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16 Nov 00:00

Warning: These Online Ad Hacks Will Send A Stampede To Your Sales Funnel!

by John Lincoln

Looking for some great new ideas that will bring people in your target market to your website? Try online advertising.

But not just any type of online advertising. It’s too often the case that digital marketers play a “shoot in the dark” game when they’re running ads on other websites.

Afterwards, they justify their actions by saying that they’re doing split-testing.

In other words, they’re playing guessing games and hoping that something works. Often, both the “A” and the “B” side of their split-testing equation isn’t very effective.

If your text loses, all you did was waste time!

It’s not enough to just try an advertising strategy in hopes that it’s a better than another option. It’s best to put principles of great advertising into place at the start and split-test the finer points of a campaign with an outstanding track record.

Along those lines, here are some proven ad hacks that will send a stampede to your sales funnel.

  1. Get Thee to Copywriting School

If you want to get more clicks from your ads, you need to give people a reason to click. That’s best accomplished with outstanding copywriting.

If you want to be effective at copywriting, you’re going to need to learn from the pros. Fortunately, that’s easy to do thanks to Amazon.

For some reason, many marketers discount the effectiveness of outstanding ad copy. That’s a shame, because it can literally make the difference between an effective campaign and one that loses money.

Ask yourself this question: why did you click on this article? Chances are pretty good that it was because of the catchy title. That kind of title is exactly what you should use in your ad copy.

So before you invest another penny in graphics, keyword research, and consultants, learn the basics of producing compelling copy that begs people to click.

  1. Tell Them About Benefits, Not Features

There are simply too many ads in existence that describe features over benefits. It’s not likely that they have a very high click-through rate.

Why? Because features don’t answer the all-important WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) question.

When writing your ad copy, envision people in your target market asking “What’s in it for me?” as they read you advertisement. Make sure that you answer that question by describing benefits and not features.

If you’re unclear on the difference between features and benefits, here’s a primer:

  • Features describe product attributes. For example, features of a laptop include its weight, RAM, and hard drive space.
  • Benefits explain why the customer will appreciate the product. For example, a benefit of a laptop is that it has lightning-fast processing, enabling its users to accomplish more in less time.

Do you see the difference? Sadly, many marketers to this day don’t see the difference because they keep on advertising with copy that describes features and not benefits.

Your ad copy shouldn’t just describe your product, it should compel people to want to purchase it.

  1. Enlist the Aid of Experts

If you’re running an ad on a network that severely limits your headline character count (we’re looking at you, AdSense), you’re going to have to rely on something catchy to reel in customers.

One tried-and-true trick that goes back to the Dark Ages of copywriting involves using experts to make your case for you in just one sentence.

Here’s an example of an expert-driven ad headline: “Tom Brady Explains His Treadmill Routine for Staying Fit in the Off-Season.”

That’s a great headline if you’re selling treadmills. Think about it: you’re not trying to convince someone about the importance of using treadmills to stay fit, you’re letting Tom Brady convince your customer about the importance of using treadmills to stay fit.

It’s safe to say that most Americans view Tom Brady as someone who’s physically fit.

The secret here is to scour news sources for expert tips related to your niche (as you see with the Tom Brady example above). Then, rewrite those news stories into ad copy that sells your product or service.

  1. Share a Secret

Another oldie but a goodie that still works wonders is to let people in on a secret. It’s an effective strategy because human nature hasn’t changed since copywriters started using it decades ago.

The trick here is to create a headline that lets people know that you’re sharing a “secret” that’s only benefited a select few (or even just one person) up this point.

If we stick with the Tom Brady theme, a “secret” headline might read something like this: “Tom Brady Shares His Secret to Staying Fit in the Off-Season.”

That’s okay but the word “secret” seems to be a bit overused these days. A more effective copy might read: “Finally: Tom Brady Explains What He’s Been Doing to Stay Fit in the Off-Season.”

That second headline has the “aura” of a secret without actually using the word. Good secret-themed headlines often use words like “unlock,” “hidden,” or “reveal.”

Secret-themed headlines also work great with the aforementioned expert source, as we see in this example.

  1. Make ‘Em an Offer They Can’t Refuse

Another way to turn your ad into clickbait is to simply make an irresistible offer in the headline.

Legendary copywriter Ben Settle cites this example as an offer headline: “Free Fuel for a Year With Purchase of a New Car – Today Only.”

That headline is powerful for a couple of reasons.

First, who doesn’t want free fuel for a year? That’s an obvious benefit to any consumer that you don’t even have to explain.

Second, note the sense of urgency that the headline creates. The offer is good only for today. That’s enough to get people hooked right away, even when it comes to making a major purchase like a car.

Of course, an ad like this will definitely have an impact on your cash flow. Run the numbers and find out what you can afford to offer people that they absolutely can’t resist.

Then your ad accordingly.

Get Started Now

The key to advertising, social media, content marketing and more is copywriting. Get good fast to maximize your marketing.

15 Nov 23:55

New: A master class in value creation

by Seth Godin

I've just created an intensive video course designed to help you think differently about what you make and why.

It's for marketers, founders, freelancers, fundraisers, teachers and change agents that understand that nothing works unless it works for your audience.

Intensive? Yes because unlike most video courses, you're supposed to do more than watch it. It contains just over 40 minutes of video broken into short chapters. It also comes with a workbook that's 30 pages long. Print out the workbook, watch the video, fill in the workbook, go over it with others in the Udemy community, print the workbook out again, watch the video again, go over the workbook with your team. Like most things, more input gets you more output.

From a recent review: "... approaches the problem of value creation in such a new way that I've already had many 'aha'-moments. And I'm only partway through the course!"

If you do the work, you'll start to see things differently.

The course is $95, but blog readers doing important work can get it for half price by using this link.

It comes with a money-back guarantee and I hope you will check out a few of the lessons before you enroll.

And if you're a freelancer, I hope you'll check out this course as well. It's one of the most popular courses on Udemy, because it works. 

       
15 Nov 23:55

The Problem With Personas & How We Can Fix It

by Ryan Shelley

The Problem With Personas.png

The idea of creating and using personas to help create a better user experience and engagement was birthed in the software industry 30 years ago. Computer software was clunky, hard to use, and had a terrible user experience. Allen Cooper, a software inventor and architectural consultant, interviewed actual users and used the information and feedback they gave him to help shape and create more user-friendly software. The persona was born. Over the years personas have become the foundation of good development not just in the software industry, but in the design and marketing worlds as well. While I believe they are essential to success, the way many develop personas is outdated.

Context is the key to effective communication. It sets the tone and the basis for understanding what is actually being said. Good marketing and design start with good communication. It’s the duty of the communicator to set the context and tone of the message in a way that makes it more palatable for the end user. Persona development is key in helping marketers and designers create a better context for their message.

The Problem

Because of the lack of real research during the persona development process, many questioned the effectiveness of personas. If we are to create personas that are actually useful and user-driven we must be willing to do the hard work. This means not settling for assumptions and going deeper than surface level.

Persona development involves dissecting and breaking down intrinsic and extrinsic data. While the hard data such as demographics, job titles, and geographic location are easy to collect, it’s the intrinsic data that is hard to collect and make use of. Just having one or two phone calls with a current or potential user isn’t going to give you the information you need.

Personas are supposed to be as close a representation of your ideal client or users as possible. When interviewing people we have to remember one thing, they are human. While we hope they would give us authentic answers, an interview rarely produces 100% accurate results. What people say and what they do are usually very different. So trusting your interviewees to give you all the info you need is a dangerous assumption.

The Fix

People are emotionally driven creatures. We base much of our decision-making on how we will feel after making the decision. This is true for both intellectual or relational decision making. The more we uncover the emotional motivation for why our personas do what they do, the better we can understand their needs. Developing empathy skills is crucial for marketers, designers and researchers.

One practical way to hone your empathy skills is to learn how to listen. Listening is not about waiting your turn to ask another question or make a comment. Listening is about stopping, hearing and trying to understand the other person’s point of view. As Zeno of Citium said, “We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” When you listen more, people tell you more. It shows you value what they say and are interested in them. This allows them to open up and tell you the truth.

As I stated above, what people say and what people do are usually very different. This doesn’t mean we should forgo the interview process during persona creation. It just means we shouldn’t necessarily take our interviewee at their word. Today we have some amazing software that can help compare what people say and what they do online. This will help us find the intersection where their words and actions come together. When you find this, you are on the right track. Here is a list of a few of my favorite tools.

  • Hotjar: Hotjar is a heat mapping tool. It gives you an understanding of how your user naturally uses your site. You can even set up recording and watch how users browsed your site and content.
  • BrightInfo: Brightinfo is a personalized marketing platform. Where it’s really helpful in persona development and understanding users is in the analytics. Using the data you can see where your users are similar in their likes and interests.
  • HubSpot: HubSpot is mostly known for marketing automation, but it also helps you understand your users. The timeline tools that show how an individual contact has journeyed through your funnel is very insightful. While the full software is an investment, they are getting ready to release a free version. Learn more here.
  • Google Analytics: Google Analytics is a great tool. The demographics, interest, and behavior data are very helpful in better understanding your users. Best part, it’s free!

Traditional marketing segmentation and persona creation focused a lot more on demographics then psychographics. The internet has really made the world a lot smaller. This has blurred a lot of the traditional regional demographics, making them less reliable. If we are to understand our persona’s real motivation, we must understand why they do what they do. This is where psychographics comes in. Personality profiling using Myers Briggs is a great tool, as is the Four Temperaments Assessment. These assessments will give you a clearer picture of the “why” behind your users’ actions.

Personas are extremely important for marketing, advertising, and UX design. As the world evolves and changes, so must the processes. We cannot rely on outdated methods to deliver the same results. If we are truly going to be able to effectively reach our audience and help our customers engage, we must get to know them on an emotional level. Below is a link to our updated buyer persona template. It is designed to help you go deeper in your persona development. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Buyer Persona Template

15 Nov 23:50

Amazon wants Echos throughout your home (AMZN)

by BI Intelligence

Amazon Echo Install BaseThis story was delivered to BI Intelligence IoT Briefing subscribers. To learn more and subscribe, please click here.

Amazon is increasingly positioning its popular Echo product line to be utilized throughout the home, rather than simply in one central location.

Two recent moves reinforce this market strategy by the online retail giant:

  • The Echo Dot is now available in a three-pack bundle, giving buyers a $20 discount off the retail price. Upon releasing the revamped Echo Dot earlier this year, the company announced the Dot would be available in six- and twelve-pack bundles for slight discounts, so this falls in line with these earlier offerings.
  • The company will be discounting the original Echo and the Dot as a centerpiece of its Black Friday sales, according to Mashable. The original device will have its price lowered from $179.99 to $139.99, while the Dot will be priced at $39.99 for the day, down from $49.99. The discount of the Echos will begin November 20, several days before Black Friday. The company likely hopes to allow consumers to use their newly purchased Echo devices to increase their spending in the holiday season.

Amazon is lowering the price of these products in part to incentivize consumers to place Echos around their home. When Amazon first released the Echo in 2014, the company positioned it as a portable device that could be transported throughout the home. Without a built-in battery, however, it seems consumers haven't adapted to this usage model. Now, though, it appears that the company is trying to leverage the revamped Dot to encourage Echo users to integrate the Alexa voice assistant that powers the devices throughout the home.

The retail giant is counting on its Echo Spatial Perception (ESP) to allow these duplicate devices to coexist. The ESP system allows multiple Echo devices to be in contact with one another, so that when a user starts talking to the device, the nearest Echo unit activates and responds, rather than multiple units reacting simultaneously. With this technology in place, Amazon can move to take advantage of it through Echo Dot multipacks.

BI Intelligence expects that companies will follow Amazon’s lead, eventually offering voice control as a platform within the smart home space. The popularity of the Echo prompted Alphabet to release the Google Home earlier this year, while Samsung and Apple are also reportedly working on competing devices. Apple, through its recent revamp of HomeKit, already offers voice control throughout the home, though it's through its mobile devices rather than through a speaker. While voice control throughout the home will not likely represent a huge monetization opportunity for Amazon in itself, it gives the company a way to enhance its existing revenue streams, namely selling goods.

The U.S. smart home market has yet to truly take off. At its current state, we believe the smart home market is stuck in the 'chasm' of the technology adoption curve, in which it is struggling to surpass the early-adopter phase and move to the mass-market phase of adoption.

There are many barriers preventing mass-market smart home adoption: high device prices, limited consumer demand and long device replacement cycles. However, the largest barrier is the technological fragmentation of the smart home ecosystem, in which consumers need multiple networking devices, apps and more to build and run their smart home.

John Greenough, senior research analyst for BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on the U.S. smart home market that analyzes current consumer demand for the smart home and barriers to widespread adoption. It also analyzes and determines areas of growth and ways to overcome barriers.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • Smart home devices are becoming more prevalent throughout the US. We define a smart home device as any stand-alone object found in the home that is connected to the internet, can be either monitored or controlled from a remote location, and has a noncomputing primary function. Multiple smart home devices within a single home form the basis of a smart home ecosystem.
  • Currently, the US smart home market as a whole is in the "chasm" of the tech adoption curve. The chasm is the crucial stage between the early-adopter phase and the mass-market phase, in which manufacturers need to prove a need for their devices.
  • High prices, coupled with limited consumer demand and long device replacement cycles, are three of the four top barriers preventing the smart home market from moving from the early-adopter stage to the mass-market stage. For example, mass-market consumers will likely wait until their device is broken to replace it. Then they will compare a nonconnected and connected product to see if the benefits make up for the price differential.
  • The largest barrier is technological fragmentation within the connected home ecosystem. Currently, there are many networks, standards, and devices being used to connect the smart home, creating interoperability problems and making it confusing for the consumer to set up and control multiple devices. Until interoperability is solved, consumers will have difficulty choosing smart home devices and systems.
  • "Closed ecosystems" are the short-term solution to technological fragmentation. Closed ecosystems are composed of devices that are compatible with each other and which can be controlled through a single point.

In full, the report:

  • Analyzes the demand of US consumers, based off of survey results
  • Forecasts out smart home device growth until 2020
  • Determines the current leaders in the market
  • Explains how the connected home ecosystem works
  • Examines how Apple and Google will play a major role in the development of the smart home
  • Some of the companies mentioned in this report include Apple, Google, Nest, August, ADT, Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Lowe's, and Honeywell.

