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26 Mar 15:19

How Marketers Can Meet the Growth Imperative

by David Dodd

Marketing has always been linked with revenue generation and growth, but a rising number of marketing leaders contend that business growth is now the “prime directive” of the marketing function. Recent research shows that many marketing leaders believe they have become primarily responsible for driving growth in their organization, and that this belief is shared by CEOs and other senior executives.

  • In the February 2019 edition of The CMO Survey, 37.9% of surveyed marketing leaders identified driving growth as their top challenge. Delivering a powerful brand that breaks through the clutter came in second at only 13.7%.
  • In a recent survey of over 200 CMOs and senior VPs of marketing by the CMO Council and Deloitte, 27% of respondents said that the CMO is primarily responsible for growth strategies and revenue generation for their organization. The CEO came in second at 22%.
  • The CMO Council/Deloitte survey also asked participants what level of expectation there is among senior executives and board members for marketing to be a growth driver. Thirty-five percent of the respondents put the expectation level at high, and 33% said senior company leaders think growth is the primary mandate of marketing.

Most Marketers Still Live in the Brand Comfort Zone

Despite this view, however, the recent research also indicates that most marketers have not moved beyond conventional marketing communication tactics in their efforts to drive growth. For example, in the February 2019 edition of The CMO Survey, senior marketing leaders were asked to identify the activities or functions that marketing is primarily responsible for in their company. The top four activities identified were:

  1. Brand (90.9% of respondents)
  2. Digital marketing (83.3%)
  3. Advertising (80.3%)
  4. Social media (77.3%)

Other activities identified by more than 50% of survey respondents included promotion (71.7%), positioning (71.7%), marketing analytics (71.7%), and marketing research (69.7%).

In contrast, only 43.4% of respondents indicated that marketing is primarily responsible for revenue growth, and even fewer respondents indicated that marketing has primary responsibility for market entry strategies (32.3%), new products (31.3%), and market selection (26.8%).

The CMO Council/Deloitte study paints a similar picture. In that research, more than 40% of survey respondents said they were working on brand shaping and campaign execution activities, but only 6% said they were actively involved in growing revenue across all business activities, only 4% are providing sales intelligence and key account insights, and only 13% are working to retain and grow customer relationships through improved customer experiences.

Both Customer and Market Expertise are Necessary

Some industry commentators have argued that the most effective way to expand the impact of marketing on growth is to focus on customer insights. A recent article in the Deloitte Review urged CMOs to “relentlessly pursue customer expertise” and use that expertise to gain influence with other business functions. The authors contend that marketing leaders should develop expertise about the entire customer journey (including those parts owned by other business functions) and then leverage that expertise to build partnerships with other company leaders to improve customer experiences.

Developing expertise about the customer journey is obviously a critical part of marketing’s job, but it’s not the whole job. In order to identify and effectively exploit all growth opportunities, marketing leaders need to develop market expertise as well as customer expertise.

Market expertise includes customer insights, but it’s broader in several ways. As the term implies, the primary objective of market expertise is to understand the economic and competitive characteristics of the market in which the company operates. Developing market expertise requires marketing leaders to perform an analysis of several factors, some of which are:

  • What is the size of the market?
  • How fast is the overall market growing? Are some segments of the market growing significantly faster than others?
  • Who are the major competitors in the market? Is the market fragmented, or is it dominated by a few large competitors?
  • How profitable is the overall market? Are some market or customer segments significantly more profitable than others?
  • Is the market composed of a large number of small customers or a relatively small number of larger customers?
  • How easy or difficult is it for new competitors to enter the market?
  • Is the market vulnerable to substitute products and/or services?

This list is far from complete, but it provides an indication of the kinds of issues that marketing leaders should be analyzing on a regular basis.

Focus on Critical Buyer Behaviors

Market expertise also requires a clear understanding of the behaviors of potential buyers. The recent emphasis on delivering outstanding customer experiences has elevated the importance of understanding how and where customers and prospects interact with the business and what they are trying to accomplish during those interactions. Customer insights like these can be used to improve customer experiences, which will contribute to growth.

These insights are important, but growth-oriented marketers also need to understand the behaviors of potential buyers who do not become customers. More specifically, marketers need to identify whether potential buyers who become customers engage in different behaviors (or certain behaviors more frequently) than potential buyers who do not become customers. In many cases, these behavioral differences will reveal where marketers can have a major impact on business growth.

In my next article, I’ll discuss how identifying and quantifying the behaviors of potential buyers can help marketers exploit untapped growth opportunities.

Image courtesy of (Creative Commons License).

A version of this post originally appeared here.

25 Mar 15:57

Is Your CX Needle Stuck on Zero?

by Paul Selby

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Popular wisdom holds that companies are putting more and more effort into identifying and addressing the challenges their customers encounter to deliver the best possible buying and use experience. Five years ago, Gartner research indicated 89% of companies expected to compete on the basis of customer experience (or CX), a big jump from the 36% indicated in a survey four years before that. Time has shown successful brands have been able to differentiate themselves from competitors by focusing on delivering an effortless experience, ensuring every touchpoint is consistent and contributes positively to the customer’s overall journey.

Yet as 2018 came to close, Forrester observed that “CX quality was flat.” This was attributed to two factors:

  1. Across, the board, the impetus for most companies to improve CX quality remained at low levels across the board. This minimal investment of time and risk meant nominal, if any, improvement.
  2. At the same time, customer expectations have been steadily increasing. They predicted this will likely continue in the current economy, pressuring companies to focus on CX if for no other reason than to not fall further behind the competition.

CX is not an easy nut to crack. While it would seem much of the effort resides in what the customer directly encounters, much of that comes as a result of processes behind the scenes–and if those processes are broken, there’s little chance of delivering a great customer experience, let alone improving it, without addressing them.

Focus on the customer

With as much research that exists and the ongoing discussion on the topic of CX, companies’ first mistake is often a fundamental one: they fail to put the customer first in their business. A focus on the customer is critical, and to truly adopt a customer-centric culture it needs to come from the top.

Executives must recognize the importance of CX and prioritize resources accordingly. In the Forbes article above, former Sprint CEO Dan Hesse stated, “The customer experience became the first subject on our team meeting agendas.” Actions such as this help drive a customer-obsessed culture in two ways: importance is placed on getting it right for customers and departmental silos are removed that might be preventing CX improvements.

Solve problems cooperatively

Aligning the company to focus on customers is a good first step, as is removing silos in the business. The next step is to develop the processes necessary to solve CX impediments properly and permanently.

When customers encounter problems–from tracking their order to getting started using it to breakage or failure–they contact customer service. Customer service exists to hear and respond to issues impacting CX. They provide answers to the known problems and play the role of detective when new problems crop up.

A company might provide truly amazing service, but the reality is customer service is unable to address the underlying reasons problems occur. Billing issues stem from errors in finance. Product quality issues arise from mistakes in manufacturing or engineering. Shipping issues are owned by the warehouse and fulfillment teams. Customer service can respond to the call, email, or chat for these and other problems, but it’s the departments outside customer service that can resolve the root cause.

The solution is that these other departments must take ownership of the issue, identify the cause and potential solutions, and agree with customer service as to the best solution. From there, customer service can notify affected customers of the availability of a solution and get the customer back on track.

A fast, cooperative response with a permanent fix can lessen the CX impact. The bigger win, though, comes as a result of addressing the root cause. This ensures future customers won’t encounter the same problem, resulting in CX improvement.

Deliver service proactively

It’s clear perfect CX is challenging to deliver: there will be bumps in the road, and it’s rare an issue would only affect a single customer. In fact, a problem typically strikes a subset or even all customers. That’s why it’s so critical to quickly identify the root cause and to provide a permanent resolution.

While this approach prevents future customers from encountering the problem, what about existing customers that might be on a collision course with it? The answer is simple: the company must notify customers they are aware of the problem and have a solution (or are working towards one).

CX is negatively impacted when a customer faces a problem with a product or service, and further erodes when they must spend time trying to find a solution themselves or contact customer service. By preemptively notifying customers of an available or pending solution, the situation can be salvaged. Proactively alerting customers also lessens the impact on customer service by reducing the volume of calls, emails, and chats on the issue.

Make the move

It’s easy to understand why Forrester observed CX improvements stalling. Customers will always encounter major and minor problems on their journey. This means improving the customer experience will always be a challenging, ongoing concern for companies. But with a customer-first attitude and processes to permanently solve issues and deliver proactive solutions, moving the CX needle is not only possible but a lot easier.

25 Mar 15:54

Customer experience is biggest opportunity for marketers

by Joanna Carter

Chart of the Week: 39% of marketers believe that optimizing the customer experience is the biggest opportunity for businesses in 2019 The importance of good customer experience is hard to deny. Offering good CX helps to increase traffic and conversions, …..

The post Customer experience is biggest opportunity for marketers appeared first on Smart Insights.

25 Mar 15:53

Automated Push Notifications Are the New Secret Weapon of E-Commerce

Automated push notification is an optimal channel in the post-GDPR era, allowing e-commerce brands to push communications to target users efficiently, effectively, and easily. Now's the time to act--because late adopters will fall behind. Read the full article at MarketingProfs
25 Mar 15:53

There's dark side to AI in healthcare

by Zoë LaRock

This is an excerpt from a story delivered exclusively to Business Insider Intelligence Digital Health Briefing subscribers. To receive the full story plus other insights each morning, click here.

AI has made a splash in the healthcare industry, with a flurry of hospitals rushing to deploy AI technologies.

top 5 startups in ai for health

But the tech’s also littered with potential pitfalls, the consequences of which could have adverse effects on all players in the healthcare system, per research cited in The New York Times.

Here’s what it means: AI is susceptible to manipulation and may generate inaccurate diagnoses.

  • Slight tweaks can dupe AI systems into seeing something that isn’t there. Researchers revealed that a quick alteration of a few pixels in an image of a benign skin lesion led to a misdiagnosis that the lesion was malignant, for example. The AI system also incorrectly diagnosed when the scan was rotated.
  • And AI produces different diagnoses in response to synonymous symptom descriptions. For example, the tech spat out different diagnoses when doctors defined a symptom as “back pain” versus “lumbago” — despite the terms’ unvarying meanings.

The bigger picture: AI’s shortcomings could lead to shady behavior and costly medical errors.

  • Bad actors could game AI for financial gain. For example, hospitals could make alterations to patient scans in order to generate diagnoses that drum up higher payouts from payers. Or doctors could tweak their language to produce an intended diagnosis, whether or not it's accurate.
  • Unintended misdiagnoses generated by AI could lead to costly medical errors. Medical errors cost the US health system about $20 billion dollars annually and account for 100,000 to 200,000 patient deaths each year. Errors brought about by ill-trained AI tools could add to these losses, with hospitals bearing the brunt of the consequences.

AI's use in healthcare should be regulated to mitigate manipulation. While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last year that the agency would be developing “a regulatory framework to promote innovation” of AI in the health space, regulations and standards around AI in healthcare are still ambiguous, Forbes notes.

A formal regulatory process and monitoring framework around AI could curb misuse, negative outcomes, and bad press that could otherwise delegitimize AI and undermine the tech's impact on healthcare.

More to Learn

In Digital Health Startups to Watch, Business Insider Intelligence looks at the top digital health companies disrupting US healthcare in four key areas: artificial intelligence (AI), digital therapeutics, health insurance, and genomics. Startups in this report were selected based on the funding they've received over the past year, notable investors, the products they offer, and leadership in their functional area.

In full, the report:

  • Details the areas of the US health industry that show the greatest potential for disruption.
  • Forecasts the industry adoption of bleeding edge technology and how it will transform how healthcare organizations operate.
  • Unveils the top five startups in AI, digital therapeutics, health insurance, and genomics, and how they're positioned to solve big issues that key players in healthcare face.
  • Explores what's next for the leading startups, providing a glimpse into the future of the healthcare space and demonstrating how we'll get there.
Interested in getting the full report? >> Purchase & Download It Now

SEE ALSO: BIG TECH IN HEALTHCARE: How Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft are shaking up healthcare and what it means for the future of the industry

Join the conversation about this story »

25 Mar 15:45

VR isn't just for gamers — here's how Audi, Lowe's and Macy's are using it to boost sales and employee training (M, WMT, AUDVF, LOW, UPS)

by Peter Sarnoff

This is a preview of a research report from Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about Business Insider Intelligence, click here. Current subscribers can read the report here.

FORECAST: Global Enterprise VR Hardware and Software Revenue

Virtual reality (VR) offers immersive experiences in which users can hear, see, and interact with 360-degree digital environments using head-mounted displays (HMDs) and handheld motion devices. The technology has been historically associated with consumer-facing gaming, but it’s been gaining traction in the enterprise over the past year.

In fact, companies such as Macy’s, Lowe’s, Walmart, and UPS, among others, have all launched new VR programs since 2017. And as more businesses look to tap the technology, this will drive enterprise VR hardware and software revenue to jump 587% to $5.5 billion in 2023, up from an estimated $800 million in 2018, according to Business Insider Intelligence estimates.

This shows that retailers and brands should look into implementing VR as early as possible to better compete with other industry players who’ve started to use the tech, especially in three key areas: sales, employee training, and product development. All of the companies mentioned above are using VR to in at least one of these areas, enabling them to increase product sales, reduce product design costs, or speed up employee training processes, for instance.

In the VR In The Enterprise report, Business Insider Intelligence explores how VR can provide value to retailers and brands in three areas: sales, employee training, and product development.

The report begins by discussing potential pain points the technology addresses for each use case, examining in-depth case studies to illustrate how companies have implemented the technology, and outlining the broader takeaways each use case presents for brands and retailers.

Finally, it looks at some of the potential barriers to further enterprise adoption and how both companies and VR incumbents are actively addressing those obstacles.

The companies mentioned in the report are: Audi, Lowe's, Macy's, McLaren Automotive, Walmart, and UPS, among others.

Here are some key takeaways from the report:

  • VR enables consumers in brick-and-mortar stores to make more informed purchases, which could increase sales conversion rates.
  • Brands and retailers looking to ramp up their employees quicker should consider bringing VR into their training processes.
  • The tech can shorten brands' and retailers' product development life cycles by cutting down on the time associated with building expensive physical prototypes.

In full, the report:

  • Identifies key VR vendors and device form factors for businesses to consider.
  • Discusses key benefits the tech brings businesses for their sales, training, and product development processes.
  • Illustrates those key benefits by discussing real-world case studies from companies and the takeaways from those implementations.


SEE ALSO: When it comes to VR hardware, consumers are balancing price point and experience

Join the conversation about this story »

25 Mar 15:44

Taking Notes on What You Read, Listen To, and Watch

by Anthony Iannarino

We all spend a lot more time consuming content. Much of the material is empty calories, taking too much time with too little nutrition. But some of the content is nutrient dense, providing you with ideas and insights that, if executed or used in some way, will help you produce better results. While cotton candy content isn’t worth your time, the real content you consume is worth more of an effort to capture what you learned.

How many blog posts or articles have you read that you wished you would have captured the primary idea, insight, data, statistic, or opinion?

How many podcasts have you listened to without taking any notes, even though you heard ideas that would be useful to you later?

How many YouTube videos have you watched without taking action, only because you were leaning back instead of leaning forward?

The smartest people you read, watch and listen to all take notes on the content they consume. If an idea is worthwhile, it is worth capturing. If the content you consume offers nothing worth capturing, then it isn’t worth your time.

Here are a few ideas about how to capture meaningful and valuable content:

  • If the concept is potentially useful in the future, take a note and capture a link for future use. It is better to have the idea captured and not ever use it than to need it and not be able to recall the idea, where you found it, or how to get back to it later.
  • Write down your thoughts, ideas, and questions about the notes that you take after you capture them. Your notes are infinitely more valuable if you add context to them in real-time, or when you let them incubate throughout the day and review them later in the evening.
  • I am personally terrible at tagging notes, but every modern capture tool provides the ability to tag notes you take as a way to organize them. The reason tags are so useful is that the notes can have more than one tag, providing your flexibility in finding the idea by the context.
  • I have been alternating between reading real, hardcover books (still my favorite of all mediums) and reading on a Kindle Voyage. More and more, I am highlighting passages, words I need to look up and spend time with, and typing notes on the Kindle (which could use a Bluetooth connection to a keyboard). The ability to export this information is more efficient than writing notes by hand (and when your handwriting is as bad as mine, illegible notes are mostly worthless anyway) even if it is likely less effective for retention and recall. That said, notes taken are better than no notes, and I am writing my thoughts on ideas after taking them, which I hope improves my effectiveness in capturing the ideas in a meaningful way.
  • Treat podcasts like the written word. If the podcast is worth listening to, then take notes, even if it means pausing the podcast and dictating the note and the timestamp so you can go back over it later. YouTube is no different. If it is worth watching, it’s worth capturing anything of value. Save the link, too. Someday you may want to cite it.

