both those goals — making money and making people happy. Product-centric content might create short-term returns, but it’s audience-centric content that truly builds brand equity.
Audience-centric #content truly builds brand equity says @leeprocida. #contentmarketing
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38+ Examples of Brands Doing Great Content
5. Because that’s what friends do
We’ve all had friends we’ve fallen out of touch with over the years. You might have been best friends with someone years ago but now you never talk to them. Instead you have a new set of friends you talk to every weekend. Maybe you had a falling out, maybe you no longer have anything in common, or maybe you both just stopped communicating for no particular reason.
In business terms, customer relationships can change for all the same reasons, like a bad service experience or a change in lifestyle. Similarly, if your company is only out there promoting its products and services, and not what your audience is really interested in, you’ll only get tuned out. Audience-centric content marketing is a way to make sure you keep communication channels open; that way you’re still in touch when they consider a purchase decision.
At a recent Contently event, Mark Walker, head of content marketing at Eventbrite UK, explained this comparison: “Marketing is like a friendship. There are lots of pivotal moments in a friendship, like parties, but you don’t get invited if you’re not part of the regular conversation.”
How to Develop a Buyer-Centric Content Marketing Strategy
6. Because that’s what you would want
We often get so myopic thinking about “the consumer” that we forget who the consumer really is — your friends, your family, and yourself. Would you share a sales deck with your friends, a promotional brochure with your wife or husband, or read some other advertising collateral in your spare time? Of course not. Why do we think other people will?
The idea that marketing should be interesting and entertaining for the intended audience isn’t a new one. David Ogilvy said the same thing about advertising decades ago: “Never run an advertisement you wouldn’t want your family to see. Tell the truth but make truth fascinating. You know, you can’t bore people into buying your product. You can only interest them in buying it.”
How do you create content that isn’t boring, and is something you’d ultimately want your own family to see? Ann Handley, chief content officer at MarketingProfs, offers this brilliant perspective: “When we create something, we think, ‘Will our customers thank us for this?’ I think it’s important for all of us to be thinking about whatever marketing we’re creating, is it really useful to our customers? Will they thank us for it? I think if you think of things through that lens, it just clarifies what you’re doing in such a simple, elegant way.”
When creating #content, ask yourself, “Will our customers thank us for this?” says @marketingprofs.
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Would you thank a company for writing something that shamelessly promotes itself, or tries to trick you into buying something, or that doesn’t seem to care about your needs and concerns?
Probably not. And there’s nothing more common in terms of common sense than understanding what you, yourself, would want.
Next time you feel like you’re being pressured to sell out your content, forget the stats, facts, and charts, and try a little common sense.
15 Things to Try When Your Content is a Mind-Numbing Wall of Text
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Cover image by Ryan McGuire-Bells Design, Gratisography, via pixabay.com
The post Get Buy-In From Executives With These 6 Common-Sense Reasons appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.
According to Demand Gen Report’s 2016 Demand Generation Benchmark Report , 77% of B2B marketers say email is the top channel for driving leads. And, the Direct Marketing Association states that email has an average ROI of $38 for each $1 spent. It is no surprise that email is considered a major driver for today’s marketers. But, with people complaining of overflowing inboxes, it is time to move beyond the old spray and pray approach to throw as much out there as possible to see what sticks. Instead, here are five tips to optimize email efforts to achieve the best results.
Remember the Ingredients of a Good Email
Most recognize the basics of a good email – the content and call to action or offer. But what are the other key ingredients?
Good Subject lines- You only have one chance to make a first impression, and–as far as your email is concerned– the subject line is it. You don’t have a prayer, if your message isn’t even opened. Most people know to avoid words like “free” in their subject lines but you should also avoid common words associated with sales, like “help,” or “reminder.” These words don’t always trigger a spam filter, but many recipients with ignore them. Tell them exactly what they’re getting such as “New Research Report,” “Industry Infographic,” or “Webinar Invite.” And finally, test subject lines to see what works best.