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

  1. Subscribe to an ALL-ACCESS Membership with BI Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report AND over 100 other expertly researched deep-dive reports, subscriptions to all of our daily newsletters, and much more. >> START A MEMBERSHIP
  2. Purchase the report and download it immediately from our research store. >> BUY THE REPORT

The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of the smart home market.

Join the conversation about this story »

15 Nov 23:49

Is Your Business Trying B2B Vlogging?

by Carrie Morgan

With 69% of all internet traffic expected to be video by 2017, can your business afford to avoid vlogging?

Is your business vlogging? Do you even know what vlogging is?

And just in case you’re not sure, it’s not pronounced “vee – log”, it’s “vlog” – like blog.

thesaleswayvlog

Vlogging is blogging, but with videos. (It’s video blogging, hence vlogging). It’s a lot less polished and produced than traditional ‘explainer videos’, and is expected to be delivered on a regular basis – maybe sharing weekly snippets or daily tips.

Many individuals vlog nowadays, but is your business vlogging? Should you be?

It’s a scary prospect for most Marketing Managers – letting your staff loose on YouTube available for the whole world to see. But customers now expect a more personal approach, and they want to see what individuals are saying – it feels more authentic; an increasingly central theme in a lot of the content we now produce for clients. But it’s now becoming more prominent in business’ Content Marketing strategies (read about the different types here).

Rather than a faceless entity talking to you, people are connecting with people. It’s obvious, when you think about it.

Cisco believes that by 2017, video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic (read more in this Guardian article) so it’s something that businesses can’t afford to ignore, and doing it now before the market is completely saturated is key.

But videos have been around for ages, so why haven’t they been delivering for you?

Well, for one thing, consumers are getting bored with the traditional video case study – the format is too familiar and we almost know what to expect before we’ve seen it. It’s become stale, and B2B customers want something more dynamic – they want to see the type of videos they are engaging with on YouTube from the brands they love. Now, I’m not saying that your favourite cloud service provider should start posting shopping hauls a la Zoella, but it may be of interest to you to see your tech provider’s Network Architect giving a tour of their datacentre and responding to an issue in real-time. Or perhaps a Facebook Live Q and A session on a new product launch?

It’s difficult to strike the balance between being company approved (or at least in line with social media policies) but without the overtly corporate overtones of traditional videos.

The other reason in favour of exploring vlogs is the fact that your buyers are now likely to be a mix of generations; with many being heavy social media users and regularly consuming videos and live streaming through Facebook and Twitter. You have to be where your buyers are. And you have to be there now, even if the buyers are only going to get there in a year or two.

So, how can your business harness vlogging?

1) Who is going to do it? As with written content, select a few key individuals within the business to focus on – or if you’re thinking of being the lead, think of why you’re the right person for the task.

2) What is the general direction for the topics going to be? You don’t have to have every video title laid out in advance, but it’s good if you can start with a clear direction so that your followers will know what to expect. What can you become a leading voice for? What is your niche topic area?

3) What kit do you need to film? You will likely already have a phone good enough for filming a vlog – the finished video doesn’t have to be polished as it’s supposed to be quick to record and quick to share pieces of content to keep you connected with users.

4) Where are you going to film? In the office? On location with a customer? In the street on your way to lunch? What will work best for your type of business? How can you best showcase what it is you do in an appropriate way for what you are selling.

5) Who else can you get involved? Vlogging doesn’t have to be a solo effort. Like podcasting, vlogging engages users when there is a sense of engagement and interaction. Who from your contact base might be up for promoting their own profile alongside sharing some insights? It could be colleagues from within your business, or perhaps customers or business partners. Maybe it could be interviewees at an industry conference?

6) Where will you share it? Promoting your blog is just as important. It’s likely you will upload it to YouTube, but what next? You could share it across your social media platforms, or even record it natively into Facebook through the Facebook Live feature (p.s. there are some great university professors delivering their lectures from Facebook which are worth checking out).

7) Be prepared for feedback. You can’t control who sees it if you’re publishing publically so just be prepared for a bit of friendly, and not-so-friendly feedback. It’s a necessary evil…

Can you envisage your company vlogging anytime soon?

15 Nov 21:09

Why Chatbots are Essential for Businesses

by Asaf Hartuv

Why-Chatbots-are-Essential-for-Businesses

Chatbots are those things you see that pop up on sites asking you if you have questions or need additional help.

Sometimes, there is a real person on the other end of that chatbox, but most often, these are bots that are programmed with responses based on frequent questions or algorithms.

These bots aren’t just another bit of code to add to your site. They can actually have a big impact on your success. Here’s why:

Users Actively Engage with Them

Chatbots aren’t typical pop-ups that annoy users and send them searching for ad blockers.

Users actually engage with these bots and rely on them for information. Many have reported that they feel like they are working with their own personal assistants on the site to find the information they need or achieve their goals, such as finding the right car to buy or the right couch to have with children around.

Bots end up improving the user experience on the site, which makes people feel better about your brand and be more likely to return. Bots also help people find exactly what they need, which means that you are helping to solve their problem and potentially earn a customer.

Think about how bots can help users find information on your site and incorporate them effectively. Make sure you set up the design to show users how they can be helpful, and include information encouraging them to engage with the chatbot in a way that shows this usefulness.

They Don’t Require Downloads

Users are very leery of downloading software or information on their own computers, especially from sites that they have just started using.

Bots don’t require that users download anything, which means that people are much more likely to use them. Therefore, you will get more usage, which increases your chances of generating a lead or making a sale.

Since bots don’t require a download, they also put less strain on your coding and hosting capacity.

Bots are Optimized for Mobile

Mobile marketing is the focus of the future for all brands. There are now more mobile searches than there are desktop searches, and mobile users are growing constantly.

If you want to remain relevant, you have to develop a strong marketing plan for mobile users. That includes optimizing your design and your content for these smaller devices.

Bots are optimized for mobile without you having to do anything else to make them that way. Bots were used on mobile devices for many years, so their design has already been perfected for mobile users. You can be sure that they are helping you to capture more of this important demographic for your site.

They Have Minimal Cost

Unlike developing a dedicated app, bots have a very low cost. You won’t have to spend thousands of dollars to incorporate them into your site.

Bot platforms have created the basic infrastructure for creating bots, so you don’t have to hire a team to do all the extensive development required for building a program from scratch.

In addition, bots require minimal maintenance, so you won’t have to make a big investment of time or money to keep your bot up to date or secure.

Not only do you not have to pay a lot of money to get or maintain a chatbot, but you will get a huge return for having one on your site. Users will feel more engaged, you’ll get more leads, and you’ll make more sales as a result of having the bot on your site.

They are More Popular because of WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a popular messaging platform that allows users to send messages without using a texting service. People can instantly send messages without having to pay for an additional service or without using the data on their plan.

Because more people are using WhatsApp, they are comfortable with these kind of messaging services and are more open to using them. That means that when they see the chatbot on your site, they are going to be more willing to engage with it.

They are going to understand that they can communicate easily and without being charged for the privilege. The more they use the bot, the more likely they are to get the information they need and to become a lead or a paying customer.

The more you can include on your site to increase user engagement or to promote sales, the more successful you will be. If you are not already using chatbots on your site, it is important that you look into how to incorporate them and start developing one.

You may find that a simple bot that answers frequently asked questions is enough to get the results you need, or you may find that you need multiple bot models depending on the user and the device. Either way, you will find that the investment is well worth it.

15 Nov 21:08

Have the Promises of Inbound Sales Come to Fruition?

by Dave Kurlan

Last week, I spoke at Inbound, where 19,000 people attended this sold-out event in Boston.  Ironically, I spoke to a crowd that wanted to learn how to be more effective at engaging prospects by phone and converting those conversations to meetings.  Why is it ironic?  Well, the promise of the Inbound movement is that cold calling is dead. Salespeople will reap the benefits of inbound leads from prospects who had already expressed interest.  Has that happened?

15 Nov 21:07

Can Your Company Add This to Your Digital Marketing Strategy?

by Hana LaRock

We heard it loud and clear; companies are paving the way for new digital marketing strategies in the coming year. And, while digital marketing can refer to a ton of different things, we’re talking about videos.

Making the switch to video marketing means a lot of adjustments to your current content, including finding people at your company who know how to do a little acting! Okay, not quite. But, creating meaningful videos as a part of your digital marketing strategy is no walk in the park.

If you’re hoping to utilize this trend without any prior experience, you’re going to need some pointers. Here’s how to incorporate video marketing into your content strategy for the new year.

digital marketing strategy, video marketing

Analyze Your Budget

How much can your company realistically invest? If you’re going to take video marketing seriously, you may need to purchase new equipment, as well as hire a person or a team that knows how to put the whole thing together. However, if video marketing is just something you want to experiment with, then maybe hold off on dropping a large portion of your budget just now.

Regardless, if this is something you think you will want to get into eventually, it’s going to be an investment. Discuss this with your team and remember, a good video marketing campaign will mean more leads and a higher profit.

Don’t Get Sidetracked

No one is expecting your company to come out with the next Steven Spielberg movie. That being said, you don’t really get a free pass when it comes to making videos. It still needs to look good and be effective. The easiest way to accomplish both these criteria is by sticking to one main idea, without getting sidetracked. What are you trying to show your audience with this video? What’s the goal? Is it a replacement for your current written content, or a supplement? Whatever it is, make sure the video is short and to the point. About 15-45 seconds for a short video, and two minutes for a longer video.

digital marketing strategy, video marketing

Where to Host Your Video

If you’re going to start creating videos as a way to bring in leads, you should also think about who is going to host the videos. While some companies seek out Youtube or Facebook, others will just use their own website. We can’t really tell you which one is best for you, but consider the competition before choosing one method over another.

Couple Your Video with a Promotional Strategy

A video on its own is just a video. In order for it to mean something, it has to have a promotional strategy that goes along with it, just like any other type of content. Don’t think that simply making a video is going to have the leads lining up at your door. Decide how you’re going to promote this video, whether it be through email, social media, or at an event you’re hosting (or all three).

Don’t Wing It If You Can’t Manage It

Despite the fact that video marketing is becoming hot with users, creating videos isn’t for everyone. If video marketing doesn’t suit your business or just isn’t even the budget right now, then take your time. Most likely, the idea will still be around for quite a while. At the end of the day, if you don’t put your heart into everything you do, your potential leads will sense that. So, if you’re currently doing well with your written content, stick to that.

15 Nov 21:07

20 Sales Statistics that Will Change Your Sales Approach

by Andrew Gazdecki

Whether you’re trying to sell via e-mail, calls, or social media, there tends to be an awful lot of guesswork involved. Trying to get someone’s attention, especially in a “cold calling” situation, is a tall order with a relatively low success rate.

But believe it or not, there are a few tricks to it that can dramatically improve your success rate. We’re going to break down some sales statistics for you, and explain how you can use them to become a more successful seller.

Before we break things down, here’s an infographic to give you a high-level overview:

Sales Stats

1. Most e-mails are opened at the end of the work day

According to Mailchimp, the majority of e-mails are opened between 2 and 5pm. That means if you send your sales e-mails out first thing in the morning, they’re getting buried under potentially dozens of other things before your target even gets to it. By then, they may just skip it.

2. Tuesday e-mails have the highest open rate

You’re probably going to be sending out e-mails just about every day of the week, so this may not be hugely important. But an Experian study on e-mail marketing shows that there’s something about Tuesday that gets people opening their e-mails. Maybe they’re making up for being so sluggish on Monday. You can use this information to double up your e-mail marketing on Tuesday, or perhaps to send the extra-important stuff that day.

3. 35% of people decide whether or not to open an e-mail based solely on the subject line

This is actually good news for you if you’re trying to “cold call” for sales via e-mail. While some people may delete e-mails from anyone they don’t know, some can be enticed by a subject line that interests them. That makes this next point very important:

4. E-mails with long titles are e-mails that stay unopened

Of course you want to put as much info out front as possible, and so you might think the best way to go is to load up your subject line with details. Actually, the opposite is true. The open rate on e-mails drops by over 60% when the subject line is longer than 3 words. Keep it short and concise, and also…

5. Having the right keywords in your subject line is crucial

It can feel like desperate click-bait, but the reality is, words like “Alert,” “New,” and “Free Delivery” really do improve the clickthrough rate for B2B customers. Meanwhile, words like “report” and “learn” tend to turn people off.

6. 57% of e-mail recipients will mark a message as spam, even if they know the sender

It’s cold, but true. E-mail is easy to ignore, and “spam” is just e-mail shorthand for “not interested in this right now.” Even if it’s a buyer you do a lot of business with, even if it’s personalized, they won’t hesitate to throw it in the spam bin if it doesn’t resonate with their needs right now. Even still, it’s important to get your message in front of prospective buyers, because…

7. Only 2% of cold calls result in an appointment

This may sound like a bleak figure, but what it means is it’s important to warm up your leads before calling. Send an e-mail, a tweet, something to put you on their radar before you show up on their phone. If they have an idea of who you are and what you want, they’re less likely to avoid your call. Which is good, because…

8. The average sales rep spends 25 hours a month leaving voicemail

Given an average of about 70 voicemails left a day, and 60 seconds to do it (roughly 30 seconds to listen to a greeting, and 30 seconds to leave the message), that’s roughly 25 hours a month, or 15% of a sales rep’s total time. You should consider whether leaving voicemails is necessarily the best use of time, considering…

9. Most of your voicemails go unreturned

According to RingLead, 80% of calls go to voicemail, and 90% of first-time voicemails go unanswered. There are ways to maximize voicemail returns, but one of the ways to make your voicemails more efficient is simply to shorten them. The Sales Hunter says the optimal voicemail length is between 8 and 14 seconds.

10. The best hours to make calls or leave voicemails are at the beginning and end of the workday…

The best rate of return on voicemails comes between 6:45 and 8:00 am, and between 4:30 and 6:30 pm. Think of it this way. People are likely to check their e-mails at the beginning and the end of the workday. If your message is at the top of the pile at either of those times, you’re in good shape.

11. …but not Monday morning or Friday evening

The beginning and end of the workweek are not the most productive times on the schedule. Early Monday, people have too much to catch up with, and late Friday, they have too much else they want to get to. The last thing anyone wants to deal with at these times is a sales call. Respect that, and slide those in to other parts of other days.

12. The average sale requires 5 follow-up calls

So let’s say you actually have someone’s attention. You’ve met with them, you’ve given them your best pitch, and they seem mildly interested. You follow up with them and don’t really get much further. This is where about 44% of salespeople give up and move on. Don’t be one of those people, because about 80% of successful sales came after 5 or more follow-up calls.