If an idea is worth your time, take time to capture it.

Essential Reading!

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The post Taking Notes on What You Read, Listen To, and Watch appeared first on The Sales Blog.

25 Mar 15:44

Why Does Customer Success Fear Revenue?

by Kia Puhm

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on DesiredPath’s blog here.

The topic of Customer Success owing revenue is still one of the most hotly debated topics in the industry.

I have consistently found this curious.

While I see the rationale behind the arguments on both sides of the fence, it is the myopic viewpoints on the proposed solutions and how fervently they are argued that I find irrational.

To Own or Not to Own – That is the Question.

One camp states that Customer Success Managers (CSMs) should be trusted advisors to customers and that by owning revenue, it is not possible for Customer Success to impartially focus on product adoption and business outcomes.

Owning revenue is this case is a big no-no.

The argument is that benevolence, a requisite to make customers successful, is not possible while concurrently carrying a quota.

The other camp states that Customer Success is about customer retention and as such, it makes sense for the function to own revenue as part of driving customer adoption and business outcomes.

Doing so is not mutually exclusive and owning revenue is therefore supported.

The argument is that the purpose of Customer Success is to retain customers (i.e. revenue) and as such, CSMs of course need to be carrying a quota.

Trusted Advisor versus Customer Retention

As with anything in life, an ill-thought-out solution or one taken to extremes, usually does not work.

Focus on the trusted advisor approach without any consideration to revenue and I see companies typically over servicing and complicating the journey for their customers.

This approach leans towards a product-centric model with the Trusted Advisor CSMs eager to demonstrate a plethora of ways to use the solution within the business context, and Account Executives introduced into the mix come renewal time for a disjointed interaction within the customer’s journey.

Focus on the retention side without consideration to the customer’s adoption needs and business outcomes, and I see companies displaying the stereotypical worst traits of sales and customers with “shelf-ware.”

This approach leans towards a sales-centric model with the retention CSM motivated by quota and relying on a team of reactive subject matter experts and support specialists to “fix” accounts to get the renewal done.

The Triple Win Business Model

The answer is not simply where revenue resides within a company.

That “whack-a-mole” oversimplification of a business model ignores the multifaceted nature of the challenges that exist in creating successful customers.

(It is also naïve for any department within a for-profit company to think they can operate without contemplating revenue).

There is a whole range of pragmatic constraints that must be considered when structuring the right business model for a company, its employees and its customers.

The key is to solve those challenges holistically.

Hands down, by far the most effective way in addressing the various complexities is through a customer-centric model.

Aligning operations to efficiently drive successful, customer, product adoption and business value realization, aligns the company’s interests to those of its customers and employees.

Trust or revenue are then not mutually exclusive responsibilities for separate resources to bare, rather achieving both are built into the business model that sets up all roles to holistically and effectively drive successful outcomes producing the desired revenue.

Bottom Line

The prerequisite for revenue retention and expansion is driving successful, customer, product adoption and business value realization.

Customer-centric business models do this by effectively aligning the operations and interests of the company with its customers and its employees.

Who owns revenue within the company is then a decision based on pragmatic factors that keep the integrity of the customer-centric alignment intact (which means that the roles that should own revenue are very capable in doing so).

As such, revenue ownership is a very viable option for Customer Success and not something to be feared but a result of a well thought out business model that generates successful customers.

The post Why Does Customer Success Fear Revenue? appeared first on OpenView Labs.

25 Mar 15:43

Sales Incentives Aren't the Only Motivator. How One Company Got Rid of Them

by (Julia Kahn)

We can all agree: Money changes the way we act. It's arguably one of the greatest motivators. In sales, it can incentivize reps to work harder to close more deals, meet their numbers, and even adapt to new sales tech. If set correctly, incentives can have a positive effect on your team's behavior.

Download Now: How to Set and Meet Sales Quotas

But if all your reps care about is making money and winning prizes, your customers are going to catch on. Quickly. The commission, bonuses, and sales performance incentive funds (SPIFs) you thought were inspiring your team can become more harmful than helpful if reps put their numbers ahead of their customers, who can feel pressured to buy.

The reality is that most companies offer sales incentives — we at HubSpot do, too. But we put the customer first, and we compensate our reps for doing the same. But this takes time, a thoughtful approach, and the support of your entire company. Hear how we at HubSpot think about incentives and how we make sure we're motivating sales reps to do the right thing by our customers in the audio segment below.

However, there's no one correct, catch-all way to inspire your sales team. It depends on your business and what you ultimately want to achieve. That flat screen TV or Paris vacation aren't your only options. There are a myriad of strategies to motivate your reps.

Here's a story from one HubSpot customer about their shift to a 100% salary based sales team.

Less Is More

Sometimes, no commission or incentive is the best motivator.

This is what Michael Baker, the fourth generation owner of Pet Food Experts (PFX), discovered 10 years ago. His current salesforce focuses on supplying independent pet retailers with natural pet food and supplies. And its sales compensation structure includes no commission, no bonuses, no incentives, and no monthly SPIFs — their salesforce is paid a set annual salary like every other department.

In 1936, Baker's great-grandfather, Herbert, founded Rumford Aquarium, a retail fish supply store. Over the next nine decades, it expanded into what is today PFX — a one-stop shop for independent pet retailers.

Herbert Baker 1942

Rumford Aquarium founder Herbert "Salty" Baker in 1942 in his basement pet store. He specialized in live fish and aquarium supplies.

Source: PFX

When Baker became President and VP of Sales in 2003, eventually acquiring the company from his father in 2005, he was immediately wary of his team's commission-based compensation plan. He'd seen some of PFX's legacy salespeople take advantage of the system under his father's tenure. When visiting client stores to take inventory, they'd write excessive pet supply orders to pad their commission paychecks.

"These guys had spent a career mastering this old-fashioned art of getting away with things and clearly took great pride in exploiting their strongest relationships," says Baker. "I'd grown up with these men, they'd trained me, but I knew in my heart of hearts that there was no way I was going to curve that behavior. I thought it best for the business that we go cold turkey."

He let them go. Suddenly, the PFX sales team went from four to zero reps, despite having just doubled its territory beyond the New England region for the first time in the company's history.

Growing Pains

Shaking up his sales team wasn't the only change Baker made when he purchased PFX from his father — he also began to examine the company's mission and revenue sources. Up until this point, 93% of PFX's revenue had come from one single large vendor — and Baker recognized the need to diversify its portfolio.

"Having one vendor had never struck me as a threat. Every year we grew, and it seemed like it would never end," Baker says. "But I began to consider our success in the long term, as I was the fourth generation in our business. I didn't want to be the one responsible for destroying the family legacy."

Out of a "little bit of fear and a little bit of business sense," Baker began acquiring more companies and developing PFX's own sales strategy and relationships.

As he rebuilt his team, Baker experimented with different compensation techniques. He created a base-plus-bonus system for the first iteration of his new team, and eventually, he reinstituted generalized monthly and quarterly bonuses based on sales growth in the territory. He even started to offer SPIFs for reps who met short-term monthly goals.

Through these compensation changes, Baker found monthly SPIFs to be the most destructive. As their portfolio grew, the team strategized with new vendors to determine high-priority products for the PFX reps to push, assigning them as the "monthly focus brand." It was a key method of growing the business and attracting new vendors, who were thrilled with the numbers, but it put pressure on his salesforce to highlight certain brands to clients over others.

Buddy Baker - 02

Third generation owner of Rumford Aquarium and Baker's father, Buddy, in the 1970s.

Source: PFX

"Every vendor wants your sales guys to pull out their sales sheet first or show their bag of food first," Baker says . "They want to be presented at every client interaction — what vendor wouldn't?"

Part of promoting a "monthly focus brand" was securing endcaps at the end of pet store aisles. A few reps in each region were consistently overselling endcaps, sometimes by 50%. At first, Baker was thrilled. But two months after a deal closed, pet stores would return their endcaps because they were unhappy with the product and were promised a guaranteed sale — and there wasn't a way to pull back reps' SPIFs or bonuses.

"We were creating an incentive that was good for the vendor, the sales rep, and ultimately — if we had a guaranteed sale — for the client, too," Baker says . "But long term, it didn't make sense. We were incentivizing short-term bad behavior."

Baker's discomfort with his team's successes felt counterintuitive. After all, they were doing what he wanted.

"They were achieving, but it was like doing extra credit in school," Baker says. "They were getting 110% on a test, but it wasn't for the right reasons."

One of PFX's salespeople sold the most endcaps for seven months in a row, so Baker called to congratulate him and ask about his methods. The rep said that one of his customer's line accounts receivable had cut her off because she couldn't pay her bills.

"The rep paid her balance on his credit card and she bought two end caps. And the rep knew that customer didn't need even one," says Baker.


Three generations of Bakers (first from left and first through third from right) at the grand opening of the new Rumford Pet Center in East Providence, RI, in 1992. Baker is third from right.

Source: PFX

And that wasn't even the worst of his problems. When trying to reach their monthly goal, some reps felt like this method forced unwanted products onto their customers. One salesperson reported that selling chemical-based tick repellant to stores in New England was impossible — these customers were ahead of the curve and only wanted natural products to use around their dogs and kids.

Baker says: "My mission is to help independent pet retailers win. How can I do that if I'm pushing unneeded, irrelevant products they don't believe in down their throats?"

That's when PFX began really focusing on distributing natural, holistic pet foods to independent retailers. And that change in focus meant prioritizing customer relationships above everything else — including the happiness of his vendors. Baker needed to build trust with these small mom-and-pop retailers, and that wasn't going to happen by promoting a "monthly focus brand."

Baker found that he'd fallen into a trap of trying to please vendor reps, who themselves were incentivized based on how many trucks of supplies PFX bought. His sales team was promoting brands to clients not because they were good, but because they were paid to do so.

That's when Baker realized he couldn't change his vendors' behaviors, but he could change his sales team. Gone went incentives and in came salary-based pay.

Rough Transitions

Switching to a 100% salary-based compensation plan wasn't easy. The majority of his salesforce and his vendors didn't take it well.

Soon after Baker met with his teams and told them about the switch, many gave their notices. A few were upset about losing the ability to make more money, while others couldn't or didn't want to get used to the change.

‘It was a risk to abandon incentives, but it didn't sit right with what we were trying to build as a long-term, trusted partner of independent retailers," Baker says . "We couldn't afford to take advantage of these trusted relationships anymore."

Sometimes the new sales teams he's acquired since also find it hard to stomach. After adding a four-person sales team through an acquisition, Baker informed them that they'd be treated no differently than the rest of the PFX team and would receive a set salary. The team was displeased by the change — they were used to a 20-30% incentive compensation. Within a few months, all of them left.

"There's no doubt in my mind that the salary played a part in their leaving. They were just unable to live without commission," says Baker. "They were good reps, but they couldn't live with the switch."

Baker found it ironic that many of the reps who protested salary-based pay admitted to the fault in the original system — they were selling for the money, not because they were passionate about the product, their customers, or the company they worked for.

"People would say, ‘How am I going to get up in the morning? If I had a limited upside, why would I work extra hard?'" says Baker.

But these were people PFX could afford to lose. Baker brought on new, skilled reps who understand the company's mission, drive, and relationship-focused sales approach — reps who are motivated by a personal connection with their pet, care about animals' health and nutrition, and value their customers. For those who stayed and welcomed the change, watching their peers leave only made them believe in the company's mission more.

And his vendors? They're not thrilled about Baker's decision, but they respect it.

PFX's vendors still have the budget to reward his sales team. While Baker can't stop them from awarding bonuses, he can stop the money from benefitting one individual rep. Instead of allowing one member of his team to benefit from a vendor's incentives, PFX uses the money to celebrate company victories as a team.

The switch has been good to PFX.

"We've experienced growth, but we're most proud of the way we've done it," he says. "My next goal is to fortify our company culture, people, and systems."

Beating the competition isn't Baker's main goal — serving his customers is. PFX has a strong relationship with their clientele, who applaud his decision to operate without commission or incentives.

Replicate with Caution

When considering if he would recommend implementing an incentive-free system, Baker highlights that his career is in a singular industry, and this system may be difficult to replicate. It's very difficult to make the switch when a sales team is already used to a commission-based plan. Reps that are over-delivering — they're the ones that'll most likely walk.

MID Grand Opening-2015

The PFX team in the company's PA warehouse in 2015.

Source: PFX

"If I was going to start another business, I wouldn't choose an industry or a product line that didn't allow me to have this compensation plan. I've seen the light," he says. "If you have the right people, and if there's a clear purpose and need for whatever you're selling, then I don't see why this couldn't apply to anything."

Seven years later, PFX is still the only company with a salary-based salesforce within the pet food industry. Baker guesses it's because his competitors can't see themselves surviving after the switch.

But for Baker, it's worked. Well. And PFX's clients agree.

"Most importantly, the customers think it's great," Baker says. "They trust that when any of my reps walk into their store or calls them, they have no incentive to sell them something that isn't going to help them win. We have no reason not to do what's best for them."

sales quotas

25 Mar 15:43

How selling nothing is the most effective sales networking hack

by (Steli Efti)
sales-networking-sell nothing

Sales networking is one of the most painful activities in the business world. It usually involves awkward, over-enthusiastic pitches to people who are tired, impatient, and just want to get to their next panel discussion.

But having a strong network helps you grow your pipeline. It gives you perspective on your industry. And it can make you some really great friends.

If you do it right.

Most networking, frankly, sucks. Traditional sales networking, that is. There’s another way. It’s the best networking hack I’ve ever come across (if you can even call it a hack).

And it’s surprisingly simple.

The key to sales networking: stop selling

This is going to seem counterintuitive—but the key to making the right connections is to not sell anything to people you want to network with.

Sales networking without selling? How is that possible? It seems like the exact opposite of what you should be doing.

But it works. I’ve seen it happen firsthand.

How to network at SXSW (the right way)

I actually met a friend of mine that way. I was on a panel at SXSW and he stood out from everyone else that I talked to at the event—because he wasn’t hustling. He wasn’t “networking.” He was there to have fun, learn, and meet people. When he introduced himself, he didn’t immediately launch into a pitch.

What did this style of sales networking earn him?

One year later, he was close friends with some very influential businesspeople he met at SXSW.

He had invested in some of their companies. Some of them had invested in his company.

He even co-founded a business with one of the people he befriended at the event, and now he’s the CMO of a multimillion-dollar business in Europe.

There were thousands of people at SXSW trying to network with powerful, important, experienced businesspeople. But my friend stood out because he wasn’t selling anything at all. He was just there as a person, and he connected to people on a personal level.

The “anti-hustle”

sales-networking-hiten shah quote

This is what Hiten Shah calls the “anti-hustle.” People like Hiten and other big names in the business world are approached by hustlers all the time. Hustlers who are out to “make connections.”

Let me tell you: the people who get these requests find them taxing.

Especially at events where everyone is out to network. It takes energy to hear these pitches. People come up to you all week; they start with flattery, then ask for favors.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach. It’s still meaningful when you tell someone that you look up to them and would really appreciate it if they did you a favor. There’s a good chance that you’ll get that favor.

But that’s not the way to stand out. These people are busy, and you need to stand out when you try to network with busy people. The way to stand out is by not asking for something.

That’s how you build a relationship. That’s the real anti-hustle.

Relationships are more valuable than connections

Who do you think of as a connection? Think about it for a moment. Come up with a person or two that you would call a connection.

Got it?

Okay, now think of someone you’d say you have a relationship with. Which link do you find more valuable?

In almost every case, you’ll find relationships more valuable than connections.

How to create real relationships without selling

sales-networking-create real relationships

Instead of taking energy from the people you want to connect with, give them energy. That’s what made my friend at SXSW so successful. It’s what got him invited to VIP dinners, breakfasts with speakers, and all sorts of fun trips after the conference.

How did he give energy, instead of taking it?

  • He didn’t pitch or sell anything.
  • He was genuinely curious and eager to learn.
  • His sense of humor made him a hell of a lot of fun to be around.
  • He was fully present.
  • He got to know people on a personal level.

By this point, you won’t be surprised to find out that important people at SXSW wanted to hang out with him. That’s how he made the connections that got him to where he is today.

Give energy in your own way

You don’t have to give energy in the same way. Maybe you offer to do favors for people you meet. Or share interesting book recommendations. You might be the calm, intellectual type instead of a party animal.

The point is that you’re you. You don’t try to be someone you’re not in an effort to make a sales connection. Real sales networking is done by building human connections, not business connections.