Proper List Segmentation- The goal of segmentation is to match the message with the buyer and ensure you are communicating relevant information. This includes firmographic and demographic elements such as industry and geography as well as behavioral data points such as the person’s interactions on your website, responses to campaigns and preferences.
The Right Format- There is a time and place for everything so be sure to consider whether your next email is HTML or Text. While HTML are beautiful “marketing” messages, Text comes across as more personal (even if sent through an automated process). HTML is typically appropriate for formal invitations or announcements as well as ebook promotions or newsletters and text gives the impression of a one-to-one outreach as if giving someone a special invitation.
Responsive Design- We are all on the go and have a number of technologies and devices available for use. With this in mind, it is essential to build emails with responsive design that will adjust based on the size of the screen for a mobile or desktop device. And, don’t forget the number of email clients and internet browsers. Make sure you have tools in place to test how your emails will render across all the different platforms.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Deliverability
You can have award-winning creative and copy, but it won’t generate ROI if the emails never reach the inbox. Email deliverability is a critical component of email marketing strategy but it is most often neglected. There are many factors that affect deliverability but the single most important is a clean and up-to-date list. Additionally, you must protect your sender reputation. Sender reputation is the scoring of a sender’s emails based on thousands of data points to determine the quality of mail sent. If you have a poor reputation, you will have difficulty getting your emails through so it is important that you are only mailing to subscribers and following good practices so you don’t damage your reputation in a way that would prevent your emails from making it to the inbox.
Incorporate Email as Part of a Broader Strategy
To truly be effective, email should be part of a broader strategy. MarketingSherpa states that an alarming 79% of leads never convert to sales, so if you are just sending one-off emails with a bunch of disjointed messages, you are missing a huge opportunity.
Traditional bulk email is manual to produce and is quickly becoming less effective. It is critical for marketers to take a more engaging approach and find a scalable way to deliver personalized content at the right time during a buyer’s journey via multiple channels including social, calling and advertising. Nurture campaigns are designed to do exactly that. They can help you develop relationships with leads by surfacing content that’s uniquely relevant to them at the right time during the buying cycle. Once set up, these automated campaigns run without marketing’s involvement.
As you get more successful with your email efforts, you will need a way to prioritize quality leads. Lead scoring helps marketing prioritize and process leads through the funnel at the right time to help sales improve the efficiency of their outreach. A lead scoring model works by applying values to key lead engagements, such as clicking on email, visiting a web page on your site or completing a form. As your leads engage with your digital content, they accumulate a score based on the values assigned to each action. Once a lead’s score reaches the threshold you determine for being sales-ready, the lead is automatically pushed to the CRM and assigned to a salesperson.
A lead scoring model can dramatically improve your overall lead management strategy, create efficiencies within the sales process and improve conversion rates.
Arm Yourself with the Right Technologies
The need to create a consistent experience across all prospect and customer interactions and the amount of data involved makes it impossible to do without technology in place. To facilitate alignment and ensure no leads leak out of your funnel, ensure you integrate marketing automation and the sales CRM. You will save time and resources by having a process and system in place to prioritize outreach and coordinate activities.
Measure and Adjust
There are many different metrics but is important to track performance so you can understand your campaign effectiveness and make improvements where needed. For email, you should measure opens, clicks, bounces, unsubscribes and inbox placements. There is no right answer for what these results should be as every organization is different. You simply should strive to make incremental improvements with each new email campaign. And, be sure to move beyond these basic metrics. Marketing shows its real value by showing the number of sales accepted leads delivered, marketing’s contribution to pipeline, cost per lead and contribution to revenue to name a few. The important thing is to measure results so you can improve performance.
The PDF (Portable Document Format) was created by Adobe Systems in the early 90s as a way for companies and individuals to efficiently and reliably exchange electronic documents.
Since then, they’ve become an invaluable tool for marketers, businesses, students, designers, teachers – basically everyone – and they’re used for everything from white papers to case studies, to menus and mock ups.
Today there are millions (maybe billions?) of PDFs living on the Internet. The problem: There are some limitations on the content and copy of those PDFs, specifically for marketers.