13. 86% of how you communicate on the phone isn’t about what you say

Only 14% of your phone communication has to do with the words you use. The remaining 86% is how you say it. With no way to communicate through gestures, smiles, or other non-verbal means, the tone of your voice has everything to do with what you’re getting across to people.

14. Sales reps who use social selling are 79% more likely to hit their sales goals than those who don’t

This is according to a study that was done back in 2012, and social media has only continued to grow since then. E-mails and calls are still the most tried-and-true method, but if you’re not including social as one of the tools in your arsenal, you’re doing it wrong. In particular,

15. 96% of sales firms use LinkedIn an average of 6 hours a week

It doesn’t just have to be a way to contact people – sales reps can use LinkedIn to search for leads and research a company for a better insight to their needs.

16. 77% of B2B buyers don’t talk to salespeople without doing independent research first

This makes social selling an absolute must. Maintaining a social presence doesn’t just pay dividends in terms of direct contact – in many cases, it’s about putting information out there to be found independently. In many cases, their first impression of your business isn’t from your first call.

17. B2B Marketers have better luck using Twitter on weekdays

An Argyle study of Facebook and Twitter engagement showed that B2B Twitter users saw 7% better engagement on weekdays, while B2C has higher engagement on the weekend. Know who you’re trying to reach before you decide when and how.

18. Over 10% of sellers can trace 5 or more sales back to social media

They may not have been fully, start-to-finish social selling jobs, but social worked its way into these closed sales. Maybe the buyer became a warm lead through social marketing. Maybe the seller used LinkedIn to research the company and make a better pitch. Whatever the circumstance, today’s most successful sellers are using social media in a variety of ways.

19. 80% of organizations in 2012 said their sales teams would be more productive with stronger social media

Most companies now have people or entire teams on board to handle social media. In other words, it’s unlikely to fall to individual sales reps. However, it’s important to know how you can leverage the social media presence you do have. If your organization is making a strong push to improve its social media presence or running a special sort of promotion through it, be aware of that. It’s possible your buyers may be familiar with the campaign without even making the connection to you.

20. 84% of B2B buyers start their decision with a referral

It’s simple. One of the best ways to convince someone that your organization does quality work is an independent vote of confidence from a trusted friend or adviser. This is a total team effort, as it requires great customer service well after the sale is finalized, but it also highlights the importance of social selling, and maintaining an image of quality even while not actively engaged with a potential buyer.

15 Nov 21:06

Customer Success in Numbers

by Mathilde Augustin

Customer Success in Numbers

There is a lot happening in the world of Customer Success, everything changes fast, and it can be difficult to see the bigger picture and to locate yourself on the map. We love statistics, numbers, all the fun stuff… So we looked everywhere and aggregated the most striking Customer Success numbers to help you understand what’s really happening.
About the profession:

62% of Customer Success professionals report having less than 3 years of experience in Customer Success, and 9% reported having worked in the field for 10 years or more. (source)

50% of Customer Success teams are stand-alone organizations reporting directly to the CEO, whereas 20% are still considered part of Sales. (source)

The most popular compensation plan is base salary + bonus, and only 13% of CSMs get paid some sort of commission. (source)

The average cost of a CSM ranges between 75K and 100K annually. Directors of Customer Success make on average 125K to 150K per year, and finally, a CCOs and VP salary averages between 150K and 175K. (source)

In 2016, 60% of Customer Success Organizations have been around for 2 years, or less. (source)

90% of teams have an account segmentation strategy and 67% segment their user base by account size. (source)
About the customer:

Only 4% of dissatisfied customers will raise their voice about an issue. (source)

As early as 2009, the number one request from customers was “better human service”, which they placed above the integration of different channels and enriched content. (source)

A bad customer service experience will have a reach twice as large as a good experience, and it will take 12 positive experiences to make up for a single bad one. (source)

About the industry:

Only 23% of B2B marketers claim that their organizational structure is customer-centric, as opposed to channel or product-centric. (source)

As early as 1990, a study from the Harvard Business Review showed that increasing customer retention rates by 5% leads to profits increasing by 25% to 95%. (source)

The probability of converting an existing customer is 60% to 70%, whereas the probability of converting a new prospect is 5% to 20%. (source)

Those companies who prioritize customer experience generate 60% higher profits. (source)

A 5% increase in customer retention can increase profits by 25% to 125%. (source)

There are 21.8 million pages featuring Customer Success indexed on Google.

Customer Success in Numbers

15 Nov 21:06

How to Generate Leads Without Cold Calling

by Ben Levesque

how to generate leads without cold calling

Cold calling as a sales strategy is effective–there’s no denying it.

In fact, many successful businesses have been built and continue to be built on cold calling alone. But unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and many business owners are now searching for tips on how to generate leads without cold calling.

They’re just not happy with the results anymore, and the statistics speak for themselves:

  • In a period of just 6 years (from 2007 to 2013), the number of attempts needed to reach a prospect via cold call increased from 3.7 times to 8 times
  • Only 2% of cold calls result in an appointment
  • The average salesperson makes 8 dials per hour and prospects for 6.25 hours to set just 1 appointment
  • Cold calling doesn’t work 90% of the time

(Source: Slideshare – 20 Shocking Sales Stats That Will Change How You Sell)

It’s easy to see that, as business owners, we need an alternative. We need a system that we can rely on to generate a predictable flow of leads & sales for our business.

But does such a system or solution exist?

Turns out it does, and this 7-step process is as close as you’ll come to an automated system for generating new business leads.

Let’s start from the top…

Step 1: Identify Your Personas

A persona is a fictional representation of your ideal client. You’ll want to create one or more personas that closely describe someone you’d love to do business with.

Think of your current customers. What do they all have in common? Gather client-facing employees from your company and go through a persona discovery exercise with them.

When you’re done, you’ll know what your prospects’ questions, challenges, pain points & concerns are so you can better address their needs.

You’ll need this valuable insight for the next step in the process.

Step 2: Establish Medium, Messaging & Frequency

Armed with the data & insights you collected in step 1, now it’s time to establish your content marketing plan.

Your goal is to create educational content that answers all the questions, concerns & push backs that you discovered in the persona discovery exercise. Doing this establishes your business or company as an expert in your industry.

By providing answers & addressing any concerns your prospects have, you’ll earn their trust and they’ll be more likely to choose your products or services as a solution to their problem when the time comes.

In this step, you’re going to want to ask yourself these three things:

  1. What channel will you use to publish content, and what form will it take? In other words, are you going to write blog posts, design infographics, produce videos, podcasts or other? Once this content is created, are you going to publish on your website or elsewhere on the web?
  2. What kind of messaging will you use? Are you going to create content that has a friendly tone or are you going to stick with something more corporate, rigid and formal?
  3. How often are you going to publish? Can you commit to one piece of content per month? Per week? Twice per week? Every day?

If the personas you discovered in step 1 don’t typically listen to podcasts, then don’t spend time & effort creating podcasts. If your personas read Forbes, Entrepreneur, and other business related magazines & websites, it may be wise to focus distribution on those channels, too.

The key is to choose a publishing frequency and stick to it. Start slow and increase your frequency as you get better at creating quality content.

This next step is a crucial part of the process.

Step 3: Keyword & Topic Research

Now that you know what your personas are concerned with in regards to your product or service offering and you’ve decided on medium, messaging & frequency, it’s time to find out which keywords & phrases your prospects are actually searching for.

If you discovered that your prospects are B2B business owners that have trouble getting more leads for their business, you’ll want to do keyword research to find out if they’re searching for:

  • how to get more leads online
  • how to get more leads with my website
  • how do I get more leads

or any other related keywords.

The possibilities are endless, and you’ll want to use a keyword research tool that can give you an estimate of the monthly search volume for each term. There’s no use putting 10 hours of work into a piece of content optimized around a keyword or key phrase that no one is searching for. This will also help you prioritize which keywords are worth spending more time on.

You should also consider the difficulty of the keyword. If the keyword is being targeted by many other businesses, it’ll take more effort to snatch up a piece of the monthly search volume.

Don’t skimp out on this step. It’s crucial if you want to build up organic traffic that grows over time.

Step 4: Plan Your Premium Content Offer

What’s the one thing your prospects & customers always ask you? Is it related to pricing? Is it about product features? Is it related to the use of your product?

Take the time needed to come up with a topic your prospects would want to learn more about, and then create a downloadable piece of content on the topic to give away for free in exchange for an email address. It can be something as simple as a pricing guide, a product feature brochure, or even how to get started with content marketing if that’s what your prospects are interested in.

Make sure your premium content offer is well designed and provides enough value to your prospects that they’ll be willing to give you their email address for it.

Once your premium offer is complete, it’s time to make it available to your website visitors.

Step 5: Install Opt-in Forms & Landing Pages

When it comes to generating leads from your website, opt-in forms and landing pages are your best friend.

If your website is built on WordPress, there are a myriad of plugins that make creating opt-in forms and landing pages a breeze. Going this route also means you won’t have to hire a designer to make your forms look pretty as these add-on plugins come with beautifully designed templates. Any one of these plugins will do the trick, and a quick Google search will provide you with the most popular options to choose from.

If you’re not all that technical, you’ll have to hire a web developer to set all this up for you in order to start generating new leads from your website.

Once your opt-in forms & landing pages are created, link them to your email marketing platform so that you can deliver your premium content offer and begin nurturing prospects into customers.

Step 6: Create, Capture, Promote

Now that you’ve discovered your personas, found the right keywords, planned out your content and made a premium offer available for download on your website, it’s time to start creating!

Set out to create content optimized around the keywords your prospects are looking for (based on your keyword research), and make sure each piece of content asks your prospects to download your premium offer for more information.

While not all visitors will give you their email address for more information, a small percentage will which means new valuable leads for your business.

In order to maximize the reach of your new content and get it in front of as many people as possible, you need to promote it. Email influencers in your industry and let them know you’ve created new educational content. If they’re receptive to your message, ask them to share it with their audiences. If you’re active on any social networks, be sure to share it there as well.

Don’t be shy to amplify your content with paid advertising if it starts to pick up traction on its own. Even just a few dollars can go a long way.

Step 7: Marketing Automation & Lead Nurturing

Now that your machine is set up to generate leads without having to cold call, it’s time to nurture your new leads into sales.

The best way to nurture leads into sales is to drip feed them relevant content over time with regards to which stage they’re at in the buyer’s journey. You’ll want to send different content to prospects in the awareness, consideration, and decision stages.

This can be done with marketing automation software. There are many different solutions available to you based on your business size & needs, but they all help you achieve the same goal: to get the right message in front of the right prospect at the right time.

If you implement marketing automation & lead nurturing into your strategy, you’ll soon realize how powerful this cold calling alternative is. You’re no longer interrupting prospects, but rather having them find you. It completely changes the sales dynamic, and your prospect will no longer feel like he’s being pressured or forced into listening to your sales pitch.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, your cold callers are no longer as useful as they once were.

If you were wondering how to generate leads without cold calling, I’ve just laid out a proven strategy that works. This strategy is what many businesses are turning to as their go-to marketing method for generating leads. It takes more time to implement, but it’s also less expensive and more successful in generating new business leads down the road.

Besides, a cold caller must keep calling in order to get leads. With this strategy, a few well-planned blog articles, videos, and premium content pieces like eBooks and infographics can generate leads for years to come without any additional work after hitting ‘publish’.

Let go of some or all of your cold callers and make the switch to this proven system. I dare you!

Note: Want to learn 15 proven tactics for turning website visitors into valuable leads & sales that help grow your business? Download this guide and learn how to get started!

This article was originally published here.

15 Nov 21:06

Situational Awareness – Your Secret Weapon in Sales

by Ali Mirza

As you gain experience in the world of sales – learning the “ins and outs” and “dos and don’ts” you eventually need to master the principle of situational awareness. A successful salesperson understands that the close is not the most important part of sales. The most successful salespeople embrace the interpersonal elements that go beyond the numbers. Let’s explore one of those elements, and explain why it will make a powerful addition to your skillset.

Situational awareness is defined as knowing what is going on around you. To be aware means to be in touch with your environment – and to react to any cues given.

The nuts and bolts of situational awareness

This is a crucial concept to understand in sales. Many salespeople are too deep into their process, presentation and demo to effectively read the situation around them. Additionally, they can’t gauge their prospect’s reaction and feedback. Being too focused on what you’re doing (selling) can diminish your ability to have a meaningful conversation with your prospect. While many believe that situational awareness is only important for in-person sales, it is, in fact, even more important over the phone. You have less control over the phone, as your prospect can easily become distracted. Therefore, gauging their feedback is even more important – and more difficult.

What is the key, in that case? Well, it’s not necessarily just “going with the flow.”

The key is having a systematic process which you have memorized flawlessly. When you deliver your pitch, you are almost having an out of body experience – which is to say your mouth is on autopilot while your mind is focused only on your prospect’s reaction. Learn to interpret body language, attention span, and engagement. In a face-to-face, are their eyes wandering? If so, that’s a bad sign.

Having a systematized, repeatable process will allow you to command the sales conversation. Further, it allows you to keep checking in and adjusting “on-the-fly” to your prospect’s reaction and feedback.

It goes without saying that when a prospect is engaged in a sales conversation, the prospect’s buying temperature will be heightened. In engaging the prospect, you will flush out real needs which you can address, rather than giving a “one size fits all” sales pitch. As you read the prospect, your sales pitch should gradually model the prospect’s needs and desires. The key is to work in the moment – and push that hot button.

How do you work in the moment?

It’s all in the mind

Mental modeling (prior to engaging the prospect) is another main component of situational awareness. You need to understand that there are only so many ways to skin a cat. In other words, there are a limited number of ways your sales conversation will go. By having a baseline understanding of who your prospect is, what it is you are trying to sell them, and what business they are engaged in, you can plan a skeletal trajectory of the call.

Make sure that you set expectations. This is necessary to avoid confusing your prospect. However, the point of contention here is that the above practices will keep the call moving forward, and when you go in for the close, it is more of a natural progression as opposed to a sales-y tactic.

As you systematically move through the conversation and adjust to your prospect’s feedback and reactions, you build trust within the prospect. Trust leads to a desire to engage in mutual business – your original goal, and the goal of any salesperson.

This is known as cracking the buyer threshold.

The buyer threshold is the scale by which your prospect decides whether to invest. Many sales calls end with the dreaded: “let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.” We all know that’s a nice way of saying “get lost.” That response is the result of complacency. Your prospect was unmoved by your presentation, because you did not increase their buying temperature to the degree required to advance the sales cycle.