Selling people nothing sells them on you

sales-networking-sell people nothing

This is the ultimate lesson: by making human connections, you’re selling people on the value of being your acquaintance or friend. And that’s the key to real, valuable sales networking.

(It also makes you a lot of really cool friends.)

It’s important to not go overboard here. Don’t go out with the mindset that you’re going to be the most magnanimous person at a conference and offer to do favors for everyone. That comes across as fake.

Just be yourself. Give people energy and put them at ease. Forget about sales networking. Instead, give your energy to people in your industry (and outside of it).

That’s really all there is to it. 


Now, go out there and start making valuable sales connections and building strong relationships. Need help expanding your sales networking skills? Download our free Sales Library today for access to sales templates, checklists, books, and more!


If you’ve made connections by being yourself, we want to hear about it! We also want to hear if you disagree with this advice and stand by traditional sales networking. Leave a comment below to share your experience or ask questions!

25 Mar 15:40

This Week’s Big Deal: Finding the Right Balance with Prospects

by Sean Callahan
Sales Prospecting

Sales is a high-wire act that would make the bravest circus performer dizzy. We have to stay top-of-mind without seeming pushy. We have to pull prospects toward a close without being too aggressive. We need to know when to let go of a prospect, when to keep at it, how and when and if to revive a missed connection.

It’s like walking a tightrope swinging a bowling ball in one hand and juggling teacups in the other. And there’s a crossbreeze.

Old-school sales pros would say keeping that balance is all down to experience and instinct. Nowadays, though, we can augment the old “gut feel” with data. More data means smarter communication, more relevant interaction, and more judicious pruning of deals that just aren’t going to close.

Here’s how some of the sharpest folks in the business go about keeping their balance.

How to Keep the Balance with Prospects to Close Deals

These tips can help you navigate the crosswinds of the sales cycle, from the early stages of outreach through the complexities of negotiation and beyond.

Optimize Your Outreach

How many touches does it take to get a response from a qualified lead? That average is something that many sales pros get hung up on. We hear the magic number is 10, or 20, and we compare our average to the industry average. In the meantime, our prospects clearly aren’t reading the same blogs as we are: They continue to respond at unpredictable intervals.

The key isn’t hitting some mythical number, says Tito Bohrt on the Saleshacker blog. Most of these “average touches” statistics are misleading because they measure all responses, not just the positive ones: “The truth is, the average number of touches you should use in a sequence depends more on the number of positive and negative responses you are getting,” Bohrt says.

When you keep careful track of positive responses versus negative, you can start optimizing your outreach to maximize the positive. That way, you’re bringing strategy and skill into what used to be a numbers game.

Switch from Aggressive Tactics to Sales Judo

Once you get a response from the prospect, the balancing act intensifies. They’re interested in talking to you but likely not interested in closing quickly. If you push too hard they’ll shut you down, but if you don’t push at all, they’ll wander off.

The old-school way to handle the interaction is the classic A-B-C: Always Be Closing. That technique doesn’t jibe with modern buyers, however. As David Priemer points out on the Cerebral Selling blog:

“Modern buyers have become more accustomed to having great power, knowledge, and freedom in the buying process...At the same time, most modern sellers remain saddled with the revenue, quota, and time-pressure burdens of our historical ancestors. And when we impose these burdens on modern buyers the experience quickly erodes along with our pipeline.”

High-pressure tactics invite resistance. A better approach is to move with your prospect instead of against them. Think of it like a judo throw versus an NFL tackle. Instead of rushing at the prospect head-on, you’re just redirecting their energy and momentum.

Instead of, “let’s talk at 3 p.m. on Wednesday,” try, “I’m linking you to my calendar. You can schedule whenever’s most convenient.” Note the outcome is still the same: The appointment gets made. You’re not giving up on asking for the meeting. But by allowing the prospect to feel in control, you keep the conversation moving.

Keep Score In Negotiations

When it’s time to close the deal, it’s easy to fall into an unproductive relationship dynamic with the prospect. Even the most seasoned pro can get trapped into the role of giving the prospect whatever they ask for, so the deal can move forward.

On his sales training blog, John Barrows says, “By giving a client everything they ask for and accepting little in return, we’re conditioning them to disrespect us and continue to ask for things like more discounts and more time.” The modern sales relationship should be more of a partnership: The salesperson isn’t aggressively pushing toward a sale, nor are they spoiling the prospect with giveaways.

The better way forward is to pursue an exchange of value. When the prospect asks for a concession, ask for something in return. Keep it clear that you’re working toward what is best for both of you, and keep score to make sure the value exchange is equal.

“If you are asking for logical things and they aren’t being given to you, ask yourself if this deal is real or not,” Barrows says. Keeping track of the score can help keep you from the “biggest sin in sales,” which Barrows defines as, “Not to lose a deal.  It’s to take too long to lose a deal.” Knowing when the balance is tilted beyond recovery can help you let go before you take a tumble.

Information Tips the Balance in Your Favor

We hear a lot about data-driven marketing, but data-driven sales are the next big thing. Mapping the buying committee, keeping track of prospect interactions, identifying trigger activity, and acting quickly—all of these are data-driven, and all can help close more sales faster. You can learn more about smarter sales practices in our latest playbook, Six Secrets to Selling on LinkedIn.

Sales is a high-wire act. But you don’t have to do it barefoot and blindfolded. Use the expert tips in this article to maintain your balance and carry prospects along to the big finish.

For more sales tips in your inbox every week, subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales Blog.

25 Mar 15:40

Pricing and the CEO

by Steven Forth

Pricing is central to success. Buyers and sellers can disagree on many things, but at the end of the day they must agree on price. Pricing is where product and service innovation, market segmentation and customer targeting, sales and customer success are connected. With so many pieces in play, there is plenty of room for a lack of alignment. It is the CEO’s job to make sure that critical functions are aligned.

Please take our survey - Value Innovation and Pricing Insights from CEOs

The CEO’s Role in Pricing

The CEO’s Role in Pricing

Fundamentally, the CEO has five areas of responsibility when it comes to pricing:

  • Setting Pricing Strategy

  • Ensuring Alignment

  • Building Capabilities and Skills

  • Monitoring Execution

  • Leading on Ethics and Pricing Fairness

In our engagements with larger clients, one of the first things we do at Ibbaka is to design and conduct a survey on pricing alignment. The goal of these surveys is to test if the company has a coherent pricing strategy that is understood and being executed across the organization. We quite often find lack of alignment between functional groups (product development, marketing, sales, customer success, finance) as well as between leadership teams, middle management and the people actually executing. This lack of alignment can cripple a company. The first place we generally start is with goals, the strategic goals that pricing is meant to contribute to.

Pricing is a powerful lever and can contribute to many goals, but it cannot do everything at once. The CEO and the leadership team are responsible for setting pricing strategy and making sure that the pricing strategy aligns with other strategic priorities. Some of the most common goals of pricing strategy are as follows:

  • Market scale (grow a market)

  • Market share

  • Top line revenue

  • Gross profit

  • Profit margin

  • Production volume (generally in order to manage unit costs or to keep utilization rates up)

  • Unit economics (lifetime value of a customer, customer acquisition costs)

  • Value to customer

  • Positioning and differentiation

The CEO needs to understand the connection and trade offs between the different goals, choose the critical goal to which the others will be subservient, as well as make sure that the rest of the leadership is lined up behind this goal and that it is clearly communicated throughout the organization.

Which brings us to alignment. There are natural tensions between different functions, and this is a good thing. A company with no internal tensions is likely a flaccid and directionless beast. But these tensions can become dysfunctional. There is an old saying that ‘sales sees pricing as the revenue prevention function’ and that ‘pricing sees sales as the margin destruction function.’ Sales will point out that without sales there is no margin, and pricing will respond that without margin there will be no company. A balance is needed. These tensions are also surfacing between sales, implementation teams and customer success. Well designed pricing has a role to play in building alignment between sales, implementation and customer success. The CEO and other executive leadership need to make sure that pricing is playing a role to unite the different functions and not set up barriers.

Execution comes once goals have been set and alignment achieved. The CEO is not engaged in pricing execution apart from a few large strategic accounts, but remains responsible. Pricing execution means that the strategy is being used to guide pricing decisions, value is being delivered to customers in line with the price, metrics are being gathered and discounting is managed.

Some simple execution questions the CEO can ask:

  1. How is our strategy implemented in pricing design and value communication?

  2. Is pricing aligned for our target segments?

  3. Is the value being delivered to customers appropriate for what we are charging (are we over or under delivering, why?

  4. What is our discounting discipline and how is it being enforced?

  5. Are we capturing the metrics that will let us evolve and optimize our pricing and make predictions about the future?

Building pricing capabilities should be part of the long term plan. Pricing should be part of the competency model for all of the functions engaged. Building capabilities is a key responsibility of the CEO. It is too important to be left to HR or Operations which will generally under invest in strategic levels like pricing competencies. In an Ibbaka survey of pricing excellence, lack of basic pricing knowledge was identified as one of the key barriers to successful pricing. Organizations like the Professional Pricing Society offer a variety of programs that can be used to build up core competencies in this area.

Ethics and fairness have to frame the entire pricing process. An example of a recent failure is Boeing's decision to charge extra for critical safety feature on the Boeing 737 Max. According to the New York Times in the article Doomed Boeing Jets Lacked 2 Safety Features That Company Sold Only As Extras. The planes that crashed in Ethiopia and Indonesia were not equipped with angle of attack indicators or disagree lights, likely for cost reasons. Should safety equipment be optional on planes? On automobiles? Security is a powerful emotional value driver, but there are risks in using it to drive pricing decisions when lives are at stake.

In our research we have found that pricing fairness influences willingness to pay. Pricing fairness is the result of

  • Transparency - Is the pricing model and how it is developed understandable?

  • Consistency - Are similar customers getting similar value receiving similar prices?

  • Value - Is the value delivered over time aligned with the price paid?

For more on pricing fairness see Is your pricing fair? And why you should care.

Pricing is too important to leave to chance. Many of the companies that come to us have set prices more or less at random or based on their costs. In some cases, pricing is a ‘frozen accident,’ something that was set for some reason in the past and has never been revisited. This is the responsibility of the CEO. Leadership is needed to make sure that there is a clear pricing strategy, that there is alignment around the strategy and that the team is executing. To do this requires an ongoing investment in capability building and a grounding in ethics and fair pricing.


25 Mar 15:39

What Dunbar’s Number Means for Professional Networking

by Anne Gherini
dunbar's number for professional networking

What is Dunbar’s Number?

In 1992, an esteemed Oxford University psychologist, Robin Dunbar, hypothesized that there is a cognitive limit to the number of stable relationships one person can maintain. The number that Dunbar proposed – 150 – has been known as “Dunbar’s Number” ever since.

With the rapid growth of social media in recent years, many have suggested that Dunbar’s Number should be expanded. They claim that thanks to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social platforms, we are now able to maintain relationships with a growing number of people. Indeed, a majority of users on Facebook are connected to at least 200 friends, and 21 percent of users have over 500.

And of course, salespeople’s (and their buyers’) networks are affected by this belief as well. 83% of executives use social media to inform their decisions when selecting vendors.

But Dunbar himself debunked the myth that using social media expands the number of people we can truly know. In a follow-up study, he found that despite the proliferation of social media and the digital world, the human brain still cannot maintain more than about 150 to maybe 180 meaningful relationships.

In other words, only a minority of our social media connections are genuine relationships. Those relationships that are not genuine cannot immediately help us.

What Does Dunbar’s Number Mean for a Salesperson’s Network?

Salespeople often rely on relationships and the power of their networks for their success. But really, the old saying, “your network is your net worth” applies whether you’re a salesperson, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, broker or politician. But when we place too much emphasis on quantity of relationships, the result can be disastrous. By putting too much energy into too many relationships, we fail to put enough into the ones that really matter.

Social media has conditioned us to accumulate “friends” and “followers” like trading cards. In doing so, we dilute the quality of our relationships. While social networks are terrific at providing a virtual Rolodex of people we’ve met, they do little to maintain a large volume of relationships that actually matter to our day-to-day work.

Collecting superficial digital relationships is at odds with genuine relationship building and networking. When we spend too much time trying to maintain all connections, we reduce the benefits of those connections and tend to neglect the important ones.

Social media isn’t inherently social.

For example, I personally have nearly 4,000 connections on LinkedIn. When I recently combed through the list, I could only truly validate about 140 people – just 4 percent. On a weekly basis, someone will ask, “Can you introduce me to X”, and almost always my answer is “no.”

Using Dunbar’s Number to Build More Effective Professional Networks


Knowing that we can only maintain meaningful relationships with a limited number of individuals and that social media doesn’t automatically help us do that, how can we make the most of our professional networks?

Here are the four steps, backed by social science that help salespeople maintain effective networks:

1. Narrow your network ruthlessly

The first lesson any salesperson should learn from Dunbar’s number is to be both thoughtful and ruthless when deciding which relationships to invest in. If 150 is the uppermost limit of who you can truly know, trust and reciprocate with, an effective network fills up quite quickly.

At some point, you must decide who to leave in, and who to remove from your closest circle. Some decisions will be difficult, but limiting the number of people in your network is imperative to a healthy network. If that means somebody hears from you less often, or that you’re not as available for them, so be it.

Here are some key questions to ask yourself when deciding who should be included in your network:

  • Does this contact enhance your relationship to an important industry or company?
  • Do you have the time to maintain regular contact with this professional relationship?
  • Can you provide something of value to this contact?

2. Nurture other relationships asymmetrically

Dunbar left room for nuance in his theory. He used a “rule of three” formula to describe how the closeness of our relationships can be viewed through multiples of three. Of the 150 people you have a relationship with, you might have a smaller circle of about 50 people who are close friends or family. Meanwhile, you likely have a larger social group of 450 people you’d consider either friends or acquaintances.

For those 300 or so acquaintances who are not part of your Dunbar Number, you can still maintain lines of communication – you just need to do it differently than you would with your core group of 150. This “asymmetrical nurturing” can be achieved using digital tools such as blogs, newsletters, social media, webinars or videos.

Even though these relationships may be less important now, you never know when one of them may become crucial to your success. For example, think about all your old leads: you wouldn’t necessarily keep in constant touch with all of them, but maintaining some communication would be wise to eventually restart the sales conversation.

3. Unlock new networks

The most powerful networks aren’t constrained to a single social graph; their strength is defined by all of the other networks that they’re connected to. This “friend-of-a-friend” contact method is responsible for up to 55% of network connections, and its benefits cannot be understated.

The most effective networkers have a holistic understanding of not only their own networks but also of their second-degree networks and the multiplying effect that they provide. It makes sense in some cases to bring someone into your 150 not because they immediately benefit your business or serve your needs, but because they’re well connected to others who do.

If you want to take advantage of second-degree contacts, try:

  • Building a network of varied individuals who can speak to unique types of expertise.
  • Finding opportunities to connect people within your network, inspiring them to do the same.
  • Giving your contacts the tools to help them evangelize your products or services on your behalf.

4. Play the long game

Deep, lasting relationships aren’t built overnight. As Adam Grant writes in one of my favorite books, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, relationships built on trust, reciprocity and mutual respect take time to develop, and they can’t be rushed.

Don’t invest in relationships expecting an immediate return, and don’t push for favors such as introductions or referrals too early. While there’s no exact right time to request referrals, be sure to establish a rapport with an individual to encourage trust before asking for that referral.

Focus on how you can provide value to people in your network, rather than just handing out business cards and making demands. Invest in relationships over time by earning their respect. Have patience, and your networking efforts will pay off. Just because someone doesn’t provide a quick return on your networking investment, it doesn’t mean you have to cut them out of your 150 too quickly.

Quality Over Quantity Forever

We’ll be debating the exact truth of Dunbar’s Number for decades to come, especially in light of our increasingly digital lives. But the truth remains that there is certainly some limit to the number of people we can truly know. As salespeople who rely on the strength of their network (and what professional doesn’t?), the lesson of Dunbar’s Number is that quality trumps quantity every time.

The post What Dunbar’s Number Means for Professional Networking appeared first on Sales Hacker.

25 Mar 15:39

Every Problem is an Opportunity Waiting for a Solution

by Mark Hunter

View every problem as an opportunity. Instead of looking at what has gone wrong, focus your thinking on the solution. This will move you forward with your customer and make them see you in a different light. You have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership. Will you choose to lead in the next problem that you face?

Copyright 2019, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog. Mark Hunter is the author of High-Profit Prospecting: Powerful Strategies to Find the Best Leads and Drive Breakthrough Sales Results

25 Mar 15:39

How the Whole Business Wins with Successful Marketing Attribution [Part 1]

by kniemisto

Every sector has its Big Bad Wolf. For marketing, it’s attribution—or at least it was. These days, attribution isn’t so scary. The wolf has been declawed, and today’s marketers are expected to be able to connect their efforts and spend to revenue. But while we may better understand marketing attribution, the technology, processes, and skill sets around it aren’t always so clear.