In this post, we’ll explore the history of the PDF as well as the limitations it faces in a modern context, as well as what’s being done to address those issues.
The History of the PDF
Before the PDF came around, there wasn’t an easy way to make different file formats work together and interpret each other’s files nicely. You had systems like Mac, MS DOS, and Windows – all of which had their own formats. When you tried to open another system’s files – it wasn’t pretty.
To remedy this issue, Adobe’s co-founder John Warnock and a team came together to work on a project they code named “Camelot.”
Leonard Rosenthol, PDF Architect at Adobe, said the goal of of the project was to address “The inability to exchange information between machines, between systems, between users in a way that ensured that the file would look the same everywhere it went.”
What came as a result in 1993: Version 1.0 of Adobe Acrobat, the first software program that could interpret different file formats, which they called “PDFs.”
Now, let’s all pause for a second to think about how much more complicated life would be if you couldn’t send a locked file format that worked seamlessly across devices and systems. Can you imagine the headache?
What’s amazing is that despite the functionality of the new tool, it didn’t take off at first.
Because it was a paid product and thanks to still very slow download times, it would still be a while before the PDF gained traction as a beloved tool in the business and marketing realm – and eventually as a tool for everyone. However, over the next ten years, Adobe continued to improve functionality and features with new plugins and tools.
Today, PDFs are used daily by millions of people around the world.
How PDFs Are Used Today & Continuing Evolution
The modern PDF may be taken a bit for granted, if you think about it. Think of the many ways they touch our lives on a daily basis. We use them to electronically sign documents, to scan paper files into secure, electronic formats, to share high quality files online, and to maintain photos and design integrity.
Long gone are the days where PDFs were solely used in a business context. PDFs are for everyone, and thank goodness for that. However, marketers and businesses do still use PDFs for some of their most important business assets – their sales and marketing materials.
These are the documents they leverage when trying to convert leads, when they’re making sales pitches, when they’re communicating with clients, etc. We see marketing and business PDFs come in the form of:
- Case Studies
- Product Comparisons
- Media Kits
- Spec Sheets
And while all of these resources are extremely valuable (and often take considerable time and financial resources to develop) the trouble is: The content and copy that live within them are often locked away from search engines and provide very little data.
When content teams work hard to develop and create these incredible assets that can be used for sales enablement, this is a major downside.
The Limitations of PDFs
Recognizing that our reliance on the PDF format can be overlooked and create limitations for us, we have to ask the question: What do marketers hope to achieve from their PDFs without metrics or analytics to provide any data for benchmarks for success?
We can assume they want easy, informative, versatile content for their users, but also the ability to measure effectiveness, gain leads, and optimize for the web.
Once someone gets past the lead gate of a PDF, what do they do? We have zero idea. Again, since PDFs have no metrics or analytics functionality, it’s hard to say – so we asked some marketers to see what their goals were when they create and launch a PDF.
Danny Margulies, a freelance writer and marketer, said, “I created a simple PDF to attract email signups. So far, I’ve gathered over 1,000 subscribers.”
Ross Simmonds, a content marketer, said his goal for PDFs is twofold: “(1) Deliver value to an audience that could be a potential client or customer and (2) ensure that the value is worth giving an email for. Once I have the email, they’re placed in a marketing automation funnel which is used to get feedback on the resource, nurture the relationship and eventually close a sale.”
Midas Media’s Managing Director, Ed Leake, said, “My team strives to create PDFs that remain in the ‘favorite’ folder–or better still – get printed out and sit on a desk somewhere. The thought of that makes me happy, because I know with time, that goodwill and upfront value will repay us.”
Jacob McMillen, a content strategist, said, “PDFs I send out online are always geared toward email leads for me.”