Close, close, close

Going in for the close is an expression that is often thrown around a lot in sales. It refers to the end of a sales presentation. However, going in for the close should be more readily referred to as striking while the iron is hot; closing only when your buyer is ready to buy. This cannot be achieved without getting your prospect up to their buying threshold.

The end of the sales presentation is not always the close. Most salespeople have experienced the “knee-jerk” objections from said prospect, that is a sign of complacency and ultimately, you missed something.

On the other hand, your prospect might not go for your close and ask a question or respond with a proper objection – questions or reservations regarding your presentation. Those objections are real, and they don’t necessarily mean that you have lost. In fact, if your prospect starts to ask specific questions, that means they were engaged and are showing you their buying intention.

Keeping your prospect’s awareness piqued throughout the presentation lowers the potential buyer’s resistance and increases their buying temperature. Once you achieve this, you go for the close – you strike when that iron is hot.

More salespeople need to understand this. If you make the conversation substantial and genuine, you steer it towards a natural close. Your prospect would either invest or have a frank discussion with you as to what contingencies must be met prior to investing. In this scenario, you are in a much better position to further engage the prospect. In contrast, forcing a sales-y close will only foster an adversarial type relationship with your future client.

Take a step back from the close and the bottom-line of sales. We all inherently understand what that is already – and it’s often over emphasized. Focus on developing your sense of situational awareness. Like any other skill, it takes time, practice and dedication to get good at. Once you commit to the above principles, however, you will notice a tangible increase in your prospect’s receptivity and interest. Most importantly, you will prompt a mutually beneficial business relationship that will grow over time.

The post Situational Awareness – Your Secret Weapon in Sales appeared first on Sales Hacker.

14 Nov 19:59

5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Social Management Tool

by Rhianna Richards

In order to run a successful social media campaign, you need the right tools. If you attempt to do everything manually, you’ll spend your entire day trying to keep up with all of your social media pages.

There are many tools and services that automate tasks such as posting, social listening, ad management, analytics and more. How do you choose the right social media tool for your business? Here are five questions to ask before choosing a social management tool.

1. Does It Support Multiple Platforms?

Some social media tools only work with one social media platform. There are some that focus exclusively on Twitter, for example. Others support both Twitter and Facebook. If you use more than this, you should seek a service that supports multiple platforms. You may decide you need more than one tool. It’s simpler, of course, if you can manage all of your campaigns from one dashboard. Even if you use two or more social tools, it’s convenient if they each work on multiple platforms.

Social media is rapidly expanding. More and more people now have accounts not only with Twitter and Facebook but also with LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Google Plus and others. You don’t have to use every social media site in existence. In fact, it’s best to focus on a handful where your audience is most likely to be found. At the same time, it’s more efficient to find a tool that works with a large number of sites. That way, if you decide to expand your marketing to include another social media platform, you can continue using the same tool.

2. Does It Offer Flexible Plans and Pricing?

When choosing social media services, you naturally have to consider your budget. The cost of such tools varies a great deal. There are some services that offer free plans, though these only provide limited features. Others offer free trials. Both free plans and free trials are good for assessing the value of a service without a commitment. The more sophisticated tools usually offer several tiers of service.

When you can choose among several plans, you won’t be paying for services you don’t need. Additionally, you can upgrade the plan as your business grows. Some of the higher end social media services offer customized plans. This is often best for businesses that are serious about getting the most out of social media. A customized plan ensures that you’re getting exactly the tools you need. When considering the cost of the tool, you should look at the overall value it provides. If it’s going to help you to reach more people, save you time and improve the ROI of your ads, a higher cost may be justified.

3. Does It Provide Solid Analytics?

Social media analytics is at the heart of successful campaigns. It’s essential to know the results of your social media actions, including views, engagement, ROI on ads and customer loyalty. Among other things, analytics are crucial for giving you insights into your target audience. They help you fine-tune your ads by showing you which ad types, headlines, images and other factors are most effective.

All social media tools offer some type of analytics. The social media platforms themselves offer basic metrics. For example, Facebook has About Page Insights, which provides useful data about your page. Some tools offer more comprehensive analytics, which allows you to do things such as tracking your paid campaign performance across many different platforms. This type of data is extremely useful if you do extensive advertising on social media. It’s important to identify your analytics needs and find a tool that gives you the data you need.

4. What Kind of Options Does It Offer for Publishing and Scheduling?

One of the biggest benefits of social media tools is that they let you publish content on a regular schedule. You can create your posts in advance and schedule when you want them posted to different platforms. This is an area where it’s necessary to perform analytics. You want to identify when your audience is most responsive and create your posting schedule accordingly.

A social media tool that lets you do comprehensive content planning for both organic content and paid ads helps make your campaigns more efficient. It saves you time and makes it more likely that people will engage with your content. It also makes it easier to maintain a consistent image and message across platforms, which is important for brand building.

5. Does It Offer Tools for Social Media Monitoring and Listening?

Monitoring the millions of conversations happening across social media can be overwhelming. There’s so much data, it’s difficult to organize and make sense out of it. On the other hand, if you have a tool that helps you monitor the conversations that are relevant to you, it gives you a major advantage. Without effectively monitoring social media, it’s hard to know where your audience is spending time. Since the social media landscape changes so rapidly, you want to be able to keep up with the very latest conversations.

Social media listening is crucial to help you understand the needs and interests of your audience. It tells you the questions they’re asking and what type of products they’re looking for. This helps businesses plan ads, posts and even new products and services. Monitoring also keeps you informed about what people are saying about you and your competitors. When assessing tools, you should make sure you choose one that helps you monitor the social web.

Choosing the Right Social Management Tool

There are many social media tools on the market, with more appearing all the time. You have to decide which of these are most helpful for your own campaigns. When comparing tools, you have to consider your budget, which platforms it supports, the features it offers and how user-friendly it is. You also have to determine if you need multiple tools or if you can find one that handles all of your needs. The above five questions can help you narrow your choices down.

The post 5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Social Management Tool appeared first on Sysomos Blog.

14 Nov 19:59

SaaS Pricing Maturity Calculator

by Kyle Poyar

How does your pricing stack up against your peers?

A few years ago, Warren Buffett shared the secret behind his incredibly successful investing strategy: focus on pricing power. In his view, pricing power is “the single most important decision in evaluating a business,” and the best indicator of whether a company has an enduring business. Yet most SaaS startups are only beginning to contemplate their pricing power, let alone at a stage when they can fully leverage pricing as a strategic growth driver. They typically ask how to get started on their pricing journey, what they should be doing and what success looks like.

To determine the maturity of your pricing and get advice on reaching the next level, we’ve created a simple interactive pricing maturity survey. The survey diagnoses where you excel and where you have room to improve, then recommends next steps for your business. As we collect more data, we will be able to benchmark your performance against peers at the same stage of growth and who sell into similar customer segments. Click the button to get started, and please leave any feedback and suggestions in the comments!

Take the Survey

The post SaaS Pricing Maturity Calculator appeared first on OpenView Labs.

14 Nov 17:55

Why Your CXO Events Aren’t Paying Off… And Five Ways You Can Improve

by Sharon Gillenwater

Before I started Boardroom Insiders I worked as a consultant to some of the biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley, helping them improve their return on investment in industry events.

Along the way I developed specific expertise in CXO events—those rarified experiences designed to attract the highest level of executive. As CIOs, CFOs, CMOs and even CEOs became important target audiences for technology vendors, my clients worked to navigate the CXO event landscape. Many even launched their own C-level events with varying degrees of success.

With Chief Information Officers becoming one of the most popular targets for tech vendors, events targeting CIOs have proliferated. The “holy grail” is Gartner Symposium ITxpo (ITxpo for short). Their annual event, just held in Orlando last month, is arguably the biggest gathering of CIOs in the world, attracting more than 3,000, as well as thousands of other senior technology executives. It regularly sells out and has expanded to seven other cities worldwide. If your company is seriously targeting enterprise CIOs, you have to be there.

Participating in ITxpo is a very, very expensive proposition. It’s not just sponsorship fees; many vendors invest in parties, dinners and other add-ons, such as industry-specific sessions and special exhibits designed to wow and engage attendees. Every year, ITxpo sponsorships and “extras” sell out months in advance.

So you get the picture. This is one hot event with everyone trying to stand out and grab the attention of the biggest players in technology.

But here’s the disconnect. Despite their staggering investments in ITxpo and other major events, few companies go the extra mile to engage meaningfully with the attendees, particularly the CIOs. Instead, what prevails is a “build it and they will come” mentality.

To its credit, Gartner tries to lead sponsors in the right direction with pre-event conference calls in which attending CIOs talk about what gets their attention. I sat in on a few of these over the years and the CIOs always say more or less the same thing:

Tell me how you can solve my business challenges and help drive my business goals and I will meet with you. If you are just giving me a generic sales pitch, I’m not interested.

Yet year after year, I’ve watched companies fail to follow this advice. It makes me nuts to witness such a huge (and costly) missed opportunity. Here are some of the essential things that companies fail to do at CXO events like ITxpo—followed by five things you can do to improve your ROI at CXO events in the future.

They don’t identify which of their target accounts are registered for the event. Gartner—and many other event producers–often provide this info to top sponsors weeks and months before the event. While they don’t share the names of the registrants, they will give you a list from which you can find out, for example, that 25 people from GE are registered. Their titles are also typically provided, so you can figure out which business units or departments the attendees are coming from.

Even when they do know which accounts are going to be on site, they do little or nothing to try to engage these accounts. Sales leaders have told me that without the exact names of who is coming, it is “awkward” for their salespeople to reach out to key accounts pre-event. Really? Why can’t a salesperson call a customer and say, “Hey Joe, I know you guys are sending a lot of senior people to XYZ event and that one of your big initiatives is ABC. I think we can help you with this. Can we set up a meeting on site with you or some of your colleagues?” I worked with one company who spent hundreds of thousands sponsoring ITxpo and in the end had just a handful of meetings even though thousands of their top customers were on site. Major fail!

They treat everyone the same: If you have a $100 million customer on site, shouldn’t you plan a special experience for them, as opposed to a $500,000 customer—or a prospect? Companies should segment their audience and create special VIP experiences for top accounts. I have made this recommendation to many clients over the years but they seldom follow through. And this next point below is the main reason why they are unable to do so.

They fail to get their own CXO team to leverage major conferences as a crucially valuable face-to-face-customer opportunity. Many who work on ITxpo or other big events are unable to convince their own C-level leaders of their importance. With so much talk about the importance of being “customer centric” and engaging customers at the C-level, it is amazing that more tech company CXOs don’t use key events as an opportunity to learn and network alongside some of their most important customers. Imagine you are a CIO and a sales leader tells you that the CIOs of many of your top 100 customers are going to be at an event. Would there be any question that you should be there, investing several days, setting up as many customer meetings as possible, hosting hospitality events and participating in multiple sessions alongside customer CIO peers? How better to spend your time than meeting face-to-face with your most important customers? And how convenient is it that so many are in one place the same week?

The failures described above are common across many different types of CXO events, including proprietary events costing hundreds of thousands—and in some cases millions—of dollars. As a rule, companies spend more time and money on planning the food and beverage than they do targeting and learning about their C-level attendees! ITxpo is just one example of how we have seen companies fail to do what is required in order to make the most of their investment in a CXO event.

OK, end of rant. Now let’s look at five things you can do to get some real value out of your investment in CXO events.

1. Ensure Your Own CXOs’ Participation: If you are targeting enterprise CXO customers, you need to have your own CXOs at the event. Period. Enterprise CXOs want to meet their peers. In fact, if you secure a commitment from your own CXOs early in the game, you can use their presence as a hook to schedule more customer meetings. Some companies designate one or two CXOs to be the official “hosts” of their customers and build a whole VIP experience around them that includes receptions, customer lunches and dinners, by-invitation-only presentation sessions, meetings in a company hotel suite, VIP booth tours, prioritized seating at keynotes, etc. Do you get how a customer CXO might be a lot more interested in this type of experience than a vague invitation to “Come meet with us?”

2. Have an Account-Specific Strategy: Your top accounts merit special pre-event outreach and activities such as those described above. Obviously you can’t invite every single account to be a part of your VIP events, so you should prioritize whom to invite and then make a special effort to get them to attend through personalized communications and CXO-to-CXO outreach.

3. Prioritize CXO-to-CXO Meetings: Private CXO meetings are where the rubber meets the road. An event like Gartner ITxpo gives your CXOs an opportunity to knock out literally dozens of customer meetings without having to travel all over the country. It goes without saying but just to be clear: you should prioritize your most important accounts for these meetings and make sure that every scheduled meeting is worthy of your CXOs’ time.

4. Do Targeted Pre-Event Customer Outreach: Meetings between CXOs don’t just happen on the fly. Their time is scheduled months in advance. I have seen companies just hope and wait for a CIO to happen by their booth. Really? Instead, decide which customers you want to engage and then design a strategy for doing so, well in advance. Executive-to-executive outreach works best, so ask your CXO sponsor if they can send out personal emails (that you write for them using information you know about each customer) or make a call to their peer to seal the deal.

5. Do Your Homework—Thoroughly: Once you have a CXO’s commitment to meet with your company, do your homework so you can brief your executives on every aspect of the customer, their company, and your company’s relationship with them. This includes not only information from your CRM and sales team, but up-to-the minute external research including any published interviews and insight from their latest earnings call. One tech CXO said that he doesn’t go into a meeting without knowing absolutely everything there is to know about the customer, including “what color socks they are wearing.”

And, as President Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” This is a great guiding principle when it comes to planning your presence at CXO events. Time and money spent getting your own CXOs on board, targeting the right customers, and doing your homework on them is more important than the catering.

14 Nov 17:55

9 tricks for getting people to do what you want

by Áine Cain

woman boss talking directions

At the end of the day, your ultimate professional success could rely on one basic thing — getting people to do what you want.

The trick is, being persuasive without adopting dishonest or manipulative tactics.

However, no matter who you are and what industry you're in, the ability to influence others is crucial.

Here are nine methods for persuading others — some might seem a bit tricky, but they could provide a serious boost to your career:

1. Always have a good visual handy

A picture's worth a thousand words.

As Forbes previously reported, Dartmouth University's Brendan Nyhan and Georgia State's Jason Reifler ran a study looking into strongly held political convictions.

The researchers presented information that contradicted with the worldview of the study participants — hoping to see what it'd take to persuade them. Subjects didn't respond well to a written summary of evidence or attempts to assuage their self-esteem and make them feel comfortable.