In fact, only 25% of marketers are doing multi-touch attribution, according to the 2018 State of Pipeline Marketing Report. And nearly 30% aren’t using an attribution model at all.

So, what exactly does successful marketing attribution look like, and what can you do to build it into your marketing processes?

The ABCs of marketing attribution

To effectively connect marketing to revenue, marketers need to gather the right marketing and sales data and analyze it correctly.

Most marketers today typically capture two categories of data:

  1. Activity metrics: These measure how many blog posts, articles, sponsored events, and other activities marketing has been responsible for. Activity metrics are all about what marketing has done (and how much it’s spent on those activities).
  2. Engagement metrics: These look at how people have reacted to marketing activities. How many hits did your blog receive? How many contacts did you meet at your event? Metrics such as views, clicks, likes, and time spent on a site all help answer these questions.

Together, these metrics help define spend and provide visibility into the top of the funnel, however, they alone do not demonstrate the comprehensive impact of marketing. Attributing marketing’s role in revenue generation takes some careful analysis of sales data, too, in order to connect the dots from marketing to business outcomes.

Break down the barriers between sales and marketing

Successful attribution is nearly impossible when your sales and marketing teams operate in silos.

To break down the barriers, you need to capture all relevant customer and revenue data in a shared CRM system. Specifically, you’ll want to know:

  • Deal size
  • Customer engagement
  • Upsell potential
  • Time spent as a customer

Only by connecting marketing lead generation to opportunities created and deals closed—unifying the full funnel—will you be able to see how marketing spend contributes to revenue.

Choose your attribution model

Once you have the data, it’s time to decide how to apply revenue credit to the various marketing activities that took place across the customer journey. There are two broad approaches to attribution:

  1. Single-touch attribution models offer a simple approach that applies 100% of the revenue credit to a single touch point in the customer journey. While these models are easiest to implement, they’re relatively one-dimensional. Because they attribute all revenue to a single activity, they are limiting—especially if you need to account for a multichannel strategy.
  2. Multi-touch attribution models, on the other hand, give different revenue credit weights to a range of activities. These models are particularly important in the B2B space, where it is critical to understand how the various marketing activities impacted the customer in their long, complex journey. In journeys that can be made up of tens to hundreds to thousands of touchpoints, emphasizing certain key touchpoints that align with vital funnel stages can help marketers better understand buying journeys and close deals.

Is it really worth it?

Great attribution is tough, but it’s worth the effort. In fact, successful attribution can benefit your business in several areas:

  • Intangibles: Better alignment between sales and marketing, improved communication across all teams, and change perception from cost center to revenue center
  • Accountability and transparency: Simpler ways for marketing to prove its value to the C-suite and board, easier partner referral evaluations, and clearer insight into the value of guest blogging
  • Reporting and forecasting: Increased ability to predict customer actions, report on account-based marketing activities, forecast department goals accurately, and record granular metrics
  • Optimization: Improved paid media ROI and more optimized budget allocation for campaigns and channels
  • Decision making: Comprehensive evaluation based on pipeline and revenue, not clicks and leads, and more accurate cost-per-lead and cost-per-opp metrics

CMOs, marketing ops, and practitioners: take note

Beyond overall organizational benefits, successful attribution can also directly impact different stakeholders within marketing.

For CMOs, attribution means greater job security. In fact, 43% of CMOs say marketing now leads more company activities. And by definitively proving the value of marketing activities, CMOs stand to broaden that position further. Additionally, marketing departments that can demonstrate value tend to enjoy higher budgets.

Marketing operations and analytics teams are the ones in the trenches getting their hands dirty with the systems and data that marketing relies on. As attribution becomes more important, these roles are becoming more valuable. These teams hold the keys to the data castle, and marketing ops and analytics experts will lead the charge to drive more effective campaigns through attribution, data, and analytics.

Marketing practitioners—the ones handling demand gen and individual campaigns—can also benefit from attribution. When they demonstrate the value of their activities, higher budgets are bound to follow. More importantly, by tying activities to revenue, practitioners have even better metrics to assess the success of their campaigns and improve performance over time.

Great attribution starts with you

With successful marketing attribution in place, there’s a long list of benefits for many people in your business across a host of different roles. But someone has to take the initial steps to implement processes and select the right attribution model for your business.

Check out part two of this blog post to see how you can be the one to do it.


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The post How the Whole Business Wins with Successful Marketing Attribution [Part 1] appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

25 Mar 15:39

How to Write Better B2B Case Studies: 2 Lessons from Psychology

by Tamsin Henderson

Third-party endorsement is powerful. As marketers, we know that customers are our best salespeople. Their reviews and testimonials build credibility and trust.

Congrats if you’re among the 73% of marketers who publish customer case studies to win hearts, minds, and pockets. In a world of fake news and fake reviews—only 37% of B2B buyers trust vendors—genuine customer success stories are precious assets.

Yet, a 2018 B2B content marketing report found that case studies, while frequently created, aren’t always persuasive:

(Image source)

This is a missed opportunity. According to LinkedIn’s Demand Gen Report 2018, case studies are the preferred content format of B2B buyers, with 79% of respondents consuming them in the past 12 months:

They’re also, the report notes, the second-most shared type of content among B2B buyers (after blog posts).

Many buyers rely on social proof. In fact, 94% of buyers go online to evaluate what their peers say about a product or service before deciding. So what’s going wrong?

Having worked with dozens of B2B companies, I’ve seen way too many case studies consigned to the content graveyard before they’ve even drawn breath. Franken-jargon, weird acronyms, loopy narratives. It’s no wonder they get ignored.

Two psychological concepts—cognitive fluency and narrative transportation—can turn yawnsome case studies into hard-working persuasion assets. Ignore either one, and your case studies are likely to fall flat.

But first: why case studies fail to convert

In my experience, sales teams want case studies, but marketing teams are cynical about the engagement they generate. That’s when you end up with boring or lazily written, text-heavy advertisements that do nothing to persuade readers.

Here’s a classic example of a text-heavy and overly promotional case study:

So, B2B buyers say they want case studies. But what’s the potential impact?

What happens when you get case studies right?

Case studies have the potential to fast-track buyers through this self-directed journey, combining everything they need to make a decision—social proof, stories, emotional connection, and data—into one document.

Those elements help buyers know, like, and trust your company.


Case studies cut through the noise. Research shows that word-of-mouth marketing is directly responsible for 20–50% of sales. But short of corralling passionate brand advocates into a room with prospects, it’s not easy to manufacture. Case studies are the next best thing.

Real success stories from genuine customers grab prospects’ attention, especially as more and more tune out traditional advertising.


Case studies amp up your likeability. Did you know that we all have the ability to “catch” each others’ emotions? For example, in sports, when a team is in a good mood, the upbeat spirit transfers to individual players. And when teams are happier, they tend to play better.

Same goes for when someone says that they “love your product,” others are more likely to as well. (One study suggests that B2B buyers are even more emotional than B2C buyers.)

If your case study can highlight the emotional impact of your business on a customer, you’re going to have a stronger chance of upping your likeability. Likeability matters because people buy from people they like.

Take this emotive quote from The enthusiasm is infectious:

Plus, according to the principle of similarity, people like other people whom they perceive as similar. Try to feature customers who most represent your prospects. Similarity leads to liking, which leads to sales.

(For some, it can be tempting to feature the “big name” client in your case study. But if the rest of your clients are small- to medium-sized businesses, the case study may not resonate.)


Some 78% of B2B buyers placed greater emphasis on the trustworthiness of a piece of content’s source in 2018—the single largest shift in content consumption habits last year. And, according to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust earned media, reviews, and testimonials more than any other form of advertising.

Case studies are just as powerful. KlientBoost’s Dale Cudmore writes that case studies are like testimonials on steroids. They deliver a hefty dose of social proof and trust.

If customers are willing to share numbers, data can add credibility. Actual percentages of time saved or dollars earned tell a story of objective success.

Fractl’s case studies place metrics front and center:

Kerry Jones, Director of Marketing at Fractl, says that case studies were a game changer for their B2B marketing efforts. As Jones writes:

case studies are highly effective at converting visitors to leads – about half of our leads view at least one of our case studies before contacting us.

This aligns with Forrester research that touts digital content as the most important driver in B2B purchasing decisions:

  • 60% of business buyers prefer not to interact with a sales rep as the primary source of information.
  • 68% prefer to research on their own, online.
  • 62% say they can now develop selection criteria or finalize a vendor list—based solely on digital content.

You may not have data to draw on. Your product may be new, or your results may be hidden behind a non-disclosure agreement. That’s not to say you can’t tap into the power of social proof.

Use real photos of your customer, their full name and job title, verbatim quotes, etc. These little flags of humanity imbue your case studies with credibility.

The more you can anchor “success” in data or your customer’s words, the more credible your case studies become. As TrustRadius implores:

Connect buyers with those who are better equipped to provide them with the balanced feedback they need — your customers.

Two principles are essential to create case studies that achieve the three values outlined above: cognitive fluency and narrative transportation.

Optimizing B2B case studies for maximum impact

1. Write and design for cognitive fluency

People prefer to think about easy things rather than hard things. The feeling of ease or difficulty is known as cognitive fluency. Cognitive fluency often affects a customer’s willingness to convert. (It’s one reason why simple websites are usually better.)

Cognitive fluency applies even to the simplest of tasks. According to a Princeton study, when a company has an easy-to-pronounce name, its shares significantly outperform companies with a less pronounceable name:

If you started with $1,000 and invested it in companies with the 10 most fluent names, you would earn $333 more than you would have had you invested in the 10 with the least fluent.

In short: The easier it is for prospects to understand what you’re saying, the more likely they are to trust—and buy from—you. The Boston Globe describes the phenomenon of how fluency shapes our thinking as: Easy = True.

When your words create friction, you don’t just fail to earn trust. You strip it away. For example, a University of Michigan study showed that people perceive food additives with hard to pronounce names as more harmful than those with easy-to-pronounce names.

In the B2B world, “hard to understand” undermines that same trust in your content and, by proxy, your brand. Consider this excruciating example:

Or how about this?

How many times did you read the headline before you understood it? (I’m still counting.) Now compare it to this one from Wootric:

There’s no need for interpretation. You know exactly what’s in store and whether it’s relevant to you.

B2B companies often limit cognitive fluency by writing for themselves, rather than their customers. Company-centric language is not customer-centric.

Here’s a typical example, filled with unnecessary details about the company and corporate jargon:

The wasteful prose above slows the narrative. As Jack Hart explains in Storycraft, his book on narrative nonfiction, “The trick to writing a good expository segment is to tell readers what they must understand…and no more.” Unless a detail is essential to understand the rest of the case study, it’s dead weight.

Another common shortcoming is burying case study results. Your busy prospects want to see the concrete benefits of your product or service. Boxing out results or highlighting them in sidebar is a great tactic for making them stand out.

Take this example from a DocSend case study:

Remember: Bullet points are your friend. Write for skim readers. Give them the essential nuggets as quickly as possible, like this example from, which summarizes the results on the right-hand side of the page:

What else do you need to get right? Four more things.

Four ways to increase cognitive fluency

1. Get rid of jargon. Go with the simpler word. So, instead of:

You could write: “Digital ad tech company cuts management costs by 50% and lowers bid latency to <100MS with Platform Equinix and Unitas Global.”

2. Write how people talk. Read your writing out loud for an extra dose of fluency. So instead of this:

You could write: “With more people using mobile devices at work, security and waste are growing issues that require a new approach to management.”

3. Get to the point. I see a lot of padding in B2B case studies. What could be said in five words is said across five paragraphs.

Take this example:

It would be much easier to read and understand if you summarized it like this:

The bank now has a strong mobile management tool. This means:

  • Fewer security risks;
  • Improved customer experience;
  • Scalable and rigorous monitoring;
  • Future-proofed mobile management.

Human attention spans are short. Choose your words with care. Less information is easier to process, freeing up cognitive resources for more demanding tasks—like clicking your call to action!

4. Make your case study easy on the eye. Cognitive fluency applies to design, too. You only need to look at a classic Apple sales page to see Easy = True in action.

Here’s an example of the opposite of that:

If you want to persuade people with your case study, you need to make it look easy.

That means minimal text, simple fonts, dark type (on light background), and lots of visual interest. Unbounce demonstrates great cognitive fluency, summarising for busy skim readers:

If you want to take your B2B case studies even further, layer in narrative transportation.

2. Embrace narrative transportation

A study that averaged the results of 76 research reports and 21,000 participants found that stories can reliably change the attitudes and intentions of readers and viewers. When people are immersed in a story, it can influence how they think and behave.

A well-written case study can immerse your leads in a story. They get a sense of walking in the shoes of your happy customers. And that feeling helps make your content more persuasive.

Seth Godin said it best: “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” But how do you do it?

Borrow the structure of every best-selling movie, novel, and screenplay

Steven Pressfield, author of Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, believes everything you write needs to have a three-act structure.

To make nonfiction powerful and engaging, he says, “You must organise your material as if it were a story and as if it were fiction.” (One exception: Whereas fiction often excels by prolonging tension, you’ll need to resolve it quickly.)

To make narrative transportation work, show the transformation of a subject from an initial state to a changed state. And in a good case study, that looks like this:

  1. Challenge;
  2. Solution;
  3. Results/benefits.

Sure, it’s formulaic. So is every Avengers installment. It still works.

To gather source material for that narrative, ask your customers to describe their situation before and after using your product or service. The more emotion you can draw out, the stronger the hook you’ll create.

Hook your reader into the narrative with emotion

The real key to hooking your reader into any narrative is emotion. Demonstrate the personal impact of your product or service, not just the bottom-line improvements.

Thomas Ordahl of Landor Associates explains why the emotional stakes can be unexpectedly high: “B2B buyers are making decisions every day that can change their careers.” Don’t be afraid to talk about your customer’s fears and frustrations, dreams and goals.

  • What made them anxious before you came on the scene?
  • What was at stake for them personally?
  • How is it helping them achieve their career goals?

Build some jeopardy into the narrative. Up the stakes. Make the struggle real. Like this grass seed company case study built around the groundskeeper:

Asking follow-up questions like “How did that make you feel?” is a good way to flip the script from facts to emotions. How do they feel now that the challenge is solved? Relieved? Joyful? Proud? What does the result mean for them personally?

Prospects’ words can live outside of quotes, too. Using the voice of the customer in your copy is also a powerful way to trip prospects’ triggers. Joanna Wiebe of CopyHackers, champions this technique.

Twilio does a great job of building suspense into its case study on Salesforce. It starts by outlining a last-second change and the scramble to make it:

Then, Twilio sweeps in to save the day:

Before rounding things out with a satisfying, data-backed result:

Creating an emotion-packed narrative took just a few paragraphs. The keys were to highlight the risks and anxiety the problem created, then to tie the nuts-and-bolts solution to a cathartic relief.

The concluding data adds credibility to the narrative and shows the impact of the solution.


Businesses often fail to convert prospects because those leads don’t know if a solution will work for them. Good case studies deliver context, relevance, and credibility.

On the surface, B2B topics may not seem compelling. But, for decision-makers, plenty of emotions are involved. The problems are real. A good decision might earn a promotion. A bad one could cost someone their job.

Two psychological tactics—cognitive fluency and narrative transportation—can help you create something that will earn attention and persuade your audience. Remember to:

  1. Use clear language and design. If it’s easier for someone to understand you, they’re more likely to trust and buy from you.
  2. Embrace storytelling. Stick to a three-act structure that demonstrates the before and after. Ask questions that highlight the emotional experience of your customer—not just the business benefits.
23 Mar 16:15

Rules for Sales Role Plays

by Anthony Iannarino

Professionals and performers rehearse. They prepare themselves to do their very best work when it matters most. In sales, it’s easy to pretend that we are too busy to train and to role-play our most important conversations, creating a state of stasis as it pertains to our effectiveness.

One of the ways to create breakthrough effectiveness is to role play the different scenarios to improve and develop strategies and language. These rules will ensure your roleplay improves performance.

Use Real Cases: Case studies are beneficial when you want a group of people all to share the same problem. In sales, you are provided with case studies every day, providing you with an endless stream of real scenarios to work on. Using the real deals you are pursuing allows the salesperson to role-play conversations in an environment where they can improve their talk tracks and their strategy. It can be a bit more work, but it is worth the effort if the outcomes can be put to use in winning deals.