Copywriter Aaron Orendorff uses PDFs to create lead magnets around some of his most popular content: “Right now, I’m reverse engineering a PDF on my highest ranking Google content,” he said. “Instead of just letting that post collect traffic and hoping my popups grab subscribers, I’m building a special PDF expanding on the key lessons from that piece and will offer it in the introduction and conclusion. Then, I’ll also create Facebook ads driving traffic to it. The goal is pretty simple: continue to build my email list but segment these signups so I can offer them two copywriting products: (1) one-on-one coaching and (2) a video and written course.”
Lead generation and value are clearly some of the forerunners for PDF goals, but in a world where marketers are becoming accustomed to advanced, in-depth metrics for things like page views, shares, time spent on page, etc., it will be interesting to see what the future holds for this content format.
Modern PDFs and The Road Ahead
The PDF is here to stay, that’s for sure. With its utility, ease of use, and widespread adoption, there’s no way we’ll be seeing this file format fade away any time soon.
The question is: What can be done to make the PDF even more valuable than it already is? And what are marketers trying and doing instead of the traditional, static PDF?
We’re already seeing interesting alternatives like microsites, PDFs repurposed into interactive content, explainer videos, and engaging content that produces amazing results – so shouldn’t more marketers be taking note and creating similar types of content?
As sales moves rapidly to the Account-Based model, all across the industry, Sales Development Reps are attacking accounts from a multitude of different angles. As opposed to prospecting a lead, reps are touching each lead at least seven times in the hopes of converting it to a qualified opportunity before moving on to the next.
We’ve already discussed how Outbound SDRs select and tier their accounts, but for inbound reps, like me, this strategy is slightly more challenging. In the case of inbound Account Based Sales Development, I have to wait for the accounts to come to me.
Here’s how the rest of the SalesLoft Inbound Team and I have discovered how to execute the iABSD approach:
Leads come into my inbox every day. Because of this, we’ve built a set process on how to handle each one of those leads using a tiered approach, where each tier is handled a little bit differently.
So, the first step here is to discover into which tier the lead falls. To tell most of this story, we use predictive data, which helps us determine whether the lead account fits our Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Accounts we believe to be a perfect fit are labeled as Tier 1; those that are good fits, but not necessarily “perfect” are labeled as Tier 2; and finally, our accounts that are still in the testing stage are labeled as Tier 3.
Leads coming in from Tier 3 accounts are put on automated cadences to continue testing, but leads coming from those accounts that are identified as Tier 1 or Tier 2 are handled with a bit more care. The key here is that the tier of the account is just the first piece of the puzzle.
The next piece is the lead itself. What’s their role and how do they fit into the decision making process? Are they a decision maker or an individual contributor? The former is put on a 12-touch cadence, designed specifically to convert the prospect into a qualified opportunity. The latter, however, is added to a discovery cadence, built to learn more about the systems and processes of the account before moving towards a conversion.
But whether or not the lead is a decision maker or not, it’s important to then prospect further into the account, finding new ways to attack it from multiple angles. For this process, our team has a 3 different buyer personas, and anyone in an account that falls into one of those personas is prospected and added to the proper cadence.
Each inbound lead has a different story, and that story is a powerful piece of information for an inbound Account Based Sales Development Rep. You can make assumptions based on the piece of content that brought the into your inbox. It is invaluable insight into the challenges the organization might be facing, and in some situations, the content can give you credibility with a prospect.
The post Navigating Inbound Account Based Sales Development appeared first on SalesLoft.
If you had the opportunity to survey a wide range of top sales organizations and the top performers that support their winning sales teams, you’d find some steady trends. Top organizations are organized, disciplined, and results oriented. They approach business in a structured fashion and develop and support processes that help employees maintain high standards. Top employees, in turn, excel at what they do, and thrive in an environment that recognizes their talents while holding them accountable for success.
Two recent surveys provide deep insight into the characteristics of top performing sales organizations. Steve W. Martin provides an overview of his recent study on high-performing sales organizations in the Harvard Business Review, and two colleagues at CSO Insights, Jim Dickie and Barry Trailer, review their research findings in a white paper titled The Anatomy of a World-Class Sales Organization 2015. Each paper has interesting and original insights, but there is common ground:
Leading sales organizations have a sound structure, strong processes, and strict accountability…
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Top companies maintain a strong structure
Martin’s study was a 42-part survey with 786 sales professional from various levels of achievement within their organizations and from various industries. He found that 50% of study participants from high-performing sales organizations, those where annual revenues increased significantly year-over-year, responded they had sales processes that were closely monitored, strictly enforced or automated, compared to just 28% from underperforming sales organizations.