However, all isn't lost. According to the study, charts were actually persuasive.

This won't always be easy — it's not like you'll always have a chart or a powerpoint on hand whenever you need to convince someone of something. However, this is an important to keep in mind. Cold facts and personal connections won't always do the trick — sometimes, a visual presentation is the edge that you need to sell your point.

You don't even have to get too fancy. As Stephen Meyer wrote for Forbes:

"All visuals used in the study were simple plain-vanilla graphs, so their power had nothing to do with fancy design or big production values. They were effective because they spoke to the brain in its native language."

2. Make people feel good

Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion," lists "liking" someone as a major "weapon of influence."

According to the American Psychological Association, when we have a good feeling about someone, we're more likely to find them persuasive.

That's not too surprising. Still, for anyone that's a bit shy or awkward, that probably sounds easier said than done. However, as Business Insider previously reported, there are a few habits that you can get into in order to come across as more likeable.

3. Look the part

Would you buy something from a salesperson who's slouching, fidgeting, and avoiding eye contact? Of course not! They could be the most honest person in the world, but it wouldn't matter. Their body language projects a lack of confidence at best, deception at worst.

If you're going to become persuasive, you've got to brush up on some body language tips and start looking the part.

4. Repeat yourself

"Words, words, words," as Hamlet said.

Repetition can be pretty annoying. In writing, it's horrendous if overdone. In conversations, it's brutal (we all know someone who keeps cycling between the same few anecdotes — or, if you're like me, you are that person).

However, repetition in speeches and pitches isn't necessarily a bad thing. Plenty of famous speakers employed rhetorical devices that involved repetition. Feel free to adopt it to emphasize and drive hope your point.

5. Make people want to help you

The American Psychological Association reports that Cialdini found "reciprocity" is a key factor in persuasion.

This makes perfect sense. People tend to be more comfortable supporting individuals who've demonstrably done something for them.

So it's not a bad idea to start establishing a network of people that "owe you one."

6. Don't whine

When you're trying to present a convincing point, it can be difficult to strike a good balance. You don't want to appear passive, but you also don't want to come on too strong.

John Brandon of Inc. writes that it's probably better to air on the side of honesty and politeness:

"Some of the most miserable people I know have this attitude about persuasion that it's all about cajoling others. You try to trick them — usually through a stern attitude or a demanding voice — to get what you want. It doesn't really work, unless 'what you what' is the same as feeling miserable."

7. Demonstrate your value

What makes gold, diamonds, and Ninetales so valuable?

Scarcity.

According to the American Psychological Association, scarcity it another one one Cialdini's principles of persuasion.

People tend to value what is rare and unusual. It can be tricky sometimes, but try to use hat psychological quirk to frame and construct a convincing argument.

8. Have people do favors for you

Counterintuitively, people tend to like you more when they do things for you. It's called the "Ben Franklin effect." So if you can put yourself in a position where others do favors for you, that's a good start. As Changing Minds notes, Franklin once wrote, "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged."

9. Tell a story

Humans are emotional creatures. Data and facts are crucial, but if you really want to be persuasive, you've got to appeal to emotion as well. This means finding a compelling way of conveying what's on your mind. Whether you're speaking with your boss, interviewing with a hiring manager, or even giving a presentation, you should always strive to tell a story.

SEE ALSO: A Stanford psychologist shares a smart trick for landing your dream job

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NOW WATCH: Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer explains the 3 keys to building a powerful brand

14 Nov 17:54

The Best Way to Squeeze Every Last Drop of Marketing Value from Your 2016 Budgets

by Cindy Underwood

With less than two months left until the end of the calendar year, it’s time to take stock of what resources you have left.

By this point most holiday planning and expenditures have already been made. Depending on how their years have gone, many marketing leaders will find themselves with a little margin left over in certain budgets. If you’re one of them, how can you make the most of the various pockets of cash lingering in your marketing department’s balance sheet?

One of the most reliable ways to get consistent productivity from spare budget space is, without a doubt, contract marketing staffing solutions. It’s an excellent way to bring in extra production capacity and expertise to work on a pet project, overhaul outdated systems, or give your hard working full-time team a little breathing room.

Use It or Lose It

budgeting for marketing staffing solutions

Depending on your business, your fiscal year may end on December 31st or at some other time. Regardless, after that point any unused funds you had available throughout the year will typically be removed by that time.

Unanticipated wiggle room in the budget can appear all the time, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps a big campaign you planned earlier in the year ended up being a little cheaper than originally projected. Maybe the heads of the businesses opted to divert extra funds your way for a big last-minute push.

It may be appropriate for some parts of the business to aim to operate under budget whenever possible. Marketing is usually not one of them. Unused funds are missed opportunities for better ROI and short or long-term growth.

Of course, that’s not to say that you should spend extra cash frivolously. But if there’s a consistent, smart place to invest them then, you should take advantage of it. And fortunately for marketing leaders, there’s one sure bet that reliably drives returns in almost any situation: talent.

Marketing Staffing Solutions: The Sure Bet

The wisest investment you can ever make in marketing is into talent. But when you’re dealing with temporary budget surpluses, you can’t count on those funds being available in the future.

That usually closes the door to full-time hires. You don’t want to bring someone new in if you’re unsure where their salary will come from next year.

But there are still plenty of talent resources out there to pull from that don’t require an indefinite commitment. Interim marketing consultants, contract marketing staffing, freelancers and more can all add experience, expertise and production capacity to a marketing department that’s been stretched thin throughout the year.

Perhaps best of all, that temporary expertise doesn’t have to end at midnight on January 31st (or whenever your fiscal year ends). A good marketing staffing agency can work with you to pull from existing time-sensitive budget space and structure a contract that makes marketing talent available well into the future.

Where to Look for Budget Leeway

interim marketing consultants finance

The way I’ve been talking, you’d almost think that most marketing leaders just have piles of cash laying around ready to be used at their discretion. The reality, of course, is that most of your marketing budgets will typically get used up more or less as expected throughout the year. It’s not like marketing departments are just overflowing with money.

That said, you may be able to pull from more budget buffer space than you realize. There are the typical marketing department budgets, of course—campaign and special project funds, technology and IT budgets, vendor accounts, etc.

But don’t forget to look at agency budgets, reserves set aside for consultants, and the general operating budget. These are places that senior marketers who get wrapped up in the day-today rigors of marketing might not consider. But with a little creativity and an experienced staffing partner, any extra space found in these cash pools can be translated into more experienced marketers working alongside your team.

Ideas for Making the Most of Your Staffing

Most senior marketing managers have a million things on their plates. There’s no shortage of directions they’d love to divert more hands and brains. But if you’re lucky enough to find yourself with some spare budget and wondering whether to put it towards a flexible talent resource, here is some inspiration:

  • Knock out that pet project you’ve been sitting on. You know the one I’m talking about. Every high-powered marketing executive has a vision that they’ve never been able to execute due to lack of capacity. Bring in just the right expertise for the job through an interim workforce to get your idea off the ground. You can even try something crazy you’re not 100% sure will work.
  • Get a systems audit. Sure, your marketing operations are performing well enough. But are they the best they could be? Bring in a growth hacker or other interim marketing consultant to evaluate your internal processes, tools, and systems to identify obvious problems that you might not have noticed.
  • Modernize outdated assets. Got some old creative assets that look like they’re from the 90’s (because they are)? What about clunky site pages and legacy code that are killing your SEO and customer experience? Use your marketing staffing solutions to bring the archaic parts of your business into the modern era.
  • Reinforce your team during extended absences. Are you expecting a member of your marketing department to be on extended leave due to vacation, maternity, sabbatical or something else entirely? Find a contractor with the right skills to fill the gap while they’re gone and minimize the disruption of their absence.
14 Nov 17:54

The pound is tumbling

by Will Martin

The pound is sliding on Monday, falling off recent highs, thanks to a strengthening dollar on the day.

Sterling charged higher on Friday, reaching its highest level since the "flash crash" that caused a massive drop in the currency's value in early October, but it has now all but erased those gains after US bond yields surged in overnight trade, pushing the dollar upwards.

Around 3.50 p.m. GMT (10.50 a.m. ET) sterling is lower by roughly 1% against the greenback, dropping back under the psychologically significant $1.25 mark on the day. Here is the chart of how that looks:

Screen Shot 2016 11 14 at 15.50.26

US bond yields soared in Asian trade, which in turn, lit a fire under the US dollar which is rallying hard across the board.

Donald Trump’s pro-growth stimulus plans, even before specific detail is known, are creating a massive re-think across financial markets.

The move in US yields has seen the dollar rip higher in response with the US dollar index up more than 1%, something that in turn is driving sterling and currencies across the board, lower.

The pound had been steadily climbing in the past week or so, buoyed by the High Court's ruling that parliament must be given a vote on the triggering of Article 50, as well as an initial slide in the dollar after the shock election of Trump, which has now reversed.

By contrast, the pound has actually gained a little on the euro on Monday, up roughly 0.5% on the single currency. Here is the chart:

Screen Shot 2016 11 14 at 15.52.28

The euro's recent struggles are continuing on Monday, with the single currency falling to its lowest level since January against the dollar, extending its run of losses. Monday marks the sixth consecutive session that the euro has tumbled. Here's how it looks against the dollar today:

Screen Shot 2016 11 14 at 15.53.06

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: JAMES ALTUCHER: This is why owning a home is financial suicide

14 Nov 17:54

4 “Easy” Areas Where Marketing Technologists Often Fall Short

by Ashley Paris

4 easy areas where marketing technologist often fall short.pngI was a sophomore in high school, anticipating my first-ever “session.” A session is a term used to describe 20-30 minutes spent playing a musical instrument, by yourself, in front of your music director to be assessed for a chair in the school’s band. (Oh, and former band geeks – I am looking at you, because you know exactly what I am talking about. Don’t hide).

This harrowing collection of minutes was made even more terrifying by the fact that your “chair” represented how skilled you were at your instrument. First chair = the most skilled. Last chair = the least skilled. In Manchester, NH at the ripe age of 15, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

I’d spent hours practicing my scales as well as all the prepared pieces (to this day, I find the best cure for anxiety is preparation), and I was thinking I had a terrific shot at first chair. On the day of my session, my parents wished me good luck and I skipped off to the bus, hopped on and made it all the way to school. …without my clarinet.

The moral of the story is this: it doesn’t matter how well you execute the hard things if you can’t get the easy things right. By easy, I mean common sense, non-strategic tasks. Clever offers are can be rendered useless by poor deliverability, and real-time personalization becomes irrelevant for mobile users when websites aren’t responsive.

Below are my top four ways that B2B marketing technologists forget their clarinet:

Lead Routing

The first time a credible lead is misrouted (or worse, not routed at all) to the follow-up function, your reputation takes a crippling roundhouse to the gut. You don’t get unlimited chances to get lead routing right – so don’t roll it out until it’s fool-proof.

Speaking of foolish, many demand marketing organizations base their lead routing on legacy business rules that are nearly impossible to automate. The best thing you can do is intervene before an error occurs and have a frank and honest conversation about this with a sales management or operations function. One of two things typically occurs: the rules are slowly modified to something that’s more standard and easier to automate, or human intervention is permitted to ensure better accuracy.

Naming Conventions

Chefs, you can’t cook an epic meal in a messy kitchen and expect to serve it on time! Naming conventions, while not the sexiest topic to tackle when you’re bringing a new piece of technology into the fold, are critical to the productivity of the application’s users.

Come up with an intuitive convention that will meet the needs of the users, and be reasonably self-explanatory to those who are not intimate with the application and teach it as part of your training and/or onboarding process. If you don’t, two years from now you’ll be staring down the barrel of a massive renaming exercise; and trust me, your time is better spent.

Lead Forms

I could probably write a whole post on how lead forms can be mishandled, but this is about getting easy things right. So, integrate your forms to post to the marketing database first, and let the marketing database automation standardize some of the submission data prior to updating CRM. It doesn’t take a long time, and you’ll thank me later when you don’t have 150 leads named Mickey Mouse in Salesforce.com.

Also, use some field validation for both required fields AND field formats. Don’t want @GMAIL.COM or @YAHOO.COM? Prevent submissions with these addresses. Want phone numbers in XXX-XXX-XXXX format? Use validation to set the formatting prior to submission.

Personalization

Personalization is different than dynamic content in that it typically occurs at the field level. Therefore, field formats and hygiene on fields used for personalization as well as overall restraint is critical! Stop me if you’ve seen this one before:

Dear ASHLEY ,

Management/consulting can be a tough business. We help companies of your size 0-10 employees all the time. Give me a call if you want to discuss the different ways that we can help. I’ll also be in BOSTON, MA next month if you’d like to meet up!

Sincerely,
etc. etc.

Sincerely? Really? Because there is no way a human wrote that message.

Personalization is backfiring all over the internet because marketers don’t keep merged fields tidy, don’t use restraint, and don’t test their personalization at scale.

Now it’s your turn: Which ones did I miss? What are your biggest headaches?