Accept the Premise: This is a rule that all great improv groups know well. If one party provides information, you accept it as true. If the salesperson says, “The last time I called you, you mentioned that you were concerned with potential disruptions to your business,” their partner playing the client cannot say, “No, I didn’t. Instead, the client can say, “Yes, and I still am concerned about that,” or “We believe we can live with the disruption, but we’re concerned about the investment.”

Focus on Principles: Almost all role plays are around objection-handling, something better described as resolving concerns, as there is invariably something real behind the words that sound like objections. Role plays are valuable when you can tie them to principles, like trading enough value to gain a commitment, controlling the process, describing your differentiation, and dealing with difficult situations. The best role plays focus on outcomes that can be universally applied.

Rehearse Language: Sounding scripted isn’t the same as having a script. Good talk tracks are important, and powerful language is better than ineffective language. You want a chance to rehearse your language in role plays, with multiple attempts to go over the same ground and improve your delivery. Even if the talk track is excellent, role plays provide a chance to rehearse (something we don’t do enough of in sales).

Allow Do-Overs: It’s easy to ruin a first—or third attempt—at a role play. Because the person playing the role of the salesperson is trying to find the right words, they are prone to saying things that they don’t like once they leave their mouth. Because it is a role play, the person speaking can start over, adjusting and improving their talk track.

Say No: If the person doesn’t use language that their partner believes would work in real life or violates a principle, their partner needs to “say no,” or whatever words are necessary to let them know they failed to achieve their outcome. The role-playing partner also needs to explain why they said no to the salesperson’s request, giving them the feedback they need to improve their next attempt.

The first time you say something, you might come up with something so brilliant it bears repeating. More often, the best talk tracks are developed over time, after you have iterated and have made adjustments. Follow these rules for role plays, and go into client conversations with excellent and effective strategies and language, the strategies and language that ensure you achieve your outcomes.

Essential Reading!

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The post Rules for Sales Role Plays appeared first on The Sales Blog.

23 Mar 16:03

Sales Hacks: 4 Sales Tools Your Team Needs to Succeed

by Hassan Mansoor

So – you need more sales to succeed. Of course, you do! What business doesn’t?

Are you doing everything you can to pioneer your industry?

Do you have a sales team with the bravado of former stockbroker Jordan Belfort? (Minus the drugs and the screaming, of course.) Are you using sales tools to help you leverage technology and modern advancements?

If not, then good luck. You’ll get left in the dust!

A flourishing business is about more than marketing (although that’s important, too). It’s about having a dedicated, engaged sales team that utilizes smart tools. It’s about being honest, hungry, and innovative.

We show you 4 amazing tools that will help you do just this. Keep reading to see how you can use them in your favor!

And do it fast – before the competition catches up!

1. CRM Systems

CRM, or customer relationship management, is a software that improves interactions with customers.

How does it do this?

It records contact with clients, which allows your sales team to be better in future interactions. It organizes the information in an accessible way. The next time that same customer comes to you with a query, the salesperson is more responsive.

CRM tells you who your customers are and how you can help them. This is a key first step to getting more sales.

2. Email Marketing

Email marketing is the #1 digital marketing channel when it comes to returning on investment (or ROI).

And that makes sense when you think about it. Why do you have your customer’s email address, anyway?

Because they gave it to you.

These are consumers that are practically asking you to market to them. It’s one of the best marketing strategies for profit generation.

Plus, it’s accessible. Email is on our phones, our desktops. Your next sale is right in the hands of your customers: in their smartphones.

3. VoIP

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, eliminates the need for a phone line in your office. The no. of ways a VoIP phone system can help your business. These business phone systems have many benefits:

  • No need for a service provider
  • No need for a landline or stationary phone
  • Ability to make calls to landline, cellphone, or computer
  • Worldwide calling capabilities
  • Call conferencing, call waiting, and call transferring

VoIP deals in data, meaning it has a perfect relationship with CRM systems. Together, these ensure that channels of communication between you and customers are open.

4. Productivity/Performance Management

One way to ensure your sales team stays productive is through tools that monitor performance.

There are many platforms that do this. One example is the project manager Asana.

This software allows users to make goals, checklists, and timelines. As they achieve their goals (or don’t), Asana keeps a record of this. You’re able to do this for many projects at once.

It’s a great tool for collaboration, too, which increases employee engagement.

Need More Sales? You Need Sales Tools

Today, there’s no excuse to do things the way they’ve always gotten done.

You’re only going to survive if you innovate, inspire, and grow. Sales tools are only one of many ways to do this.

Remember that many of these tools work well together, too. Having a small but solid collection of technologies equips your team for success.

With all these tools, do we even need sales managers anymore?

We touch on that important question right here!

23 Mar 16:00

Selling IS a Service

by Dave Brock

Isucc / Pixabay

It seems the world is migrating to an “As A Service” model. Every day one hears a new (sometimes not so new) XaaS approach. The model, at least as a subscription payment approach, is not new. We’ve had various subscription, rent, lease capabilities for at least decades, if not centuries. The application of this model to different areas, is interesting.

Then there’s the SaaS selling model–not applied strictly to Software (cloud or otherwise) that seems to be all the rage. This is typically a high volume/high velocity approach to selling, focused primarily on transactionalizing and optimizing our selling approach, despite what might be most helpful to the buyer.

Also, there are more and more organizations offering selling as a service, basically outsourcing the sales execution function to organizations dedicated to selling. But again, there’s not a lot of innovation in this approach, the concept of agents and manufacturer’s reps has been around for at least decades, if not centuries.

But I’d like to leverage the concept in a different way, suggesting that, well executed, Selling IS a service.

That is, done well, selling creates tremendous value for our customers and for our own companies (beside the revenue generation aspect of it).

Let’s focus on the customers. Too often, too many organizations and sales people construct their value propositions in terms of the value realized from the implementation of a certain solution. “Our solution will create this ROI, eliminate these problems, reduce expense, increase revenue……”

This is important, but it is probably not distinguishing or differentiating. Presumably, any number of competitive offerings the customer may consider will produce roughly similar business results.

Increasingly the greatest value created, the greatest differentiation is created long before the solution is purchase and implemented.

We know, through research by groups like Gartner, CSO Insights, Sirius Decisions, and others that sales people create huge value in the buying process.

These customers have identified a problem, established a need to buy and started their buying journey. But the majority of them fail to complete that journey (in complex B2B buying). Their failure has little to do with solution selection, but more to do with managing and driving change within their organizations.

Sales creates tremendous value in helping customers navigate this process, helping them achieve what they set out to do.

Selling practiced this way Is A Service! It’s a service that creates value for the customer and we should be very selective in who we provide that service to. That is, there are customers who don’t want or value this, we are wasting our time with them, they don’t value what we, as sales professionals, can provide.

Think of this from an internal point of view. If sales people work this way, they are getting more people who want to buy, but can’t navigate their buying process, to buy! In some sense, this is incremental to our own internal expectations. So sales represents a huge service internally.

The bigger opportunity, however, is the service we provide to customers that need to change, that are missing opportunities, that can grow and improve, but don’t know! They don’t realize they are missing out. They are consumed by the turbulence around them, just trying to make it through the day. Selling IS A Service of tremendous value to these organizations.

Delivering these services to those who value them helps them and, again, creates tremendous value to our own company.

We need to recognize and be proud of the fact that we offer a tremendous service that creates huge value for our customers and companies. We need to be careful to invest our time on those that value that service.

23 Mar 15:59

Overview of the fintech industry: stats, trends, and companies in the ecosystem market research report

by Lea Nonninger and Mekebeb Tesfaye

In recent years, we've seen a ballooning of activity in fintech — an expansive term applied to technology-driven disruptions in financial services, where financial companies and startups use artificial intelligence (AI) and other tech in their day-to-day processes.

As consumers increasingly turn to alternative, digital methods of managing their finances, tech-savvy startups and traditional financial institutions (FIs) alike are diving into the fintech industry. And investors would be wise to take note of this digital shift.

Global Fintech M&A Activity
There's been a ballooning of activity in the fintech industry.

Insider Intelligence

Fintech Market Stats

The Global Fintech Market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of around 20% over the next four years. The market value is expected to reach around $305 billion by 2025, according to GlobeNewswire.

Additionally, this year marked a watershed moment for the fintech sector, with the once clear distinction between fintechs and financial services proper now blurred significantly. Virtually every incumbent financial institution is now looking inward and engaging in an innovation drive, spurred on by competition from fintechs amid the coronavirus pandemic. As such, incumbents are now actively investing in, acquiring, and collaborating with their fintech rivals.

Fintech Company Landscape

As consumers increasingly turn to digital forms of managing their finances, digital only banks and fintechs have posed a threat to traditional banking institutions. Some of the world's top fintechs include:

Monzo is one of the top fintechs.



Number of Employees: 251 to 500

Total Funding: $356 Million

Starling Bank

Number of Employees: 501 to 1,000

Total Funding: $354 Million


Robinhood app phone screen
Robinhood is a major fintech competitor.

Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Number of Employees: 501 to 1,000

Total Funding: $1.2 Billion


Number of Employees: 5,001 to 10,000

Total Funding: $31.8 Million


Number of Employees: 251 to 500

Total Funding: $547.3 million


Number of Employees: 1,001 to 5,000

Total Funding: $2.5 billion

Fintech Industry Trends

Big Tech companies will dive into wealth management in the coming years.  Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, are already building the digital infrastructure required by wealth managers, and almost three-quarters of global high net worth individuals say they would adopt wealth management services from big tech firms, according to Capgemini.

Bg Hyprid Robo Advisor
Robo-advisor adoption is set to take off in the coming years.


Robo-advisor adoption is set to grow in the future — presenting an opportunity for fintechs and incumbents alikeInsider Intelligence estimates that robo-advisors in North America only had $330 billion in AUM at the end of 2019, but we expect this number to grow to $830 billion by 2024.

Rising fintech adoption will spur further national regulatory initiatives in China and across the globe—improving the competitiveness of China's already advanced fintech ecosystem. The coronavirus pandemic pushed financial services online to better reach consumers. And this growing fintech use is likely pushing China's regulators to investigate and better understand major fintechs' activities.

More Financial Industry Topics:

Read the original article on Business Insider
23 Mar 15:57

Gates-backed Lumotive upends lidar conventions using metamaterials

by Devin Coldewey

Pretty much every self-driving car on the road, not to mention many a robot and drone, uses lidar to sense its surroundings. But useful as lidar is, it also involves physical compromises that limit its capabilities. Lumotive is a new company with funding from Bill Gates and Intellectual Ventures that uses metamaterials to exceed those limits, perhaps setting a new standard for the industry.

The company is just now coming out of stealth, but it’s been in the works for a long time. I actually met with them back in 2017 when the project was very hush-hush and operating under a different name at IV’s startup incubator. If the terms “metamaterials” and “Intellectual Ventures” tickle something in your brain, it’s because the company has spawned several startups that use intellectual property developed there, building on the work of materials scientist David Smith.

Metamaterials are essentially specially engineered surfaces with microscopic structures — in this case, tunable antennas — embedded in them, working as a single device.

Echodyne is another company that used metamaterials to great effect, shrinking radar arrays to pocket size by engineering a radar transceiver that’s essentially 2D and can have its beam steered electronically rather than mechanically.

The principle works for pretty much any wavelength of electromagnetic radiation — i.e. you could use X-rays instead of radio waves — but until now no one has made it work with visible light. That’s Lumotive’s advance, and the reason it works so well.

Flash, 2D and 1D lidar

Lidar basically works by bouncing light off the environment and measuring how and when it returns; this can be accomplished in several ways.

Flash lidar basically sends out a pulse that illuminates the whole scene with near-infrared light (905 nanometers, most likely) at once. This provides a quick measurement of the whole scene, but limited distance as the power of the light being emitted is limited.

2D or raster scan lidar takes an NIR laser and plays it over the scene incredibly quickly, left to right, down a bit, then does it again, again and again… scores or hundreds of times. Focusing the power into a beam gives these systems excellent range, but similar to a CRT TV with an electron beam tracing out the image, it takes rather a long time to complete the whole scene. Turnaround time is naturally of major importance in driving situations.

1D or line scan lidar strikes a balance between the two, using a vertical line of laser light that only has to go from one side to the other to complete the scene. This sacrifices some range and resolution but significantly improves responsiveness.

Lumotive offered the following diagram, which helps visualize the systems, although obviously “suitability” and “too short” and “too slow” are somewhat subjective:

The main problem with the latter two is that they rely on a mechanical platform to actually move the laser emitter or mirror from place to place. It works fine for the most part, but there are inherent limitations. For instance, it’s difficult to stop, slow or reverse a beam that’s being moved by a high-speed mechanism. If your 2D lidar system sweeps over something that could be worth further inspection, it has to go through the rest of its motions before coming back to it… over and over.

This is the primary advantage offered by a metamaterial system over existing ones: electronic beam steering. In Echodyne’s case the radar could quickly sweep over its whole range like normal, and upon detecting an object could immediately switch over and focus 90 percent of its cycles tracking it in higher spatial and temporal resolution. The same thing is now possible with lidar.

Imagine a deer jumping out around a blind curve. Every millisecond counts because the earlier a self-driving system knows the situation, the more options it has to accommodate it. All other things being equal, an electronically steered lidar system would detect the deer at the same time as the mechanically steered ones, or perhaps a bit sooner; upon noticing this movement, it could not just make more time for evaluating it on the next “pass,” but a microsecond later be backing up the beam and specifically targeting just the deer with the majority of its resolution.

Just for illustration. The beam isn’t some big red thing that comes out.

Targeted illumination would also improve the estimation of direction and speed, further improving the driving system’s knowledge and options — meanwhile, the beam can still dedicate a portion of its cycles to watching the road, requiring no complicated mechanical hijinks to do so. Meanwhile, it has an enormous aperture, allowing high sensitivity.

In terms of specs, it depends on many things, but if the beam is just sweeping normally across its 120×25 degree field of view, the standard unit will have about a 20Hz frame rate, with a 1000×256 resolution. That’s comparable to competitors, but keep in mind that the advantage is in the ability to change that field of view and frame rate on the fly. In the example of the deer, it may maintain a 20Hz refresh for the scene at large but concentrate more beam time on a 5×5 degree area, giving it a much faster rate.

Meta doesn’t mean mega-expensive

Naturally one would assume that such a system would be considerably more expensive than existing ones. Pricing is still a ways out — Lumotive just wanted to show that its tech exists for now — but this is far from exotic tech.

CG render of a lidar metamaterial chip.The team told me in an interview that their engineering process was tricky specifically because they designed it for fabrication using existing methods. It’s silicon-based, meaning it can use cheap and ubiquitous 905nm lasers rather than the rarer 1550nm, and its fabrication isn’t much more complex than making an ordinary display panel.

CTO and co-founder Gleb Akselrod explained: “Essentially it’s a reflective semiconductor chip, and on the surface we fabricate these tiny antennas to manipulate the light. It’s made using a standard semiconductor process, then we add liquid crystal, then the coating. It’s a lot like an LCD.”

An additional bonus of the metamaterial basis is that it works the same regardless of the size or shape of the chip. While an inch-wide rectangular chip is best for automotive purposes, Akselrod said, they could just as easily make one a quarter the size for robots that don’t need the wider field of view, or a larger or custom-shape one for a specialty vehicle or aircraft.

The details, as I said, are still being worked out. Lumotive has been working on this for years and decided it was time to just get the basic information out there. “We spend an inordinate amount of time explaining the technology to investors,” noted CEO and co-founder Bill Colleran. He, it should be noted, is a veteran innovator in this field, having headed Impinj most recently, and before that was at Broadcom, but is perhaps is best known for being CEO of Innovent when it created the first CMOS Bluetooth chip.

Right now the company is seeking investment after running on a 2017 seed round funded by Bill Gates and IV, which (as with other metamaterial-based startups it has spun out) is granting Lumotive an exclusive license to the tech. There are partnerships and other things in the offing, but the company wasn’t ready to talk about them; the product is currently in prototype but very showable form for the inevitable meetings with automotive and tech firms.

23 Mar 15:56

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Your First RFP Response — And Making it Kick Ass

by Zena Ryder

If you’re a small business owner embarking on your first response to an RFP (Request For Proposals), you’re probably feeling both excited and apprehensive. You know that winning an RFP competition can be lucrative… but the RFP response process has a bad rap.

Feeling apprehensive as you approach writing an RFP response?

Proposal writing goddess Isabel Gibson, who’s worked on more than 85 RFP responses over 25 years, writes, “Proposals are notorious for burning people out, and at a minimum can certainly be miserable: a mad scramble to meet the deadline, amid conflict within the team.” (The quotes from Gibson in this article are from her book, Proposals: Getting Started and Getting Better, which I highly recommend.)