Dickie and Trailer’s research focused on data pulled from 1,000 participating companies. The study, like Martin’s, found that structure was critical to building and maintaining a world-class sales organization. Once top talent is identified and hired, the author, like us, stresses the importance of providing sales reps with training and the right sales tools in order to help these top performers optimize their efficiency.
Both studies also recognized – in slightly different ways – how important it is for departments outside of sales to participate in helping the sales team achieve success, particularly when it comes to adapting to market fluctuations, or helping to train managers on how to better adapt to changing times. Here are a few ways HR and the sales department can work more closely.
Process-driven organizations achieve more market share
Optimizing sales processes by maintaining a structured approach for engaging and working with clients helps companies outsell their competitors, note Dickie and Trailer. The CSO research took a deep dive into process, showing four levels of the sales process. Level 1 is a random process, Level 2 is an informal process that’s loosely defined but not monitored. Level 3 is a formal process that is reviewed and measured, and Level 4 is a dynamic process that goes through cycles of feedback and modification. As companies moved up through the levels of process, Dickie and Trailer found, their performance improved.
Matching sales process with the various types of relationships salespeople have with clients, (approved vendor, preferred supplier, solutions consultant, strategic contributor, and trusted partner) the CSO research team created a matrix that shows how process drives achievement in sales:
Source: The Anatomy of a World-Class Sales Organization – 2015, CSO Insights.
When a process is in place, is followed by everyone, and leadership is able to adjust the processes as needed to account for market fluctuations or other factors inside or outside of the organization, salespeople can focus on selling. Why? Because the sales team understands what’s expected of them, work more efficiently and accomplish more. Similarly, Martin’s study found that 48 percent of the participants from underperforming sales organizations indicated they had non-existent or informal structured sales processes compared to only 29% from high performing sales organizations.
Accountability leads to higher performance
Martin found that high-performing sales organizations hold their team members to a higher level of accountability. “High-performing sales organizations are not afraid to aggressively raise year-over-year annual quotas,” notes Martin, adding that 75 percent of high-performing sales organizations raised 2014 annual quotas more than 10 percent over the previous year.
High expectations and quotas should also reflect in high rewards. Dickie and Trailer note that successful salespeople at top performing firms should have compensation programs that are more enhanced, and Martin, like us, advocates a strong bonus and commission structure.
Accountability is arguably the most powerful tool for getting reps to perform and Martin notes that
high-performing sales organizations are typically quicker to terminate underperforming salespeople
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– 18 percent of high-performing sales organizations indicated that salespeople will be terminated for poor performance after one quarter. This contrasted dramatically with average companies – only 2% reported they would terminate underperforming employees after one quarter.
Overall, these researchers found new ways to verify assumptions that many sales leaders may have been making all along. “The results from this study,” notes Martin, “quantify that the best sales organizations have strong leaders who exercise control, monitor team performance, and establish internal processes that all team members must abide by.”
Staying at the top requires a mix of talent, structure, process, and people that’s very difficult to balance correctly. The researchers suggest companies work hard to make the most of the tools available to them – including a wide range of sales pipeline and CRM software which can greatly support and enhance performance and growth. “It is not easy. It is not fast. It is not cheap,” write Dickie and Trainer, noting with a bit of a warning that, “It is not optional.”
Product returns are a costly problem for retailers. It has been estimated that U.S. customers return a hefty $264 billion worth of products annually—almost 9% of total sales. In online retailing, return rates are an even bigger problem. A 2013 Wall Street Journal article indicated that as much as a third of internet purchases are returned, and studies have found that handling these returns can cost between $6 and $18 per item.