14 Nov 17:53

Are You Delivering Cross-Channel Personalization? Learn What Under Armour and Saks Are Doing Right

by Ernan Roman Direct Marketing
Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
Under Armour Custom Shopping AppThere is a chasm between what customers are expecting in terms of personalization and what marketers are providing. According to findings from research conducted by TimeTrade; “93 percent of retail decision makers claim that personalization is a strategic focus but only 25 percent of shoppers say they receive a consistent, personal experience across channels.” According to TimeTrade CEO, Gary Ambrosino, “to remain successful … brands must … ensure that service is prompt, personalized and consistent across channels.”
Personalizing per your customer’s individual needs is a 360-degree pursuit. It doesn’t stop at the home page of your website or your consumer’s email inbox. Personalizing the entire brand experience with Human Data that addresses individual’s lifestyle and interests is critical for building long term relationships versus one-shot sales.
Per recent research conducted by our firm, marketers must make a profound shift from implicit data (information data mined or provided by customers for short-term interests or needs) to explicit self-profiled preference Human data (information provided by customers in the Preference Center of a site or through dialogue boxes). Findings from 2500+ hours of VoC research interviews for clients such as Gilt, MassMutual, IBM, HP and QVC, indicate that implicit data is simply not delivering on customer’s expectations of value. To drive high levels of relevance and personalization, Millennials in particular, are willing to provide deep explicit Human Data regarding their preferences.
Fitness company, Under Armour offers “UA Shop”, a lifestyle-based Custom Shopping App for their customer that provides a deeply personalized experience based on a shopper’s athlete inspiration, workout history, and previous purchase history. For example, depending on the type of activity logged into a connected fitness tracker and their geographical location, a shopper will be presented with specific product suggestions relevant to their situation.
Jason LaRose, Senior Vice President, Revenue, at Under Armour noted about the app, “This app was created to … complement our existing in-store experiences … We are now able to provide custom experiences across our various categories specific to our diverse customer base.”
High-end retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue have long offered in-store shopping services, but with today’s busy on-the-go consumer, that service needed to be upgraded and expanded to include a virtual component. Today, Saks lets its customers connect with Saks Associates 24/7 to create personally curated saks.com boutique pages, via a dedicated URL. Interaction also includes live chat, email or scheduled appointments. In addition, Saks Associates can showcase personalized “storefronts” to customers through email and social media or via a mobile app.
“This is a highly personalized online solution to selling …” commented Marc Metrick, President, Saks Fifth Avenue, “with access to Associates 24/7, personalized services and more, we finally have the ability to bring the high-touch Saks experience and store environment online.”
TakeAways
  1. Your customer, BtoB or BtoC, is a human being, not a cohort or data segment. Personalizing their full brand experience across all channels and touchpoints lets them know that you are listening and customizing interactions/solutions per their individual needs.
  2. Showing your shoppers how a product can solve a problem or enhance their lifestyle in a meaningful way lets them envision the brand as a true partner in their life. The brand becomes less about the sale of and more about a long-term ongoing solution.
  3. Today personalization is about putting the consumer in the driver’s seat to determine how they want to engage, what they want to engage about, and when that engagement should take place. Brands need to become nimble in order to provide the types of personalized experiences their unique customers require.
Using Human Data for 360-degree personalization is about using consumer-supplied preference data to address lifestyle and interests, not to sell, but to build long-term relationships. Consumers now expect brands to know their needs and present them with highly personalized solutions and experiences.
14 Nov 17:53

8 Ways Great Service is Just as Special as Your BFF

by Steve DiGioia

As a kid growing up in Brooklyn New York I spent countless hours with my best friend. We were neighbors and always together. Whether going to the movies, playing ball or doing other “kid stuff”, we had great times together.

Great Service is Just as Special as Your BFF

Moving forward many years I sat down today to write a new article on what makes great customer service. As I listed specific characteristics I realized how much in common they have with a good friend, a BFF (best friend forever).

Here’s 8 Ways Great Service is Just as Special as Your BFF

A Warm Smile

Your eyes widen, your stress and anxiety lessens and your day seems a little brighter. That’s what your BFF’s smile does for you. The world is a better place because of him/her.

When we enter a business nothing starts the interaction off better than a warm welcome –

“Good afternoon, welcome to ___________, how may I help you today?” Follow next with a sincere smile and you are off to a great customer service start. Great businesses hire for personality first and train for the job skills second.

No Lies

Best friends don’t lie.

Great businesses don’t lie to their customers either. They sell products/services that work as intended with no hidden surprises. When something goes wrong they face up to it and make it right.

Show Empathy, a Good Listener

Best friends “feel the pain” when one is sad, hurt or in trouble. They quickly understand the situation, show compassion and do their best to ease the discomfort.

A great customer service representative doesn’t have to be told when the customer was wronged, they realize it immediately. They use LEAP (Listen, Empathize, Apologize, and Problem Solve) to correct the customer’s issue right away.

Give the Benefit of the Doubt

BFF’s don’t second-guess one another. They take the other at his/her word – no handshake or contract is needed. They have full faith that each will do as they say and will complete the task to the best of their ability.

Customers do the same with the businesses they frequent. They don’t assume anything will go wrong. Delivery will be on Wednesday? No need to think otherwise. Dinner reservation is for 7pm? I know my table will be ready. Great businesses deliver on their promise to provide great customer service.

No Shortcuts

Best friends wouldn’t think of undercutting or shortchanging the other. You just don’t do that to your BFF.

An honorable business that respects their customers acts the same. They don’t use substitutions, nor lower quality ingredients and never use “bait & switch” tactics. How else can you provide great service if your product doesn’t match your word?

You Know What to Expect

You can count on your BFF when needed, no question she’ll be there. You can tell what dress she’ll wear to the dance and what power-tie he’ll have on for the big job interview. Your friend is the model of consistency and security. No surprises there…

As a customer, you expect the same from the businesses you frequent. You want the same shopping hours, same quality of product, similar pricing structure and you love dealing with the long term employees you have become “friends” with over the years.

That is part of your customer-first appeal. Your motto: “To do what’s in the best interest of the customer”.

You Show Appreciation

You can always count on getting a card or phone call from your BFF on your birthday or other special occasion. The regular communication confirms your relationship as mutually beneficial and valuable. You treasure these moments.

“Thank you for your business” cards, frequent shopper discounts, special membership days, behind-the-scene tours and customer appreciation days are some of the many ways a business shows how much they value your business. This continues each day after by providing you with great service.

Acceptance of Change

Life is a journey and so is a friendship. Tastes in music, dress and appearance will outwardly change your friend as you know him/her. That doesn’t mean the person “inside” has changed or their beliefs have morphed away from what originally attracted you to each other. This is the next phase in their life and you accept this as any great friend will.

I have heard customers complain about the new carpet or wall coverings of their favorite business and loudly show their disappointment. The product hasn’t changed, the service hasn’t changed nor has the management. Only the superficial trinkets that make up the décor have been upgraded, as is needed from time to time.

This is no reason to complain or become resistance to change. I bet if they didn’t make renovations you would complain about their failure to reinvest in the business, correct?

This leads to the last item…

You Forgive

During the course of a friendship not all is perfect. Words are said or actions taken that put stress on the relationship. But, when a friendship is valued, you see through difficult times toward the moment when all is right – and you jointly work to get there.

It works the same in business. There will be times when service falters or expectations aren’t met. Does that mean you stop doing business with that company? For some the answer is yes. But for most this is a minor setback that is quickly mended.

A valued relationship takes time and is worth the effort because great service is just as special as your BFF.

image courtesy of viralnova.com/best-friends, with some help from me…

14 Nov 17:52

Canadian tech firms will have their pick of overseas talent thanks to Trump's anti-immigrant policies

by Cory Doctorow

canada_us_pipeline_border

The massive talent shortage in tech has all kinds of weird effects: the inability to outbid tech giants means that badly secured hospitals get devoured by ransomware; it means that companies that value diversity get to outmaneuver much better-resourced competitors; it means that companies that pledge to be ethical can edge out their competition (and that unethical conduct can have real costs); and it means that companies get so desperate that they form industry-wide criminal conspiracies to try to short circuit the seller's market for tech skills. (more…)

14 Nov 17:52

Make Sure Your Statement of Work Has These 5 Things

by Paul Cannon

Over the past 10 years of consulting I have written and reviewed hundreds of Statements of Work (SOWs). One can get so bogged down in the details that they can miss these major oversights in all delivery methodologies. Whether you are looking at a PowerPoint proposal or a 30 page contract SOW, here are 5 quick things to ensure are in all SOWs. While these tips may seem like common sense, I have found one or all of these details missing from nearly 100% of the contracts I have reviewed.

1) Business Outcomes

This is the foundation of every project so it should never be missing from the SOW, and likely the first section. Almost all problematic projects are due to an unclear vision. If you are still in the process of defining the requirements, it is best to start with a workshop and then move on to a full SOW. Use the SMART method to determine if the right amount of details are in scope: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. If a coworker or family member cannot explain what the scope is and what success looks like then, this foundational section needs to be updated until it is crystal clear.

2) Explicit Details

If its not written down, don’t assume it will get completed. Make sure you understand all the assumptions and details up front. If an SOW states that some objective will be completed, always question how much work (how many days, how many tasks, how many widgets). Do not stake your success on an outcome based (generalized outcome) contract only. You should, instead, ensure the contract includes assumptions on effort, time, and quantity that will be required to complete the stated objective. This is good for all parties involved.

3) Project Schedule (Work Breakdown Structure) and Resource Plans

A Project schedule does not have to be complicated but should a visualization that will easily point out these three things.

How long is the project going to take and what are the phases? Don’t get caught in big bang approaches. You want to start showing value as quick as possible, on short sprints, and with increasing functionality. You do not want to get to the end of a 9 month project, and find that none of the expected functionality and value has been implemented. The iterative approach may seem to extend the timeline, but it almost always shortens the full length of the project.

What does the resource plan look like? Know who the players are, what are they doing, and what are their deliverables (including samples if you can). Look for resource overhead that matches your organization’s expectations. If its a simple project in a simple organization then you may find 0-20% overhead fairly common (basic project management). However, if your organization requires a lot of project management alignment, detailed documentation, increased UAT or burn-in time, or lots of change management then expect to see upwards of 50% overhead. Be realistic and don’t underestimate the need.

Do you know your own resource plan? How many people are you going to have to pull out of work during the design session? If they are not available this will extend the contractor’s hours. If this is a teach to fish approach (which it should be), how many people will you need to dedicate to meet the project goals? Make sure your resource planning matches your expectations of budget and schedule.

4) Out of box functionality.

But 80% of functionality is really standard accross all industries, especially companies within each industry. That means that you should focus only on what makes your business unique. Otherwise you will be spending money trying to recreate a very proven well designed wheel.

With that said, the key thing to focus on in an SOW is the differences. The extra 20% of customizations makes up more than the 80% additional cost. Make sure the proposals separate these costs out. This is good for all parties because it will help you understand why something that you thought might cost $10K now cost $1.5M. Every change in base functionality comes with a hourly cost to build plus overhead.

5) Adoption planning

Adoption plans are often an afterthought; left out or minimized in 90+% of SOWs I have seen. You bought into the value of the product but now you need to focus on how you are going to get the value. Skimping here can have much greater costs down the road. While it is ultimately your responsibility to lead the adoption, let the experts provide the guidance. Adoption planning starts at the beginning of every project with proper communication planning, marketing, champion growth, stakeholder involvement, rolling out training plans, etc. The additional effort here will be absolutely essential to the overall success and ROI of your project. Define the appropriate amount based on the business outcomes and vision, but make sure you have a clear outline of how adoption planning will be delivered.

Following these 5 tips will help drive strong communication between you and the consultant. This kind of communication and clear expectations up front will make for a much more successful project and happier stakeholders. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (Benjamin Franklin).

14 Nov 17:48

Get Over It

by Tibor Shanto

By Tibor Shanto – tibor.shanto@sellbetter.ca 

As an outsider, I find watching the reaction to the elections in the States on Tuesday interesting from a sales point of view. To be clear, this isn’t one of those hollow “What can sales people learn from the USA elections?” It is almost like every event has some lesson or insight for sales people, considering that more things that businesses consume are sold rather than bought, there is bound to be a parallel between almost everything and sales. Sometimes obvious facts and realities are lost on the “80%”, because they spend most of their time “taking orders” from self-motivated buyers. So when they are actually involved in a real competitive “sale”, and have to do things to win the order (other than discounting and negotiating with their own company rather than the prospect), and it doesn’t go their way, how they react becomes the measure of those reps.

This post is about the reaction to the outcome, specifically the reaction of those who did not get the order. I had no horse in the race, it’s not my country, so far be it for me to lecture our neighbors to the south, just I don’t want any none Canadians pontificating on Canadian politics and policies.

But the reaction is worth exploring. It is a reaction I and many are familiar with having watched reps’ reactions after having lost a deal, or during a pipeline review, where it is clear that most of the opportunities in the pipeline have about as much chance of closing as Lincoln Chafee had of winning his party’s nomination. A reaction which I am sure would have been the same had the other side won.

It seems that in both sales and politics, it is easier to look for blame outside of your control, than to spend time understanding what you could have done differently to change the outcome. Sure it is easy to blame the product, the familiar chorus of “What-ifs, Maybes and Might-Have-Beens”, but if the product could sell itself, then what role would we in sales have? (Oh ya, take the order). As a friend of mine once told me, “if it was easy, they would not need us”.

Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn sign with sky backgroundGreat sales people look to understand what they could have done differently, so they can do it differently and better next time. They don’t waste time and energy looking for excuses and outside factors that they feel – but can’t prove cost them the sale. Real sellers understand that there are things they cannot control or change, and things they can, the best focus on those things they CAN change and influence, and work to understand how things they can’t control can impact them and their desired result. The also-ran “80%”, resist change, which leaves them


questioning the outcome, rather than question what they could and should have done differently
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.

The parallels also extend to the pundits, those wagon jumping sages, who can always tell you what will happen, and why when it does not, why they couldn’t see it coming. Same in sales, despite the data available, many are to inwardly focused and lining up with the latest fashions and labels, rather than sharing practical, proven and experience based executable insights. Instead on Monday they’re Sales 2.0, Wednesday Social Selling, Friday ABM, what next?

You want different results, do things differently, there is usually a lot less risk in trying change than the results of sticking with it, then complaining when you failed. You can’t change the past, but you can the future; you can learn from the past and do things differently the next time. Time to start executing rather than excusing.

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The post Get Over It appeared first on Renbor Sales Solutions Inc..

14 Nov 17:48

5 Innovative Ideas for Scoring a Meeting with the C-Suite

by afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost)

innovative-strategies-get-meetings-c-suite-877590-edited.jpg

Getting a meeting with a junior or mid-level prospect is challenging enough. Getting a meeting with a member of the C-suite? That can feel nearly impossible.

To earn time on an executive’s calendar, a salesperson usually needs to do something out-of-the-box.

Professionals at the top of the ladder are incredibly busy -- and therefore highly protective of their time. They usually delegate these meetings to their direct reports, waiting to get involved until it’s time to approve the purchasing decision.

Reps can circumvent the traditional buying process with these five ideas, which will help them get an executive’s attention, make a good impression, and ultimately, win a meeting or phone call.

1) Send a Book to the Prospect

A rep can usually connect with even the busiest executive by sending them a well-chosen book. Not only will the executive be impressed by the creative gesture, she’ll also likely feel obligated to get in touch (at the very least, to say thank you).

As an added bonus, the executive will remember the rep every time she sees the book in her office.

Salespeople can use a few methods to pick out the right read. First, they should search “Goodreads + [executive’s name].” If prospects have Goodreads accounts, they’ll have indicated which books and genres they enjoy, which is incredibly valuable information for reps. It’s relatively simple to find a similar book -- especially if salespeople use the “People have also enjoyed” section of Goodreads.

Social media can also give reps insight into which books prospects would like. For instance, if an executive regularly posts articles about productivity hacks, he’d probably like a productivity-focused book.