Bear in mind, however, that RFP responses vary in length and complexity and so are more or less manageable. Communications Consultant Carla Dawes has been involved in more than 30 RFP responses over the past 13 years and she says:

I’ve written proposals completely on my own, worked with teams as small as three people writing a 50 page proposal for small enterprise, and on teams as large as 75 people creating proposals that are binders and binders of technical writing and drawings. I remember once delivering a proposal to Public Works and Government Services Canada (now PSPC) that was one and half pallets of boxes filled with binders. That proposal took a coast-to-coast team of more than 30 of us nearly four months to produce.

You aren’t tackling anything as big and involved! So the situation may not be as daunting as the nightmare you imagined.

Maybe you’ll never love writing RFP responses (also called bids or proposals), but at least you can head into your first battle well armed. I wrote this Ultimate Guide to share what I’ve learned about best practices for writing RFP responses, and to pass on advice from professionals in different industries who are experienced at either writing or receiving RFP responses. There are links to further reading at the end.

Although the points below are in approximate chronological order, some of them will happen simultaneously. Somebody on your team works on costing the project while someone else starts researching the issuing organization, for example. And some are not chronological steps at all, but points to bear in mind at different stages of the process (e.g. copy-paste with care). But let’s start at the beginning.

1. Read and understand the RFP

You can’t get very far until you’ve understood the RFP, so that’s the first step. Gibson writes that, regardless of the size of an RFP and its corresponding response, RFPs have the same six parts:

  • Introduction to the opportunity and the client
  • Description of the response process
  • Description of the Work (products, services, reports, other deliverables)
  • Contract terms and conditions
  • Response instructions
  • Evaluation process and criteria

Keeping these six parts in mind will help orient you when looking at an RFP for the first time.

Every single one of the experts I interviewed emphasized the importance of making sure you understand the RFP.

Dawes says, “Read the entire RFP as soon as you receive it. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve been on teams where not everyone has even reviewed the requirement! All members of your team should read the RFP in its entirety and note any questions you need to discuss and/or ask the client. That is step 1!”

Not all RFPs are well written, and some are written by committees, with parts copy-pasted from other documents. It’s not surprising they’re sometimes unclear. But even if they are well written, they can use unfamiliar terminology. Put in the effort in to understand the language at the beginning of the process.

An official question period is a standard part of the process. Use it. Get as clear as possible in the time available on the client’s requirements and needs. (I’ll refer to the organization or company that issues the RFP as the ‘client’. The organization or business that responds to it — that’s you! — I’ll call the ‘vendor’.)

If you don’t understand something in the RFP, ask questions.

LCol (Ret’d) David Robinson, who reviewed proposals when working on aircraft procurements, says, “Some bids fail to meet the mandatory requirements either because they are bidding on a contract they cannot fulfill or they fail to understand the requirements.” He thinks the most common mistake in RFP responses is “failing to ask questions when [vendors] do not understand the RFP, resulting in a non-compliant bid.”

However, don’t break any rules when you approach the client during the RFP process. For example, a government office might issue an RFP and state that they have a specific staff person assigned to answer vendors’ questions. So you would break the rules if you call up your acquaintance who works in the same office to ask them a question.

This levels the playing field to a certain extent. If you don’t have connections at the organization, but your competitor does, you both have to communicate with the same person.

But Software Consultant Daniel Mallett cautions, “Be careful with asking questions, though, because sometimes they’re made public, in which case your competitors might see your questions and the answers.”

Gibson has a different kind of caution:

Proposal newbies always wonder why the veterans are so cynical about asking questions. Like newbies everywhere, they have a touching faith in the efficacy of the process. So they craft their questions and they wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually, they get an answer that doesn’t really give them the information they need, and they have to decide whether they have time for another cycle.

This is one reason it’s best to influence the RFP before it’s even issued, which incumbent vendors and those with some other personal connection to the client can sometimes do. Nevertheless, ask questions anyway. Increase the chances of a helpful response by making sure your questions are clear, concise and polite. Explicitly reference the place in the RFP that your question applies to. Make it easy for the person responding to the question and reduce the chances of getting an unhelpful response like, “Read the RFP”.

2. Pay attention to the evaluation criteria

RFPs typically state the criteria the client will use to rank the proposals they receive. This will help you see where you need to focus your attention. If cost is 10% of the grade but methodology counts for 40%, you’ll know that clearly explaining the details of your methodology is more important than offering rock bottom prices.

Mallett says, “It’s obvious really. Focus on the factors that account for the biggest scores. Think about how you could respond before you start, so you don’t waste your time responding if it’s not a good idea.” If your main selling point is that your products are low cost, an RFP where cost is only 10% of the grade may not be a good fit for you.

3. Figure out your price

On the one hand, you want to win the contract by quoting low. And for government projects, Robinson says, “Cost is usually, in some way, the most important factor. Lowest bid usually wins.” Gibson agrees: “In government procurements, assuming that low price is the real basis of contract award is the safer way to go”.

On the other hand, you don’t want to base your price on wishful thinking and thus unintentionally under quote. Diane Brayman reviewed numerous RFP responses in her former role as Manager of Visitor Services at the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. She recommends figuring out, honestly and with actual data, how much it’ll cost you to complete the proposed project competently. She notes:

Being cheapest isn’t necessarily the best. In fact, offering an unrealistically low cost can be a red flag, as it may suggest that you don’t fully understand the scope of the project. Admittedly, some contracts are awarded based solely on cost, provided the mandatory minimum requirements are met; however, more complex projects will focus heavily on understanding and meeting the creative and/or technical aspects of the project. As well, some government contracts are awarded on a “cost per point” basis, which means that the bid price is divided by the total points awarded for all the other criteria. Therefore if you have a very strong proposal you could still win the contract even if your price is not the absolute lowest one. Study the evaluation criteria carefully as the methodology should be made clear in the RFP as to whether the selection will be based on lowest price or overall value.

Make sure you know what’s included in the scope of work. If something is outside the scope, but you assume it’s included (perhaps because you’ve always included it in the past), then this will unnecessarily increase your quote and make you less competitive.

Figure out the minimum amount of profit you’d be happy with.

So your estimate has to be based on good information, not guesswork, and, at least for government projects, “the profit margin you bid should be the minimum you’ll get, not the maximum”. [Gibson]

As you get into more detail, your estimate of your costs may change, and this may change your decision about whether to respond to the RFP. For big, complex projects, it’s impossible to do pricing near the beginning of the response process. There are too many unknowns at that stage. But for a smaller project, you can at least have a ball park figure at the beginning.

You can offer additional options, but make sure it’s clear that these are indeed options, and not part of your base offer. Make sure your base offer is compliant and don’t include anything additional if it’s going to increase your cost.

Of course, assuming you’d like to do business with the client beyond this project, consider settling for less profit this time around because you anticipate a long term relationship. So for your first ever RFP, it might be sensible to get in the door with a lower level of profit than is ideal.

This is called “buying a contract”, which Gibson defines as follows: “Bid lower than cost or lower than cost-plus-a-reasonable-markup to be more sure of winning a contract. Use it to break into a new industry or to discourage other competitors from entering your own.” But keep in mind Brayman’s point above — don’t give the impression you’re ignorant or unrealistic about the costs.

If the client is a non-governmental organization, or a private business, you may have more leeway when it comes to pricing. You might quote higher than your competitor but use your marketing skills to sell your value to the client.

4. Decide whether to respond

Once you understand the RFP, know the criteria it’s evaluated on, and have figured out roughly how much to charge, you’re in a position to decide whether to bother. If 50% of the scoring is for experience, but you’re new to the industry, consider skipping this one.

Be realistic about what you can achieve. There’s no point turning in a half-assed RFP response (and it could even harm your reputation) but creating a good one — even a small, non-technical one — takes a lot of time and effort. The president of Guido & Associates Engineers Ltd., Ken Guido P. Eng., says you must be “sure the investment in responding to the call is appropriate for the size of the overall project or requirement.” Given your chances of success, and the likely return on this project, is your investment of time, effort and money worth it?

Even a small proposal sucks resources from other activities, both marketing and operational. The opportunity under consideration must be worth the ‘opportunity cost’, as it were: the estimated value of opportunities foregone to pursue this one. [Gibson]

Even if your chances of winning are low, it might be worth responding anyway. First, it’s practice for when you have a better chance of winning, especially if you make sure you get feedback at the end of the process. And second, it can put you on the client’s radar. Maybe they won’t choose you for this project, but they’re now aware of you and may keep you in mind for something else they might need in future.

Once you’ve decided to respond, Landon Aldridge, VP Operations at SkyFire Energy Inc., recommends planning first:

As a first timer, I would suggest breaking up all of the parts of the response and putting a plan together on how you want it to read/look. Estimate the time involved for each part and build a schedule based on that. Give yourself some bonus time at the end just in case things don’t go as planned. If possible, have the response ready the day before so that you have time for small changes/clean up. Keep track of how much time each part took and use that data for the next proposals.

5. Do background research

Once you’ve decided to go ahead, research the client beyond the words in their RFP. Can you find out more about their needs, their pain points, their budget (if this isn’t explicitly stated)? Can you find their recent strategic plans and annual reports online? See if they’ve been in the news in the last little while. If you can figure out how this project likely fits into their overall business plan, make use of that information when you present the benefits your business can provide.

You already know their immediate intention for this project. Let’s suppose it’s to get a new website. How does that intention fit into their broader business goals and needs?

Do background research on the client.

Maybe they need a new website because their image has been tarnished and the website is part of an overall re-branding. Perhaps their old website isn’t mobile-friendly, so you can infer they’ve been losing traffic. Is the goal of their fresh look to attract new customers? They may be unsure of all the benefits of a new website. Guido says you should “be aware of who your customer is and what kind of help they need. Sometimes, you may need to educate them”.

You’re likely familiar with the marketing advice to focus on the benefits you can provide for your customer or client, rather than on the features of your product or service. Knowing the client’s broader goals will help you focus even further, and decide which of those benefits to emphasize.

Even though they’re obvious to you, don’t assume the benefits are obvious to the client. And make sure the benefits are clear to both technical expert evaluators and intelligent lay readers. For the expert, make sure you don’t gloss over any details; for the layperson, keep it simple but don’t talk down to them.

When you get to the editing and design stage, make it easier for both types of reader to find the content that’s relevant to them by using side bars or boxes. A box that goes into the details enables the layperson to skim or skip that part, while the expert knows to pay attention. A call-out box can highlight the overall view of the project and emphasize the importance of reading and understanding that part.

6. Get clear on why you are the best choice

You now have a good understanding of what the client needs. But why should they choose you? You need to sell your value. Even if you offer the lowest bid for a government contract, you still need to persuade the readers that you offer value for money.

Why should the client pay you instead of any of the other (possibly cheaper) respondents? Or why should they choose you instead of not hiring anyone this time around and putting off this project? Get clear on what’s special about you. Do you have lots of experience with this type of project? Or this type of client, so you understand their needs? Are you local? Do you have a large team with lots of diverse talent? Or a small team able to dedicate itself to this project? Do you have a fantastic portfolio to show off? Whatever it is, get clear on it.

Instead of listing your generic selling points, Gibson recommends developing “a handful of statements that capture what’s unique about you and your solution for this opportunity, for this client”. These are your themes that you want to weave throughout the entire proposal.

Experience is always good, but don’t despair if you haven’t done a project that’s exactly the same as the one in this RFP. Brayman says, “If you don’t have direct experience, show how your skills in a different area are transferable to this project.”

Notice that apart from taking notes so you don’t forget anything, you haven’t even started writing yet! For a good RFP response, thorough preparation is essential. But now let’s turn to the writing.

7. How to complete the checklist

Sometimes the client will include a checklist of things they’re looking for, with a Yes/No column for potential vendors to fill in. Brie Lam was the Director of Business and Product Development, Operational Risk & Regulatory Compliance at IHS Markit Canada. She says that the client may filter proposals based on this checklist, so she recommends that you adjust your responses accordingly.

A yes/no checklist might be to filter vendors, so respond carefully.

If you’re a good fit for the project, you don’t want to get filtered out — but you need to be honest too. She says, “For example, if you are able to partially cover a client’s needs, a positive response of Yes… with clarification that you are able to partially cover may be the best approach.”

8. What to write first

Where should you start? With a table of contents and an outline.

The table of contents gives you the big picture of all the sections to include and the section numbers, so you can cross-reference easily. Your outline gets a little more detailed and includes the sub-sections and points you’ll make in each section. This outline is your guide throughout the writing process. Refer to it repeatedly to keep on track.

After that, it’s more important to start somewhere, rather than get stuck because you don’t know how to write the beginning. This goes for any type of writing actually. Just. Get. Words. On. The. Page. If you know what to say in section 3, write section 3 first and worry about sections 1 and 2 later.

And always give yourself permission to write a bad — a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad — first draft. Remember William Zinsser’s words in his classic book On Writing Well: “Professional writers rewrite their sentences over and over and then rewrite what they have written.”

Writing a bad first draft is fine. Keep editing until it’s good. And then edit some more, until it’s excellent!

Revision is an essential part of the writing process, not a sign that you’re bad at writing. But before you can revise them, you need words on the page to revise!

The order that you write the sections doesn’t matter. They will all be revised, and parts may get moved from one section to another. The order in which you submit the response does matter though. If the client asks for items to be submitted or presented in a particular order, make sure you follow those instructions.

In fact, Brayman recommends that you follow the order of the RFP, even if the instructions don’t specify an order. This is because that order made sense to the client when they wrote the RFP, so it’s likely that your response will make sense to them if it follows the same order in return. It also helps you make sure you cover everything in the RFP. She also recommends including a table of contents at the front of your proposal, even if the client doesn’t require one. Pay attention to the required order when you prepare your table of contents and outline.

(Oh, and do take the word or page count seriously. The client’s not joking.)

9. The executive summary

The executive summary (if one is required) will likely be near the beginning of your proposal, and it summarizes what’s to come. But it’s not just a condensed summary of your entire proposal. In particular, you need the executive summary to grab the reviewer’s attention. The reviewer may decide whether to invest the time in reading the rest of your proposal on the basis of your executive summary. So in a sense the executive summary is a sales tool — but not in salesy language.

Brayman says, “It gives the reviewer an overall view of what to expect as to the benefits of going with that contractor. It should not be too long (the rule of thumb is 5-10% of the length of the proposal) and it should be persuasive, not too general but not getting into specific details either.”

Throughout your proposal, you should use the client’s language as much as possible — but this goes a bazillionfold in the executive summary. The executive summary is where you talk about their problems, their needs, their pain points, their goals… and how they will benefit if you’re chosen.

The client needs to feel heard and understood when they get your response in front of their eyeballs. If a vendor doesn’t even understand the client’s problem, why should the client bother reading on?

10. Copy-paste with care

Don’t embarrass yourself with sloppy copy-pasting.

It’s good to have some boilerplate ready to go, for proposals as well as other purposes. Mallett says that his company requires employees to update their resumes every six months, so they’re always current if they’re needed on short notice — and RFP responses often require a speedy turnaround time, which is another reason they can be stressful and unpleasant.

So, by all means, copy-paste your team’s (short!) bios, your company’s (short!) history, and your testimonials or case studies, but for almost everything else — the benefits you can offer, the timeframe, the pricing — you need to be thinking about the client. This proposal must be tailor made for this client. An ill-fitting, off-the-rack item will not do.

When it’s time to write your second RFP response, don’t copy-paste from your first one. Restrict copy-pasting to your boilerplate material (bios, company history and testimonials). Each client needs special treatment, which is why RFP responses are a lot of work. (And, heaven forbid, you don’t want to accidentally copy-paste in the name of one of your previous clients! *Cringe*)

11. Explain your pricing

Be as explicit as possible when you explain your pricing.

In your proposal, be as explicit as you can about pricing. This is definitely something the client wants to know about. If you’re too vague or seem secretive, they won’t like it and they won’t like you. If your answer to how much something will cost is, “It depends” then do your best to explain what it depends on. So you can say things like, “In such-and-such circumstance, our fee will be $x; but in these other circumstances, it’ll be $y.” Your background research in the preparation stage should have given you some information to guide you here.

And remember that you need to sell your value, especially for private sector RFPs. (For public sector RFPs, price is usually paramount but you still need to show you provide value for money.) Your bid might be higher than your competitor’s, but you might have more to offer because you have a better understanding of the project than they do. As Rachel Clarida, Principal and Registered Interior Designer at Hatch Interior Design, says:

We were recently awarded a contract even though our proposal was somewhat higher than a competing firm because we not only showed that we were well suited to the project based on our experience, but also because we added optional services that were not included in the RFP but that we felt were important to executing the project properly.

12. Provide evidence that you’re the best choice

Before you started writing, you got clear on what makes you right for this project. Now you have to show that to the client.