In online retailing, most products are returned because customers aren’t satisfied with what they get—but this isn’t necessarily due to product defects. Because customers can’t physically evaluate and test products before purchasing them, it’s harder for them to set the right expectations, and easier to be disappointed by a product. This is why retailers provide information—product descriptions, pictures, and videos—to help customers make more informed purchase decisions.
This is also why online customer reviews have become such an important source of product information. These are typically characterized by the average star rating (“valence”), the number of reviews (“volume”), and the variance in star ratings (“variance”). Since online reviews affect people’s likelihood to buy something, we wanted to test whether reviews also influence their likelihood to return it.
We analyzed more than two years of sales data from a major European online retailer to measure the effect of reviews on purchase and return decisions. Our dataset spanned a total of almost 9 million page views and 631,063 purchase transactions for 2,164 different products in electronics and furniture. We measured the average rating of a product at the moment of purchase and compared that to its longer-term average rating later in time. This let us determine whether users saw reviews that were overly positive or negative. (For example, say 4.5 was the average rating of all 10 reviews so far, at the time of purchase. We compared this with all 40 reviews that the product had at the end of the its cycle, which had an average rating of 4.2.) Then we measured the number of returns for each product that came in during the allotted time period. We also controlled for higher-quality products (which may have had more favorable reviews, been more likely to be purchased, and been less likely to be returned).
We find that online customer reviews available at the time of purchase do affect customers’ likelihood to buy a product. If reviews are overly positive, this leads to a substantially higher purchase probability: a one-point increase in review valence results in an increased purchase probability of approximately 10% (9.14% for electronics; 14.60% for furniture).
However, because these overly positive reviews inflate customer expectations about the product (that’s why they buy it), customers can experience greater disappointment upon receiving the item if it doesn’t live up to its rave reviews. This then leads more people to send the product back. We found that the effect of overly positive review valence on return rates is similar: the return probability increases by approximately 10% (11.16% for electronics; 10.34% for furniture) with a one-point increase in review valence. This results in lower profits for retailers, due to higher total return costs that offset the gain in sales. Thus, overly positive review valence can backfire by raising customer expectations too much.
We further found that the effect of review valence on returning is contingent on several factors: First, the effect is weaker for customers with a lot of experience buying in specific product categories at the retailer. (Experienced customers rely less on reviews when forming expectations about a product, and hence a smaller effect is found.) Second, the effect is also weaker for more expensive products. (For more expensive products, customers spend more time deciding whether to keep their purchase, and so they rely less on the expectations they formed at the moment they bought it.) The other review characteristics (volume of reviews and variance of ratings) also affect purchase decisions, with more reviews resulting in a higher purchase probability, but a higher variance in ratings lowering the purchase probability but do not affect return probability.
It’s still commonly assumed that online customer reviews can boost retailers’ performance. So retailers often encourage customers to write positive reviews about their products to increase the valence and volume of the reviews. But managers should understand that sales is only one side of the coin—it does not take into account the effect of reviews on customers’ return behavior. To truly increase retailer performance, online reviews have to offer an accurate reflection of product quality, making sure to not inflate consumer expectations. It requires a balance: if the ratings are too low, retailers will not sell enough; if the ratings are too high, retailers will get too many returns.
Retailers should provide and ask for more detailed and accurate information that will set realistic expectations. Aside from reviews and descriptions, they can also include more high-quality pictures and videos of products, as well as tools (e.g., a size configurator), to help customers better assess whether a product fits their needs and expectations. Companies can also motivate more customers to contribute product reviews by, for example, reminding and incentivizing them to give feedback after they receive their item. However, incentives should be designed in such a way that customers write thorough reviews that adequately represent their actual product experience.
Positive reviews are not good or bad per se. What matters is that they reflect the true quality of the product to boost sales and minimize returns. This is crucial, since consumers heavily consider online reviews, along with other cues for quality, like price and brand, when deciding what to buy. As more and more customers go online to buy products and search for information, online customer reviews will only become more important. Retailers have to start paying careful attention to balanced reviews.