Books about the prospect’s industry or vertical are also typically safe bets.

2) Mail Them Your Ideas -- With a Post-It Note

Reps should always strive to add value to buyers’ lives by sending them ideas for improving their business. It’s easy to do this via email, but research suggests mailing executives a physical copy of your notes can be vastly effective, provided you do one thing: Put a Post-It on top.

Randy Garner, a behavioral science professor at Sam Houston State University, ran an experiment testing various methods of getting 150 professors to complete a survey. Fifty professors got a survey with a sticky note attached asking for the return of the completed survey, another 50 got the same survey with a handwritten message on the front page instead of a Post-It, and the last 50 got a survey with a cover letter, but no handwritten message.

The professors who received the survey with the sticky note had the highest response rates by far: 76%, compared to 48% for the handwritten message and 36% for the typed one.

Garner hypothesized Post-Its are so effective because they’re personalized and visual. They also make the recipient feel special.

To capitalize on this effect, salespeople can type a brief or helpful tip sheet and put a sticky note on the front saying something along the lines of, “Could you give me a call after you read this to share your thoughts?”

3) Suggest a Speaking Opportunity

Many executives use public speaking to build their personal brand. But it’s not always easy to find relevant speaking engagements. Reps can win the C-suite’s ear (and gratitude) by suggesting an upcoming conference or event that would be a good fit for their expertise.

Here’s an example:

 

Hello Dan,

I watched a recording of your Connect talk on the Internet of Things and thought you made some great points. Your suggestion on government involvement was especially compelling and well-presented.

Have you considered speaking at the IoT-themed TED event in May? I saw they’re currently accepting speaker applications and thought of you. One of my good friends is helping with that event -- let me know if you’re interested in an intro.

Best,

Sophia

send-now-hubspot-sales-bar

To find appropriate events, salespeople should look into these opportunities:

  • Business networking groups (ideally located near the executive)
  • Colleges and universities
  • Industry conferences and webinars
  • Local service and Rotary clubs
  • Relevant Twitter chats

It’s also a good idea to set Google alerts for “[executive’s industry] + event”, “[executive’s industry] + conference”, and “[executive’s industry] + speakers”.

4) Go to Their Event

Attending prospects’ existing speaking engagements can also lead to relationships. Salespeople can stay up-to-date on executives’ speaking gigs by following them on social media, reading the “Announcements,” “Updates,” or “News” section of their company websites, and setting Google alerts such as “[executive name] + speaking”, “[executive name] + panel”, and “[executive name] + presentation”.

Because reps might be attending along with hundreds or even thousands of other people, it’s crucial to have a strategy for connecting.

A week or two before the event, salespeople should email the executive or reach out on social media to say something along the lines of, “I’m excited to see you at [event]. Will you be covering [relevant topic]?”

They can also propose a 20-minute meeting with the goal of providing value in some way. For instance, a rep might suggest meeting to discuss which initiatives the executive’s competition is investing in.

Salespeople should also try to make contact at the event itself if possible. Since executives are usually mobbed by attendees, a quick “thanks for speaking” is probably the best reps can hope for. But if they manage to get more face-to-face time, salespeople can leverage it by asking an insightful question about the executive’s presentation, congratulating them on a recent business or career development, and/or suggesting a relevant resource (like an ebook or white paper related to their prospect’s talk).

After the event, reps should send a thank-you message including a relevant nugget of value. For example, a salesperson could write a blog post about the executive’s speech and link to it in his email. Alternatively, he could suggest an idea for his prospect’s next presentation.

5) Create a Custom Cartoon

Stu Heinecke, author of “How to Get a Meeting With Anyone,” says he has seen ROI in the millions of percent on personalizing cartoons for his target accounts.

To borrow Heinecke’s technique, salespeople can commission a graphic designer or artist. Upwork, PeoplePerHour, and Guru are good sources for finding budget-friendly freelancers for these types of projects.

Wondering what to include in the cartoon?

“The trick is to steer the choice of cartoon based on the truth it reveals, and how that relates to the issue you want to address with the recipient,” Heinecke says.

For example, imagine a rep’s research showed the executive’s company just acquired a startup, and she’d like to offer her company’s IT integration services. She might send a cartoon of two employees discussing the complexities of unifying two technical systems.

If salespeople are mailing a physical cartoon, Heinecke suggests putting a message on the back of the cartoon “proposing a meeting and explaining why it’s worthy of the CEO’s consideration.”

Sending a digital one? Attach the cartoon to your email and write your note in the email body.

Because these strategies are time and labor-intensive, salespeople should reserve them for especially valuable or hard-to-penetrate accounts. For example, if their average deal size is around $3,000, spending twice as long to close a $6,000 deal would make sense -- but doing so for a $3,500 deal probably isn't the best use of their energy or time.

HubSpot CRM

14 Nov 17:48

3 Nuances of B2B Consumer Psychology that You Can Use to Boost Revenue

by Laura MacPherson

In one sense, the distinction between B2B buying psychology and B2C is a false one. Companies don’t buy services or products — human beings with concerns, fears, dreams, and goals do. In either case, we’re dealing with people. Whether you’re a B2B or a B2C company, you need to know how your buyers think and what motivates them to take action. But B2B psychology has a few nuances that you should know about if you’re selling business services or products.

1. Motivations of the B2B Buyer

The B2B buyer is often motivated differently than a B2C consumer. While both buyers’ motivations are founded in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, they manifest differently in work life versus personal life. Here’s what motivates the B2B buyer:

  • Pain Points – Prospects care about their pain points and what your products or services can do to solve those problems. Pain points can be overarching issues that the business is facing or more personal challenges a buyer faces, such as not having enough time to fulfill the requirements of a boss.
  • Gain – The opposite side of the pain coin is gain. B2B buyers want to get the next level and improve their lives, not just avoid pain.
  • Social Influence – Human beings are hardwired to first trust recommendations from people they know. Because of this, they look at reviews, case studies, testimonials, and what their connections are saying on social media.
  • Familiarity – One of the best predictors of future behavior is past behavior. B2B buyers are motivated by their past experiences. This line of thinking follows the theory that “what’s worked in the past must work in the future, and what hasn’t worked in the past won’t ever work.” To sell change, you’ve got to overcome this hurdle.

2. B2B Pricing Psychology

Some B2B industries tend to price well. SaaS comes to mind, with their focus on levels of what the software does for the user. But professional services companies are notorious for using bad pricing psychology.

When you’re shopping for a car, you don’t ask the salesperson for an itemized timesheet of all the hours that went into building the car. You look at the results of that labor: the style of the car, how fast it can go and how quickly it can get up to speed, how well it navigates turns, the comfort level of the ride. . . . Why, then, do we ask professional services companies for an hourly account of their time? And why do professional services companies want to price this way?

B2B buyers are focused on the value a service will deliver, and professional services firms should be too. Your pricing strategy shouldn’t be built on things the buyer doesn’t care about. If you want to be profitable, you’ll need to tie to your pricing to the value you provide, or at least be able to present it in terms of that value.

3. Emotionally-Charged Decisions

With the majority of B2C purchases, the worst a buyer has to fear is the loss of a few hundred or thousand bucks on a bad purchasing decision (and maybe having to listen to his or her significant other lecture on how dumb the decision was). With B2B purchases, often the buyer is risking much more — potentially his or her job if things don’t work out and the company loses a lot of money as a result. The stakes are higher. You’ll need to build trust and position your company as an expert authority on the issues the buyer is facing. Use case studies, testimonials, and other forms of social proof (such as online reviews).

Remember that as a B2B firm, you’re selling to people, not a faceless entity. Invest in the necessary research to understand your particular buyers and what they care about, what drives them, in their purchasing decisions. When you focus on their individual concerns and address their emotional needs as human beings, you’ll see your revenue rise in proportion to the value you deliver.

content-marketing-cheat-sheet-cta

14 Nov 17:48

Sales Organisations: from Good to Great

by Bob Apollo

Jim Collins “Good to Great” has been the inspiration for many CEOs who are determined to elevate their companies from run-of-the-mill to lasting greatness. There are many lessons to be learned from the book, but one of the most significant is the idea that before organisations can stand a chance of realising their potential, they must get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and get the right people in the right seats.

This concept holds true for every department, but the principles have particular relevance for companies seeking to build an excellent sales organisation that is capable of significant, scalable growth whilst delivering reliable revenue performance every quarter along the way.

Making bad hires or failing to address personnel issues has a particular impact on the sales function. In organisations with complex or lengthy sales cycles the knock-on impact of bad recruiting or the acceptance of poor performance can resonate for multiple quarters – and cause sales leaders to lose their jobs…

EXPERIENCE ISN’T ENOUGH

Markets and buyer expectations are evolving so fast that we cannot rely on experience as the primary factor in recruitment decisions. Attitude, aptitude, adaptability, curiosity, cultural fit and the capacity for continuous learning have become far more effective predictors of long-term sales success.

If we are to recruit the right sales people onto our sales bus, then we need to assess their character as well as their claims of accomplishment. We need to judge whether they are likely to fit in to our environment, and whether they have a powerful internal commitment to continual personal development that is not dependent on how many training courses we end up paying to send them on.

My observations suggest that the more people candidates interact with during the interview process, the better – including their potential peers. The more we test what they are capable of actually doing, rather than saying, the better – through realistic role plays and scenarios. Conducting formal role based psychographic sales assessments can also make an important contribution.

A 360° PERSPECTIVE

But what really seems to matter is taking the time, combining all the inputs to get a complete 360° view of the candidate, and involving multiple people in the decision. It’s expensive in time and resources. But the cost of a bad sales hire is far higher. Recruitment is hard: I’ve learned that it’s critical that we take the process seriously, set the bar high, and refuse to accept sub-standard hires.

Which then leads to the question of where we stand with regard to existing members of the sales team. Were they in retrospect the right people in the first place (would we hire them again?), are they still the right people, and are they in the right seats – from the perspective of both their potential contribution to the organisation and their personal development goals?

Just as in recruitment, attitude, aptitude, adaptability, curiosity, cultural fit and the capacity for continuous learning are the key indicators of whether any individual has the potential to do better than they currently are. But they are also the factors that tend to be innate and hardest to change.

DIFFICULT DECISIONS

It can lead to some tough conversations, but we cannot afford not to confront these issues. We need to give able people who are willing the chance to improve. We may need to accept that we have failed them and that we need to do more to enable them to realise their potential. But both in recruiting new talent and managing the existing team, ensuring we always have the right people on the bus in the right seats is one of every sales leader’s most critical responsibilities.

We can’t ignore how easy or difficult it is to manage each individual. Our chances to change behaviour are highest where people are open and responsive to fresh ideas and keen to learn. Conversely, we can all probably reflect on the frustrations of trying to manage someone who refuses to see the need for change, and may even overtly or covertly rebel against it.

Organisations typically only tolerate these “lone wolves” for as long as they deliver their numbers. But even that tolerance may be misplaced. If these mavericks cannot see how the world is changing around them, it’s only a matter of time before their luck will inevitably fail – and let’s not forget that their impact on the rest of the team can often (but not always) be corrosive.

Having observed a few of these situations over the years, I’ve concluded that attitude and aptitude problems have to be confronted, even if sales performance appears to be currently satisfactory. If attitude and aptitude show promise, it’s worth investing time to see how the individual can be developed and whether they would do better in another seat on the sales bus.

LEARN FROM THE BEST – AND LET THE WOLVES GO

Understanding what makes your role-model top performers tick, and systematically sharing their best practices with the rest of the sales organisation can be tremendously productive, and is usually welcomed with open arms by sales people who are willing to learn and committed to continual personal development.

As far as the “lone wolves” are concerned, you need to make it clear that their performance is assessed not just in terms of their personal revenue numbers, but the way in which their results are achieved and their contribution to both the satisfaction of the customer and the well-being of the sales team as a whole.

These conversations needs to take place, and they can’t be informal: they needs to be clearly documented and deviations from expected behaviour recorded and reviewed, because you may need this information to justify a conclusion that the individual no longer has a role to play in your future sales organisation.

Some sales leaders take the view that “lone wolves” are incapable of changing their spots (to mix a carnivore metaphor), but I believe that it’s worth at least one honest attempt to help them recognise the need to for change, and to support them in achieving it. But there need to be limits to our tolerance.

In the long run, excellent sales organisations are built from smart individuals in appropriate roles, in a supportive environment in which the whole team learns and develops together. So – when you think about your sales organisation today, and your ambitions for the future: do you have the right people on the bus in the right seats? And what are you doing about the people that will only hold the bus back if they remain on it?

14 Nov 17:47

7 Conversion-Sabotaging Words to Avoid at All Costs

by Brad Smith

Words matter. People may not read everything, but they do scan. And they process information subconsciously at lightning speeds to determine if they’ll click or bounce within a few fractions of a second.

So while some words, like “Submit” on your button, may seem innocent enough… they could be costing you dearly, turning away visitors in droves.

Conversion Killing Words

Here’s why, along with a few other conversion-sabotaging words you need to replace in your emails, ads, and landing pages ASAP.

Conversion Killer #1: “Submit”

“Submit” is a derivation of submission. And therein lies the problem.

We ain’t talkin’ kinky 50 Shades of Grey stuff, but a negative connotation with yielding to someone or something superior. People, as a general rule, don’t like yielding. (Remember that whole Revolution bit?)

Especially when even the slightest suspicion of required payment might be involved.

This was proven definitively years and years ago by Dan Zarella and HubSpot. They took a look at the conversion rates of over 40,000 customer landing pages and quickly noticed a huge discrepancy…

Conversion Killing

When CTA buttons included the word “submit,” conversion rates tended to drop immediately by a few percentage points.

To further validate, they queued up another test that would rotate CTA text randomly between a few different options. Here’s what they found:

Conversion Killers

Unsurprisingly, at this point, the word “submit” performed worse than a few other common CTA text options like “click here” or “go.”

The hypothesized reasoning is that these other variations feel much less committal and imply a lower investment of time and effort.

The negative connotation is one problem. But another is the vague, generic nature of the word.

In general, the best CTA’s are as specific and actionable as possible. That means you start with a verb, or action oriented word, that describes what a person’s going to get (e.g. “Click Here to Get My Report”).

Here’s why generic quickly devolves into meaningless.

Conversion Killer #2: “Synergy”

What’s the fastest way to learn terrible copywriting?

Get an MBA.

Because in just a few short weeks, you’ll find yourself spewing out “synergy,” “competencies,” and a host of other clichéd, meaningless words that have old professors nodding their heads in approval. (This, coming from someone who has their MBA.)