Make good use of statistics to support your case.

The client will want to see examples of your previous work that are relevant to this project and this client, and the more recent the better. But you’ll need to work with what you have. If your most relevant project is not very recent, avoid drawing attention to its date if you can. The reviewer is looking for reasons to reject each response they get and they need to pick something to go on. If you’re confident that you’re a good fit and could do an excellent job of this project, don’t draw unnecessary attention to details that might get you rejected for no good reason.

If you have testimonials or case studies already available, that’s awesome. This social proof should focus on the benefits your customer or client gained. If you have statistics on how you helped previous customers or clients, that’s fantastic. If not, showing the general benefits of the type of thing you do is better than nothing. So even if you don’t have any data on how the website you made for a prior client increased their web traffic, if you have data on how mobile-responsive websites generally increase traffic, that’s good to include.

13. Appearance matters

For some businesses, it’s obvious that visuals are important. Clarida, who is an interior designer, says, “For us, photos of our work say more than 100s of pages of words can, so we include high quality images of past projects to help illustrate what we can do.”

But appearance matters even for businesses that are not visually-oriented. After all, easily distractible humans will be reading your response, not mindless organizations or companies.

Team photos break up text, add a human touch, and show a little of your company culture — such as whether your office is formal or relaxed.

Brayman says, “Make sure your response is well organized, looks good, has a nice layout etc. Use good quality visuals. Your proposal is like a job interview. Appearance matters.”

Features you can use to add visual variety:

  • Bulleted lists
  • Graphs/charts which make data easier to digest
  • Tables
  • Headings in a different colour or font
  • Logos
  • Team photos to add a human touch
  • Icons to highlight key points
  • Call-out boxes for optional material such as technical details

14. Answer the questions, be clear, and don’t skimp on the details

Non-compliant responses that fail to answer the RFP’s questions are common. (So you’re ahead of the game if you just manage to answer the questions!) But not only do you need to answer all the questions, you need to make sure it’s clear that you have done so and to answer each question so it’s as easy as possible for the evaluator to grade.

Don’t annoy your reader with useless fluff.

Gibson writes, “Be obvious. Make it clear that you’ve met the requirement. If you’re offering more: first, be sure you want to do that, and then make it stand out. If you’re just giving lots of detail, make the main points clear. Make it easy for them to see that your answer is compliant.”

What’s the scope of the project, for the price you’re offering? For example, Clarida says, “We are careful to indicate that we have included up to three meetings in a specific phase of the project… It is important to set realistic expectations in your proposal.”

Bullshit is the enemy of clarity. Brayman says, “Be persuasive, but don’t BS. Be clear, direct, concise. Don’t bother with fluff. If it’s a government RFP, they’ve seen so many responses that they’ll see your fluff for what it is. And it annoys them.”

In addition, Mallett adds, “Don’t lie. Don’t exaggerate.”

And finally, go into detail. Don’t just say what you’ll do. Explain how and why.

15. Editing: Content

Once you’ve got a full draft, it’s time to edit. Move things around. A paragraph you wrote for one section could be better in a different one. (When I’m working on a big writing project, I like to use paper, pencil and highlighters at this stage. The visual and tactile feedback helps me get a better handle on the overall organization. But you do you.)

Answer ALL the questions that were in the RFP. Not the questions you wish they’d asked.

Make sure you’ve included everything and answered all the questions in all their parts, and everything is ready in submission order. Nothing less than 100% compliance is good enough. If you fail to submit even one mandatory item then you needn’t have bothered at all. All your work is wasted.

Don’t answer what you wish they’d asked, or what you think they should’ve asked. Answer what they did ask. If you want to add something that responds to a concern you’re judging the client has but didn’t state, that’s fine. But answer the stated question first.

Gibson writes: “Nothing screams ‘Boilerplate!’ louder, or puts evaluators to sleep faster, than reading answers to questions the RFP didn’t ask, or wading through three pages where one would have been sufficient.”

When you read through at the end, check for a couple of things: Does the client’s name appear more often than yours? Good! That’s how it should be. The client cares about what they can get out of this transaction. Also, when you read each paragraph, is it focused on the benefit to the client, rather than on the features of your product or service? As you read through, keep asking yourself if you’re addressing the question, “What’s in it for them?”

16. Editing: Writing style

Aim to make your response as short as possible, while keeping the necessary information. As Lam says, “Concise responses are more likely to be read in full.”

Check for repetition. Given that different reviewers might be assigned different sections, you might consider making the same point in two sections if it is particularly significant. But definitely don’t make the same point twice in one paragraph.

Delete unnecessary words and sentences.

Make your readers’ lives easier and they’ll like you better.

Don’t use a fancy word like ‘utilize’ when there’s a perfectly good simple word like ‘use’. It doesn’t make you look smart, it just makes your writing harder to read. Have some empathy for the readers who have to wade through your proposal and all of your competitors’! Make your readers’ lives easier and they’ll like you better.

Use the client’s language as much as possible. Their terminology, not yours; their spelling choices, not yours; their acronyms, not yours. Don’t introduce new jargon if you can avoid it.

‘Professional’ doesn’t have to mean dull as dishwater. Use lively language and short paragraphs. Vast walls of text are very unfun to read, especially on a computer screen. Vary the lengths of your sentences.

And, for the love of Zeus, get someone who hasn’t been working on the document to proofread it.

The Grants Director at the Edmonton Arts Council, Stephen Williams, has reviewed only a few RFP responses in 15 years and typically receives grant applications. But he thinks that much the same advice applies: “My advice is not rocket science — be clear, understand what you are being adjudicated on, know who your audience is, and don’t submit typos or math errors.”

17. Learn for next time

If you don’t win, you should make sure that your experience improves the next time you write a proposal. Store boilerplate information properly so it’s easily accessible, and keep it up to date. Same goes for any research you did. Create templates that can be re-used and just require adding in text specific to each proposal.

Mallett says, “If you’re rejected, you should get feedback from the proponent. You’ve invested time and effort and that feedback is the minimum you can expect in return.”

Good luck, and go make that proposal kick ass!


Many thanks to my interviewees who generously shared their time and expertise: Landon Aldridge, Diane Brayman, Rachel Clarida, Carla Dawes, Ken Guido, Brie Lam, Daniel Mallett, David Robinson and Stephen Williams. Thanks also to Isabel Gibson.

23 Mar 15:51

Why Kindness Matters in Customer Conversations

by Matthew Brown

Sometimes in business, attitude is more important than any service or product. Approaching conversations with the right perspective for the situation can completely change the expectations of all parties involved. One person can increase the morale of a room, turning doubt into hope by providing a positive outlook on a situation.

When it comes to customer conversations, kindness is one of the most important tools to have at your disposal. Let’s look at why kindness matters in customer conversations and the impact it can have…

It’s able to make a customer’s day – Sometimes reading the true thoughts or feelings of a customer can be difficult. In a professional setting, it’s often encouraged to “hide” any personal or professional problems that you may have faced earlier in the day. That’s why, when speaking with a customer, kindness can truly make their day. Maybe they just got a flat tire driving to work and instead of being angry that they cancelled your meeting, you can happily reply by telling them it’s no big deal and you look forward to speaking with them. These moments of kindness and customer empathy can go a long way when someone has had a bad day and are experiences that stick with some customers for a long time.

Kindness leads to new upselling opportunities – We often mimic the behavior of others whether we know it or not. When an employee is consistently kind to a customer whenever they speak, there’s a good chance the customer in time will also adopt the kind tone. What’s the benefit of having a mutually kind conversation? With this conversational tone, it creates a comfortable discussion environment that opens doors to new opportunities. Instead of an employee exclaiming “we don’t offer that in this price tier”, they can politely say “we have that solution, along with much more, in this package and we’re willing to talk through the pricing so it works for you”. Being kind while upselling is essential to customer conversations.

It’s a value add that doesn’t have a fiscal cost – The saying “kindness doesn’t cost a thing” still holds true to this day. Yet so many businesses fail to leverage kindness as a value add for their business. It’s time to shift the kind and positive nature of your customer-facing teams into a point of emphasis for the sales team. Talk about how kindness is persistent throughout your organization, and then take it a step further. Encourage prospective customers to interact with your support team and experience the kindness for themselves. With the amount of customer interactions dwindling because of automation, the great interactions stand out even more.

To summarize, kindness matter in customer conversations because it’s an affordable, effective way to keep customers happy. By setting the tone with kindness, you’ll encourage future conversations and open the door to potential business opportunities that may not exist without it. Kindness makes customers more likely to reach out with a problem – We all try to avoid negative interactions and negative experiences as much as we can. By selling the kindness of your support team and encouraging customers to contact them, you’re removing the hesitancy of encountering a negative experience with your business. When a customer knows that they won’t be insulted or scolded for making a mistake with your company, they’ll be more likely to contact you when something goes wrong. This is huge in the B2B (business-to-business) world where customers matter much more to the bottom line of a business.

23 Mar 15:51

How a Sales Leader Leverages Customer Experience

by Matt Sharrers
Today Mike Balow, the Executive VP of Sales and Applications for Cypress Semiconductor, joins us and discusses leveraging CX to enhance your key account program. Mike shares how tailoring to your clients’ needs and expectations leads to successful revenue growth.
23 Mar 15:51

Salesmate Vs. Pipedrive Vs. Agile: Which CRM is Better for Managing Sales

by Melissa Burns

CRM entered the business world as a powerful wave and is flowing strongly across various industries. It has proved to be an effective tool for successfully managing all aspects of sales. CRM has the potential to accelerate revenue by 41% per sales personnel. Companies of various sizes have turned towards this cutting-edge technology for increasing their business profits and revenue.

This sudden rise in popularity has surged the growth of the CRM market. The global CRM software market size is predicted to touch USD 35 billion by 2023 at a CAGR of 6% from 2017 to 2023 (forecast period), asserts Market Research Future (MRFR) in its latest report. The market is currently flooded with a myriad of CRM providers due to the wide array of lucrative opportunities it provides.

CRM software like Salesmate, Pipedrive, and Agile have managed to take the lead in this race and capture the attention of small businesses worldwide. All three have amazing functionalities and can do a wide number of things for a small business.

But which amongst them is the best for managing sales? Which is the right fit for your business and can address your unique requirements? Investing in which CRM software will give you the highest ROI? Which amongst the three offers maximum benefits?

This article will guide you in answering these questions.

Based on the reviews on various reviewing sites like FinancesOnline, GetApp, TrustRadius, and SoftwareAdvice I have compiled information in this article that will help you in making a better decision.

1. About the software

Salesmate, Agile, and Pipedrive, all three have earned recognition in the industry due to their unwavering determination to offer the best experience to the users. Let’s get acquainted with each CRM.

Salesmate CRM

Salesmate is a highly intuitive cloud-based CRM software with advanced capabilities to address modern business and sales challenges. It leverages data, mobility, and enhanced reporting to provide unprecedented visibility into different parts of the sales process.

Salesmate aids in faster deal closure with its smart interface, automated workflows, cross-platform ubiquity, real-time sales intelligence and built-in calling functionality. It tracks every variable involved in converting a deal into a successful sale. Salesmate empowers sales teams with accurate insights to build, nurture and maintain long-term customer relationships.

Pipedrive CRM

Pipedrive is a web-based sales CRM designed for businesses of different sizes. It helps companies in getting their sales efforts organized. It offers code-free integrations and detailed configurations for managing deals efficiently.

Pipedrive provides a complete overview of the sales pipeline and helps sales teams in monitoring various activities related to their deals. It allows sales teams to effortlessly import leads and maintain information about every customer in one place.

Agile CRM

Agile CRM is a robust CRM with integrated sales and marketing tools. It offers a unified platform to store and manage customer data from one single source. It allows companies to synchronize, organize and communicate with contacts in a much better way.

Agile CRM includes task management functionality, so sales teams can easily manage, sort and update their task without any hassle. Tracking website visitors and analyzing customers behavior gets easier with Agile CRM.

2. User friendliness

Most of the companies make the mistake of neglecting usability or user-friendliness while implementing a new software. Sales teams don’t prefer using a technology that is highly complicated and difficult to adapt. User friendliness is one of the main characteristics that you need to mull over while finding the best CRM software for your small business.


It is easy to implement and get started with Salesmate CRM. Its highly interactive dashboard indicates that the CRM was designed keeping the user experience in mind. It has a clean UI; so you don’t have to spend much time and effort in learning the fundamentals for using the software.


Pipedrive dashboard is cautiously designed; it has the right mixture of simplicity and information density. It has a simple interface; any person can easily understand and use the software.


Due to a wide array of features, the interface gets a little crowded making the learning curve for newcomers a bit complex. However, to ensure successful implementation, Agile offers various resources like introduction videos and user guides.

3. Flexibility

It is logical to invest in a solution that grows with your company and render the flexibility to do many things in less time. The best CRM is the one that quickly adapts to the changing requirements and trends.


Salesmate is a versatile tool that integrates with the third party apps that you are already using like G-suite, Slack, Wufoo, and MailChimp. So, you can work seamlessly from one platform without toggling between applications. Moreover, its mobile app makes on-the-go sales easier. You can keep the track of your sales deals and update records from anywhere. Using its geolocation feature, your sales reps can easily find contacts in the nearby location and make the most of their field visits.


Pipedrive helps in maximizing on-the-go sales with its mobile app. You can locate anything with its search bar on your palms and see contact history in seconds. Pipedrive gives you the flexibility to connect and sync with applications you love. It allows you to add and edit activities with just a few clicks.


Agile CRM gives you the information you need whenever you require it. It enables access to the contacts and sales information to the on-field sales agents. Agile CRM keeps you on top of your pending to-do-list and allows you to send automated mobile messages for your marketing campaigns instantly. With agile CRM you can integrate your social, support and billing apps for better and smarter selling.

4. Customization

One size doesn’t fit all. Each business has different requirements, and every sales process is unique. So, see whether you can customize the CRM as per your specific needs.


Salesmate is a fully customizable solution. It allows you to mold different modules of the sales process the way you need it.

  • You can create multiple sales pipelines and add, edit or rename as many stages as you want for your sales process.
  • Create custom fields. Salesmate allows you to create up to 200 custom fields to collect the precise information you need to generate more sales.
  • You can integrate Salesmate with different apps and open up an extensive array of customization opportunities.
  • In Salesmate, the time zone and currency can be changed to target global clients.


Even Pipedrive can be tailored to a certain extent to fit your company’s style and ease your selling.

  • It allows you to modify the pipeline stages and add a wide number of custom fields to it.
  • Pipedrive improves the pipeline visibility by offering the option to switch off the feature that isn’t required.
  • You can integrate Pipedrive with various software and get multiple customization options.


To make selling seamless, even Agile CRM offers an extensive spectrum of customizations.

  • You can customize the campaigns you create in Agile CRM.
  • Even the landing pages can be tailored to your personas in Agile.
  • With customizable content categories, you can easily find the information you need.

5. Industries

The industry is another important factor that needs your attention. Has any company from your industry are currently using the CRM? It is essential to know if the CRM vendor can understand your industry’s challenges and pain points.


The industries using Salesmate CRM are Real Estate, Construction, SaaS, Manufacturing, Hospitality, Finance, Retail, Technology, Logistics, Education, Marketing and Advertising, and Design.


The industries using Pipedrive CRM are Information Technology and Services, Computer Software, and Marketing and Advertising.

Agile CRM

The industries using Agile CRM are Marketing and Advertising, Information Technology, Computer Software, Financial Services, Management Consulting, Real Estate, Telecommunications, Construction, and Staffing and Recruiting.

6. Features

There are certain features that a small business doesn’t require. So why pay extra for those features? Analyze your company’s requirements and find out the features you’ll be needing to optimize your sales process and close more deals.

Here is the list of features offered by the three CRM Software with their respective pricing plans (This list doesn’t consist of enterprise plan as the article is focused on small businesses)


Features Starter $12 Growth $24
Deal Management Yes Yes
Contact Management Yes Yes
Activity Tracking Yes Yes
Company Management Yes Yes
Product and Service Management No Yes
Sales Pipeline Management Yes Yes
Sales Automation Yes (10 workflows) Yes (25 workflows)
Email Tracking Yes Yes
Goal Tracking No Yes
Sales Reports Yes Yes
Team Inbox No Yes
Built-In Calling Yes Yes
Text Messaging Yes Yes
Integration Yes Yes



Features Silver $12.50 Gold $24.20
Pipeline Management Yes Yes
Goals and Activities Yes Yes
Advanced Reporting Tool Yes Yes
Integration Yes Yes
Activities and Reminders Yes Yes
Sales Forecasting Yes Yes
Workflow Automation No Yes
Product Catalogue No Yes
Chat and Email Support No Yes
Sales Inbox No Yes
Sales Forecasting Yes Yes


Agile CRM

Features Starter $8.99 Regular $29.99
Contact and Company Management Yes (10,000) Yes (50,000)
Lead Scoring Yes Yes
Appointment Scheduling Yes Yes
Landing Page Builder Yes Yes
Plugins/Integrations Yes (3) Yes (50+)
Marketing Automation Yes Yes
CRM Telephony No Yes
Reports Yes Yes
Social Monitoring Yes Yes


Please note: These are the main features of the software. To view the advanced capabilities of each feature, please visit the pages using the links above.

7. Affordability

Cost control is one of the best ways of keeping a business in shape. So, settle for a cost-effective solution that offers all the features you need for your small business at an affordable price.


Being a CRM for small business, Salesmate has all the necessary features needed to grow a small business in its starter plan. Besides, you don’t need to invest separately in a phone system as it comes with a built-in virtual phone system.


Pipedrive is a quite affordable solution with many useful features. However, as a small business, you’ll have to extend your budget to get sales inbox along with chat and email support within the CRM


The starters plan of Agile CRM is very affordable. But to add more contacts and leverage all the benefits of Agile’s excellent features, you will have to opt for the advanced plan.

8. Quality support

No matter how simple CRM software is. There are times when you will need the help of the CRM vendor to get the best out of the CRM software.


Salesmate is a customer-oriented software that offers best in class support to its clients.

Salesmate offers support through-

  • Knowledge-base
  • Live Chat
  • Video tutorials
  • Email


You can quickly get in touch with Pipedrive support team and get the help you need.

Pipedrive offers support through-

  • Chat
  • Email
  • Videos
  • Knowledge-base


Agile provides full support to help you become effective in using the CRM software

Agile offers support through-

  • Helpdesk
  • Email
  • Video tutorial and guides

Making the decision

Salesmate, Pipedrive and Agile, all three have excellent functionalities and unique characteristics. Salesmate is renowned for its automation and built-in calling feature. Pipedrive is known for its pipeline management capabilities. Agile is acclaimed for its marketing automation and campaigns. Based on the need analysis of your business, create a list of concerns and issues you want to resolve with the CRM software.

Ponder over all the factors like flexibility, affordability, customization, features, etc, and then decide which CRM software out of the three can be an ideal solution to scale your small business.

22 Mar 16:22

9 Places to Learn Public Speaking Skills for Free

by Larry Kim

robinsonk26 / Pixabay

Public speaking is a highly sought after skill — in fact, if you want to be an executive with your company, an author, a salesperson, a trainer or any other public-facing professional, you’re probably going to need to get comfortable with public speaking.

And yet public speaking anxiety is still the top phobia, affecting more people than fears of spiders, heights, darkness and even death.

That’s right, death.

If you’re one of those people who would rather curl up in a ball and simply die than speak in front of a crowd, you definitely need to check out these 9 places you can learn public speaking skills absolutely free:

1. Learn by Example on Udemy

Video-based learning platform Udemy has a great public speaking course offered free of charge by Professor Chris Haroun, business school professor, venture capitalist and author. In his course ‘Give Amazing Presentations and Enjoy Public Speaking,” Haroun analyzes great speeches by people like Steve Jobs, Meryl Streep and Ronald Reagan in short videos, allowing participants to see the power of great speaking skills in action.

2. University of Washington’s Intro to Public Speaking on Coursera

Instructor Dr. Matt McGarrity from U of W’s Department of Communications guides learners through a 10-week course designed to help participants verbally communicate their thoughts in a more articulate way. From designing impromptu speeches, to mastering the speech preparation process, to delivering informative and persuasive speeches in the most effective manner, Dr. McGarrity’s course is a deep dive into public speaking skills for professionals of all kinds.

3. Sarah Lloyd-Hughes’ 6-Week E-Course on Public Speaking

The author of Pearson’s bestselling ‘How to Be Brilliant at Public Speaking’ offers a free six-week online course, delivered to participants’ email inboxes. Each week’s lessons focus on one quality shared by the world’s best public speakers, with advice and instruction on how to develop that quality in yourself. Lloyd-Hughes emphasized brevity, with just a short written lesson and video for each component. If you’re pressed for time but want advice with maximum impact, this is a good choice.

4. Dale Carnegie’s ‘The Art of Public Speaking’ in Downloadable Audio

Before writing ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ Dale Carnegie co-authored ‘The Art of Public Speaking’ with Joseph B. Esenwein. Their advice is still relevant a century later! Volunteer narrators at Librivox recorded the book onto over 19 hours of audio describing how to use your voice and hand gestures to emphasize your points, how to convey confidence in large groups, how to persuade people and more. You can download each chapter as a separate MP3 file from

5. Fundamentals of Public Speaking Lectures, University of Houston

Professor Deborah Bridges from the University of Houston shares her 12-minute ‘Fundamentals of Public Speaking’ lecture in a video that has been viewed more than 16,000 times. Designed as a distance education course for COM1332, the course is a series of lectures all available free of charge now on YouTube. Start with the linked video above and look to the right for the next lectures in the series.

6. Saylor Academy’s COMM101: Public Speaking Course

This in-depth course is a good choice for those who want to develop better speaking skills with an understanding of the theories and principles behind effective verbal communications. The course is designed around the textbook ‘Stand Up, Speak – The Practice and Ethics of Public Speaking,’ which is also provided in digital format free of charge. Learners will also take cues from Stephen Lucas’ ‘The Art of Public Speaking.’ This is one of the lengthier options for learning public speaking; the length of the course is estimated at 93 hours.

7. The Public Speaking Project

The Public Speaking Project describes itself as, “an assortment of virtual tools to help users improve their public speaking skills… (offered by) a variety of speech professionals who are dedicated to providing free and low cost instructional materials contributed their original work.” Here, you’ll find a free e-book textbook on public speaking, a virtual classroom with lessons on speech writing and delivery, video modules and interactive activities to help improve your public speaking skills. Sections of the website are still under construction, but the content they do have now is worth checking out.

8. Toastmasters International’s Free Public Speaking Tips

Toastmasters is a massive public speaking group, with over 332,000 members worldwide. While it’s great to get together in person and learn in that way, it’s not always possible. If you can’t join one of the 15,400 clubs spanning 135 countries, you might still find their informative articles helpful. The free resources on their website cover a variety of public speaking topics and scenarios, from preparing a speech, to presenting awards, to giving sales pitches and more.

9. The Accidental Communicator Blog

Dr. Jim Anderson generously shares his experience and knowledge from spending the last 25 years coaching and training public speakers in regular posts on his blog, ‘The Accidental Communicator.’ His advice often centers around the concept that great knowledge can be unlocked from within companies through the improvement of communication and speaking skills. Dr. Anderson blogs often and has a massive collection of public speaking advice already published for your perusal.

10. Andrew Dlugan’s Six Minutes

The ‘Six Minutes’ website houses a wealth of free information and insight into speech writing, delivery techniques, effective PowerPoints and speaking habits, both good and bad. In addition to site creator Andrew Dlugan, dozens of professional speakers, speaking coaches and university professors share guest articles on various aspects of public speaking. The site is also structured logically, making it easy to find advice on the specific areas of speaking in which you need help.

11. FutureLearn’s Talk the Talk

‘Talk the Talk: How to Give a Great Presentation’ is a free, 6-week online course that uses resources including TED Talks videos to demonstrate the art of effective public speaking. It’s more interactive than a lot of the other online resources featured here, since you’re expected to participate in discussions with other learners. If you find online courses a bit lonely and like learning by engaging in conversation, this course is a great choice.

And of course, once you have your public speaking skills up to par, you’ll want to focus on the most valuable, in-demand skill of all: programming! There are a ton of free places to learn a programming language online, too.

Originally Published on

22 Mar 15:58

Why Email Marketing Still Rules (Plus 3 Tips to Increase Engagement)

by kniemisto

Email marketing is like an old friend. It’s been around for years. It doesn’t surprise you much anymore. You may even find it a little boring sometimes. But at the end of the day, you know you can depend on it.

Even with the emergence of more exciting engagement tactics, email marketing has remained a key method for reaching your audience.

In fact, nearly 70% of people between the ages of 18 and 34 prefer companies communicate with them through email, according to MarketingSherpa research. That number’s even higher among 35- to 44-year-olds and 45- to 54-year-olds.

Regardless of how people feel about email communications, many marketers’ email campaigns are failing to connect with customers.

Nearly half of the marketers who participated in a recent Demand Metric/Return Path study reported email open rates of 15% or less, while almost 60% cited click-through rates of 8% or less.

But that isn’t because email marketing is past its prime. It’s because too many marketers have neglected the recent paradigm shift. Namely, today’s customers have become much more sophisticated about how they consume content.

Here are three easy ways you can improve your email marketing efforts to better connect with your audience and increase engagement:

1. Segment your lists

The first thing you’ll want to do is figure out who you should be talking to—and why.

Some of the most popular characteristics marketers use to segment their lists include:

  • Job title or function
  • Demographics
  • Purchase history
  • Website activity
  • Past email clicks or opens

Why is this important? For one, people’s inboxes are overflowing with marketing emails. If you insist on sending messages that fail to pique their interests, they’ll quickly tune out.

Say you’re trying to engage a chief human resources officer (CHRO) audience. Sending those executives HR content isn’t enough. Instead, you need to focus on their particular industries and needs.

A CHRO in the rapidly growing high-tech industry, for example, would likely be interested in information around talent recruitment.

Meanwhile, a CHRO in a legacy industry—where decades-long employees are nearing retirement—would gravitate more toward content on workforce management and succession planning.

Segmenting your lists gives you a chance to customize your communications, creating tailor-made messages that resonate with your intended audience.

2. Trigger your messaging

As a marketer, you’ve heard the phrase “email blast.” Does it make you cringe? It should.

Rather than sending emails to large, unorganized lists of contacts, you need to strategically engage.

Launching a triggered messaging program—using innovative email marketing software—can help. It allows you to contact customers and prospects based on actions or conditions.

For instance, if someone abandoned their online shopping cart on your ecommerce site, you could send them a strategically timed discount offer. Or, if a person attended your recent software showcase, you could send them an exclusive invite to register early for the next event in town.

By making each of your interactions more meaningful, you’ll earn more customer trust and gain greater influence over their buying decisions.

3. Take advantage of your data

In modern marketing, data is a priceless commodity. And while most marketers recognize that, too few use it like the valuable currency it is. Instead, they treat these precious golden nuggets like knickknacks on some dusty, old shelf.

But for email marketing to have real impact, data must be front and center. Marketers need to capitalize on the information at their fingertips to learn more about their audience and personalize their communications.

That could mean studying device data to better understand how customers view emails and then optimizing messages for mobile. Or it could mean analyzing complaint data to determine optimal email cadences.

Even information that doesn’t seem relevant can be useful. Evaluating how customers behave on a website or social media channel can provide a more vivid picture of their interests, enabling you to improve how you engage with them.

Deliver quality communications

Putting these three ideas into practice will help you elevate your email game. This will:

  • Engender trust between you and your customers—because you’re not bugging them with emails at all hours of the day.
  • Prove you’re tuned in to their needs—because you’re only sending them relevant information.
  • Show you’re listening to them—because you’re providing value, not just trying to sell them stuff.

That’s all your email subscribers are looking for today. And they, along with their inboxes, aren’t going anywhere—especially now that you have these three tips to increase engagement.

Download The Definitive Guide to Engaging Email Marketing to learn more.

The post Why Email Marketing Still Rules (Plus 3 Tips to Increase Engagement) appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

22 Mar 15:57

Golden Circle model: Simon Sinek’s theory of value proposition ‘start with why’

by Dave Chaffey

Simon Sinek explains how to use the Golden Circle model to truly differentiate your brand's value proposition when most fail Leadership expert Simon Sinek is perhaps best known for giving one of the most popular TED talks of all time, …..

The post Golden Circle model: Simon Sinek’s theory of value proposition ‘start with why’ appeared first on Smart Insights.

22 Mar 15:54

B2B Customer Experience: Why It Matters and Where to Start

by Maria Geokezas

By Maria Geokezas, VP of Client Services at Heinz Marketing

Customer experience matters – to the tune of $1 billion a year for SaaS-based companies alone.  And most CMOs know customer experience matters but sadly, only 57% of them report marginal customer experience impact.

Customer experience impacts the business’ bottom line.  In a recent study, the Temkin Group found that when faced with a positive customer experience customers spend more.

  • 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience
  • 73% of buyers point to customer experience as an important factor in purchasing decisions
  • 65% of buyers find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising

Where to Start

Customer experience is described in many different ways depending on who you talk to.  Some business execs think of it as customer service.  Some marketers may think of it as the impressions they create with their brand and marketing messages.  Sales and customer success professionals may think of customer experience as the personal relationships they develop over time with a prospect or customer.

Customers may have a hard time describing the experience they have with organizations they do business with.  Unless it’s a bad customer experience – and then not only are customers more likely to share their bad experience, they share it more often.  Stories or reviews of bad experiences are shared 5 times more than a good experience.

Customer experience is defined by Forrester as “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”  It’s made up of your customers perception of how useful, easy and fun it is to work with your company.

When you think about the last interaction with a company, brand or product, ask yourself:

  • How useful was the experience? This is the logical and objective piece of customer experience.  Did you get what you needed?, was it delivered on time?, was it of value to you?
  • How easy was the interaction? This is the more subjective element of customer experience.  Was engaging with the company effortless?  How easy was it to work with the company and use whatever they produced for you?
  • How engaging was the interaction? This is the emotional part of customer engagement.  How enjoyable was the interaction with the company?  Did you look forward to those interactions or not?

Here at Heinz Marketing, our values are the foundation of the experience we hope our clients and partners perceive.  We feel if we apply our values in how we treat our clients and partners and how we prioritize and deliver our work, we will have created an environment where our clients achieve their goals (usefulness), get more value out of the relationship (ease) and have a positive experience with us (engaging).

But, values aren’t enough. Next time, we’ll discuss how to utilize your core values to create a tangible and unique customer experience that increases loyalty among customers, partners and employees.  In the meantime, tell us how you describe a good customer experience.

The post B2B Customer Experience: Why It Matters and Where to Start appeared first on Heinz Marketing.

22 Mar 15:54

The Importance of Cross-selling and Product Recommendations for E-commerce Website

by Stacey Rudolph

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you are visiting a website thinking that you are only going to purchase a certain product, but actually end up buying more than that? For instance, you Visit Amazon and you want to only buy a new smartphone, but then you see a recommendation being advertised for you to buy a stereo earphone so you end up purchasing the product as well?

Well, what has actually happened is that you have fallen into the trap of cross-selling and product recommendation strategy of that website and ended up spending more than you initially planned for. Cross-selling and product recommendation is becoming very popular and is said to contribute up to 35% of overall revenues in Amazon, according to Invespcro. Moreover, statistics show that shoppers that clicked on product recommendations are 4.5 times likely to add that product to their carts. In addition to that, Forrester Research estimate that product recommendation have contributed nearly 30% of total sales of many e-commerce stores.

The Importance of Cross Selling and E-commerce Product Recommendations – Statistics and Trends

In other words, cross-selling and product recommendations can boost your sales and revenue if it is done right. Given the immense benefits that one derive from cross selling and product recommendations, here are three things that marketers must bear in mind.

1. Ensure that timing is right

An important aspect of ecommerce is that one must always remember that not all visitors that come to your store know exactly what they want. Maybe they just want to browse different products and see what products catches their fancy or they know what product they are looking or but they are not sure about the brand. So product recommendation can be utilized to tilt the scales to your favor. The benefits are manifold and using product recommendations effectively can help you to convert 49% of your customers.

However, timing is important when it comes to cross selling and product recommendations. Wrong timing can result in losing up to 40% of your potential customers. The golden rule is to respect your customer’s time. For instance, do not bring up product recommendations to your users if they are in a hurry to complete a purchase. Make sure that you cross sell when they are finalizing the purchase.

2. Convey your value

Cross selling without conveying the value proposition to the buyer might backfire as doing so would portray you as being driven financially. Conveying a value when cross selling or recommending additional product will result in more purchases because doing so gives your customers the reasoning behind the recommendations. For instance are you recommending a phone casing to phone buyers because you want them to protect their new phones? Why did other users who bought phones also purchase phone casings?

3. Listen to the feedback

As a marketer, it is always important to listen to your customer’s feedback so that you can refine your future marketing efforts. Observe carefully the purchasing trends.

Cross selling and product recommendation is very effective if done right. Product recommendation can result in more repeat site visits with timely marketing messages. You think that product recommendations and cross-selling are easy ‘plug and play’? Well, you need to think again. The meat of the matter lies in executing your strategies well.