As evidence, go visit almost any B2B website outside of marketing and advertising.

Your eyes will glaze over, your face will contort, and a sudden bout of narcolepsy might hit at any moment.

Many times, clients and bosses don’t notice anything wrong at first either. They’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid too long, like your crazy cat-lady aunt who doesn’t notice that her house reeks of cat nip, hair balls, and litter boxes.

Thankfully, the kind people from Unbounce came out with the amazing Dejargonator to quickly and humorously diagnose these issues for the people we answer to.

Sondra Example

The problem with “best in class” and all other common business jargon (besides the fact that it also appears on every competitor’s website) is that customers can smell the BS from a mile away.

The best explanation comes from Peep at ConversionXL who points to cognitive fluency and “the heuristic that Easy = True”.

Sounds stupid, right? But Peep points to research that shows easily pronounceable company names perform better in stock markets (hardly the barometer of rational decision making), and simple fonts are more believable.

In other words, as the Boston Globe points out, “it turns out that people prefer things that are easy to think about to those that are hard.”

But wait, there’s more!

The first problem is that the average person’s reading comprehension ain’t that good. So anything above a 7th or 8th grade reading level will be too difficult and complex (which is like, really low dude).

The second, is that people aren’t focusing or reading online; they’re scanning and multitasking and browsing and tweeting while also (kinda) looking at your page.

The solution in most cases? Cut the BS. Rewrite anything with the faintest resemblance to what you learned in skool school.

Conversion Killer #3: “Spam”

No, not the canned mystery meat kind. The graymail kind that your customers are already overwhelmed with.

They’re being bombarded with hundreds of emails each day. Trillions are being sent by marketers each year.

So you’d think, logically speaking, that assuring visitors you won’t spam them would help conversions. Right?

Unfortunately that’s not the case. “Spam” is a huge stop word – or no no – that causes people to become apprehensive and hesitate.

A test carried out by Michael Aargaard showed the surprising ramifications. He added the seemingly harmless line of “100% privacy – We will never spam you” in between the form fields and submission button.

Typically, these extra credibility indicators surrounding a CTA can help to give conversions a nice little boost. But not in this case.

Messaging Tests

Huh. Strange. You’d think a statement assuring people of their privacy would help. But this time it backfired by over 18%.

So Michael switched it up.

He wanted to reinforce the same message, but alter the wording to change from a negative connotation (i.e. bringing up something like “spam” that people weren’t really considering before) to a positive one.

The winning variation provided a 19.47% lift, landing on: “We guarantee 100% privacy. Your information will not be shared.”

Conversion Messaging

Michael has even repeated this process several times, finding similarly poor results when placing the possibility of “spam” in people’s minds.

Messaging Tests

The lesson?

Avoid words with a negative connotation (as we saw with “submit”) in general, and use additional messaging to reinforce the positive aspects of what someone is about to get.

Conversion Killer #4: “We”

“We” opens a door. It’s like the gateway drug of bad copywriting.

One small hit, and you’re quickly off to dabbling with bigger, badder things.

While it might seem harmless at the time, “we” puts you on a path to jonesing for a fix of “synergy” and “best in class” in no time.

But keep in mind, that as a general rule, people don’t care about you. Instead, they want a “better version of themselves.”

This is especially so for all those visiting your site at the top of the funnel, who haven’t realized a need for your product or service yet. They’re Googling solutions for drilling a hole in their wall so they can hang a picture… they’re not looking for a drill (just yet).

Path to Conversion

That means the focus of messaging should be centered around said problem and solution, not a tool, product or service.

Conversion Messaging Example

Joanna Wiebe says it goes back to trust. Or lack thereof.

She points to a quote from Rohit Bhargava on Likeonomics: “The first and most basic reason for distrust is because there are so many companies and people who choose to lie to us either by making misleading claims or simply by hiding the truth.”

Instead of “we”, Joanna recommends:

  1. Begin with “you”… or
  2. Begin with no pronoun at all (like a question or a command / call to action)

Conversion Killer #5: “Your”

The copy on most websites is written in the second person. And that’s a good thing!

Copywriters are taught to use “you” instead of “they” when explaining the benefits derived from the latest product or service.

Take the completely hypothetical example of writing a blog post that discusses which words hurt conversions. To drive your points home for maximum resonance, you would write tips and takeaways to a specific audience by speaking to “you” as much as possible.

But as always, there are exceptions.

When focusing on a CTA or specific conversion event, the “possessive determiner” should switch back to first person.

Another test from Michael Aagaard proves the point. Michael initially thought that “your” in the CTA button copy would work best. It’s commonplace all over the interwebs after all.

But here’s what he found.

YOUR as a conversion killer

Almost a 25% difference, just by switching a single word.

He then repeated this process on an Unbounce landing page, switching “your” free trial with “my” free trial and saw similarly significant results.

Conversion Rate Test

Most landing pages and blog posts should write directly to a single person, using “you” and “your” liberally.

However…

When writing CTA copy, switch to “my” to give people ownership of the benefit they’re about to receive.

Conversion Killer #6: “Free”

You’d think, on the surface, that “free” increases conversions. And it does in most cases.

The last example a few seconds ago used a “free trial” to generate more interest (and clicks).

But as always, there’s exceptions.

The first (albeit tiny) issue is that the word “free” can trip up spam filters in email messaging.

The second, bigger problem though is a curious case of over optimization.

For example, less form fields will typically mean a higher conversion rate. Just by whittling down your landing page form fields from the oppressively long 11 to only four you can boost conversions by 120%.

The problem is that more conversions isn’t always better.

A Totango study showed that 70% of the people who sign up for free trials are useless, with only around ~20% of those actively evaluating the product.

Accidental Signups

Software company Moz found this out years ago, where the most profitable customers didn’t convert on the first or second visit, but only after 8+ visits. “Many, many visits are often correlated with high purchase prices,” Rand Fishkin reported.

So while the word “free” can (and will) increase initial conversions, you should be optimizing for sales and revenue – not vanity metrics like leads or impressive (but hollow) conversion rates.

Robert from Neuromarketing says: “if you are trying to encourage sampling of a product that appeals to a specific audience…a very modest charge will throttle demand but will eliminate most samplers who have no use for the product.”

Conversion Killer #7. “Save Time & Money”

So far we’ve seen that vague, meaningless, overly generic phrases are bad for conversions.

The culmination of them all – the cherry on top and the pièce de résistance – is “save time and money.”

This simple, albeit ever-present phrase is a (non)favorite of Joanna Wiebe’s, who lovingly refers to it as “lazy ass messaging.”

Yes, this seemingly harmless phrase raises vitriol in seemingly one of the nicest people around the interwebs. Why?

Because it takes a piece of everything bad from the previous six words and rolls them up into one terrifyingly conversion-repellent Frankenstein.

In other words, it breaks one of the very first rules of copywriting that says you should write to a particular audience. And Joanna shows in the last link that people either value one or the other, not both equally.

The easiest solution isn’t actually a copywriting trick at all, but a strategy one. Employ inbound funnel segmentation to try your hardest at getting only one audience to a dedicated page (by linking your content to a specific acquisition channel or segment).

Conversion Flow

But what if there’s no way around it? What if you HAVE to cater to multiple audiences – like on your homepage?

Then roll up your sleeves and dig a little deeper into who you’re speaking to, and what they value most.

Again, Joanna gets all the credit with her flashy Venn diagram skillz:

Venn Diagram

The key is to ferret out those few ingredients that make your offering awesome & unique, which both audiences value.

You want the stuff that overlaps, which will help you create a specific value proposition that reinforces your primary aim (of driving conversions), while avoiding the same generic crap showing up on each of your competitor’s websites.

In Conclusion…

Not every successful landing page is a long-form squeeze page with thousands upon thousands of words. Many, if not most, are just a few simple lines with a killer headline and strong CTA.

In these cases, making each and every word work its hardest is imperative. You literally and figuratively can’t afford words and phrases that don’t pull their weight.

Online, that includes “stop words” and words which turn the focus away from your audience and selfishly onto yourself.

Thankfully, many people have already done the research and testing to show us the light. We just need to be aware of it and then follow it.

14 Nov 17:14

7 Surefire Tips for Generating New Website Leads

by Guest Post

7 Surefire Tips for Generating New Website Leads written by Guest Post read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Generate a little business buzz with a few simple methods.

A staple of your marketing strategy, lead generation can help stir up additional interest in your products and services. Companies of all sizes can and do benefit from implementing multi-channel efforts to boost website leads, from an email newsletter to social media and more. But website lead generation doesn’t need to rely exclusively on online channels to be effective. With a balance of both web and in-person strategies, you will gain leads in places you may not have thought to look.

1. Take your pitch on tour

Find some events where you can come in as a speaker to talk about your areas of expertise.  Conferences are great venues for this, as the attendees tend to be on the wealthier side and are open to new ideas. And while you probably won’t be pitching your products and services directly, you can negotiate terms with the event organizers. For example, ask them if you can get your business listed as a sponsor rather than receive a personal speaking fee. Of course, you may need to speak for free, to begin with, as you build up your speaking reputation.

2. Give your audience a voice

Make your social media followers more excited about your business by asking them to contribute to the conversation. Asking a question is one of the best ways to facilitate this kind of engagement. For example, you could ask your followers if there are retailers where they’d like to see your products made available. This kind of question would inspire your followers to go to your website to first see what products you carry before they make suggestions. It also does wonders to build personal relationships with your followers, as you ask for their ideas, respond to them (in a timely way!), and follow through on getting your products into more retail establishments.

3. Reach out to brand influencers

Brand influencers typically gather their subscribers through social media outlets like blogging or video blogging. While viewers are aware that some product promotions are sponsored, they also tend to feel a bond of trust with the influencer. They trust that they would not be pitched an item if the blogger didn’t truly think it was worth it, which is often true. But before you begin cold-emailing every blogger under the sun, take the time to learn about their niche market and determine if your brands and values align with theirs. Then develop a strategy to reach out to them.

4. Spruce up your email signature

This technique will take you a few minutes upfront, but from then on won’t cost you a second. Simply set up your default email signature to direct them to your site. Here’s an easy example (without images, but feel free to add one!):

Best,

Sally Sanders

CEO & Founder, <Company name here>

<Company website URL here>

5. Broaden your networking

If you’ve been networking within the same circles over and over again, you may not be reaching as many new leads as you could be. Consider joining some national groups, larger online communities, or hit up a networking event the next time you travel. Don’t forget to add some variety to your contributions as well. It’s okay to tell people about your company, but your peers will also appreciate the advice, resources, and a genuine interest in their businesses from a fellow small business owner.

6. Go looking for questions to answer

Check out some of the more heavily trafficked general question forums like Quora. Look for questions that you and your company can help to answer. Some forums will allow you to link back to resources, which will give you an opportunity to plug your website. But be careful to make it genuine, helpful, and relevant to the question. Otherwise, such a blatant advertising plug may deter leads.

7. Offer incentives

Incentives are an effective draw to any website. Promoting elements like sales, scarcity, or limited time deals can spur some immediate leads. Use your email newsletter and social media to draw leads in, but also remember to add a welcome message (some use pop-up messages) to your website when the visitor initially arrives. This will make the sale obvious and/or provide them with the necessary code to access it at checkout.

As a small business owner, I recognize that you’ve probably got a lot on your plate already. So if taking on a full-scale digital marketing plan doesn’t fit into your schedule, it may be worth it to hire an assistant to help get it started. The help will pay for itself as you generate new leads and therefore new purchases. Of course, you can also wait until a few techniques have given your company more growth before bringing in a marketing assistant or full team. Either way, by incorporating the above tips into practice, you’re surely set for success.

Sophia MestSophia Mest is a Content Manager at BizDb, where she aspires to put her writing passion into practice and spread her words across the world. She spends her free time traveling and exploring the wonders of nature. Follow her on Twitter @MestSophia

14 Nov 17:13

Defining the Best Lead Nurturing Process for Your Sales Team

by John Shea

Lead nurturing is a critical skill for any company that hopes to sell its product to new buyers. It’s a tricky business that’s part art and part science, requiring both the human touch and hard data crunching.

What’s worse, lead nurturing requires completely different strategies for inbound and outbound leads, and a poorly executed strategy can be disastrous for the bottom line. To have any chance at successful lead nurturing, your sales and marketing teams need to be on the same page.

But how exactly do they get there, and what’s the most crucial piece of lead nurturing advice that you should be giving your sales team?

Having the Talk

Lead nurturing requires your sales and marketing teams to interact and interact constantly. It’s not enough to simply agree that marketing will pass leads to sales when the time comes. Both sales and marketing need to figure out exactly what a lead looks like, and what the best practices for nurturing leads are.

It’s also important to coordinate so that wires don’t get crossed.

If your sales representatives are working on their outbound leads just when marketing is launching a new email campaign, you might end up blasting the leads with the wrong message.

Bringing Sales and Marketing Together

Lead nurturing is also valuable because it helps to get the sales-marketing relationship off on the right foot.

When you have a string of failures with your leads, sales and marketing can end up in an unproductive standoff, where sales is disappointed in the quality of the leads and marketing suggests that the sales representatives have to capitalize better on the opportunities.

Talk to your sales representatives and ask them about their ideal prospective leads. Once you’ve gotten a clearer picture of what this looks like, you can use your marketing database to start targeting specific people or groups that resemble these criteria, rather than using a vague, one-size-fits-all approach.

When you talk with sales representatives, remind them that sometimes at the beginning they’ll get leads that are bad or that need more work than others. However, as you learn how to have the right conversations with the right people, you’re going to get leads that are really good sales opportunities.

Marketing, on the other hand, needs to put effort into nurturing sales qualified leads to the point where they’re ready for sales, and also needs to remind the sales team that not every lead will pan out. Have your sales representatives send feedback to marketing after they’re done pursuing a lead so that the two teams can learn from each other and get better at what they do.

It’s All About Expectations

The best piece of advice for lead nurturing that you can follow is to establish realistic expectations early on in the process. Let people know that this is a team effort and that there’s not going to be an immediate windfall of sales opportunities at the beginning.

If you promise a constant supply of great leads to your sales representatives, they’re going to be seeing dollar signs right away, and they’ll inevitably be disappointed when things don’t pan out quite as they envisioned. Lead nurturing needs to start from square one and it needs time to evolve and develop.

Set your expectations at a realistic level and have clear definitions for lead nurturing and sales qualified leads for the best chances at success.

sales enablement to improve ROI