Just add water…

Sometimes, at work and in our personal life, we “circle the pool” so many times that people begin to take notice of what we AREN’T doing, and that can be a problem.

It’s one thing to be a good steward and do our due diligence, whether it be managing a budget or project at work, or making a big decision in our personal life.

It’s quite another thing to let our fears get in the way of taking action. And, when we don’t take action, we miss the opportunity to learn from mistakes. A knowledge base cannot be built through planning alone.

Plan, but don’t forget to plan to take action and also plan to make mistakes along the way. At the end of the day, if you want to learn to swim, you have to get in the water.

Optimizing Branded Content for Search

Have you ever read a blog post, caught a Twitter update or received an email promoting something that looked interesting but for whatever reason the timing wasn’t right to respond to it?  Perhaps it was a white paper, an eBook, or a webinar and you passed on downloading it because:

  • you knew you didn’t have time to read or view it right then
  • it pertained to a future initiative, but you had to get through the one at hand first, or
  • you were on a mobile device and it wasn’t convenient to download at the time

You aren’t the only one.  Chances are that your prospects have done the same thing with your content.  The opportunity that many marketers miss when they publish great content is to optimize a companion landing page (at minimum) for search.  Since the search engines are typically the first place people go when they’re looking for answers, it makes sense to make your solution easy to find.

Below is an example of one way to approach optimizing branded content for search.  This happens to be how the demand generation agency I’m with approached branded content SEO for their very popular eBook, “The High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook.”

Let’s assume the prospect forgot the company’s name (how dare they?!) but remembered the asset was something like, “high tech marketing handbook.”  Here’s the search result:

search optimized branded content

The first listing links to the eBook landing page (with registration form), the second listing links to an optimized page on Spear’s resource center.

Even with top billing in the organic listings, it’s still not a bad idea to include branded content keywords to your paid search campaign in the mix, particularly if you find competitors competing for related phrases.

The branded content SEO tactic can also work well when combined with display advertising promoting the content.  By using the display ads to create awareness content asset, you can measure lift in organic search and conversions.

Below are some tips for optimizing a branded content landing page for search:

  • Include the unique, branded title of the content in the URL
  • Include the title and your company name in the Page Title
  • Include a call-to-action in the page description, along with a concise description of how a prospect will benefit from the offer
  • Include the title in the page copy with an H1 tag
  • If the content is registration gated, use an image of the offer content (a thumbnail or similar image) to make it more “tangible”
    • Also, don’t include more registration form fields than are absolutely necessary
  • Reinforce the call to action along with a description of the types of problems that your content will solve
    • If possible, break up the keywords from your content title and integrate them separately in the on-page content
  • Build high-quality links to the landing page via authoritative sites (via blogging, social media, etc.)
  • With gated content, improve conversions by limiting extraneous navigation and unrelated calls-to-action
  • If the content is gated, create a “thank you page” for post-registration that includes social media icons (linked to the landing page) to make it easy to share the content socially
  • If the content is un-gated, place a image, sidebar banner or link to relevant “gated content”
  • If the content is gated, consider fulfilling the content via email (particularly if you use a marketing automation solution because you can more easily track opens and clicks)

My CEO Says I Need an Email Campaign by Friday…

Some time ago, I connected with a prospect via a referral.  On our first phone call, he told me that he’d been on the job for two weeks and his CEO was demanding an email go out by the coming Friday or “heads are going to roll.”

He had a relatively defined target audience, but a limited idea of content.  The executive team (operations & sales) was pressuring him to deliver leads, but there was no basis for measurement and no concept of the buyer’s needs. He had to beg for budget. Sound familiar?  I hope not.

This is the absolute worst scenario to be in from a marketer’s perspective. No goals, no metrics, no ROI to stand by. This was simply a “do what I say” situation; fraught with disaster with only a prayer as the upside.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a project I was willing to take on.  I can only assume that the end result was someone on their executive team exclaiming, “email marketing doesn’t work for us.”  No kidding…

So, what can you do to avoid this situation in the first place?  Below are 4 things to consider. I also recommend checking out  Marketo CMO, Jon Miller’s  presentation on the Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics.

1. Establish Measurability

Wide receivers are defined by how many touchdowns and yards they generate. Baseball sluggers are measured by their ability to produce home runs and RBI’s.

Establish a baseline for how you are measured in marketing. (Get it in writing, if possible.) That fundamental exercise will defend against much of the rancor you will encounter as a marketer.

2. Quantify Your Decisions

As a marketer, you are hired to make good decisions; decisions that will impact the revenue of your company. Create an environment in which you can say, “No, we’re not ready.”

Any CEO worth their salt wants a leadership team that will work to understand goals and present better alternatives rather than simply follow orders. If you quantify your decisions, “I need two weeks to evaluate the audience and develop offer content with which to engage them in order to produce any qualified leads,” a good CEO will respect you.

3. Focus on the Pain Points

You can have the highest quality list, but if your message doesn’t resonate with the audience, it will not be effective. It takes time to understand the pain points of various audiences, to craft the message and align with solutions.

Focus on the buyer’s pain points first and develop the strategy around your marketing objectives.

4. Become the Authority (Even if you’re less experienced)

Discover the secrets to winning email campaigns. Learn the mistakes, false assumptions, and risky strategies that doom so many email programs, gleaned from years of experience producing successful campaigns for leading B2B marketers. Download the free white paper, Top 10 B2B E-mail Marketing Mistakes.

3 Steps To A B2B Social Media Marketing Strategy Your CEO Will Love

B2B Social Media ROI

There’s an ongoing debate about the ROI of social media marketing.  Many of the conversations center around measuring social media as a branding and awareness tool, while others concentrate on the value of thought leadership.

Monitoring the metrics for thought leadership and branding are important, but many marketers make the mistake of using those metrics to support the success of their social media initiatives.  This can result in C-level executives doubting the return on their investment in social media.

Simply put, your CEO is probably less interested in hearing about how many people are talking about your brand/product/service and more interested in learning how social media helped drive revenue.

As a sales person in the B2B Demand Generation space, I’ve invested countless hours researching, experimenting and testing various techniques.

Based on my experience (almost all my sales wins in the past 2 years can be attributed to using social media marketing and sales techniques), the following are three steps marketers can take to directly attribute sales leads to their B2B social media marketing strategy:

1. Convert Thought Leadership Into “Offer Content”

Convert thought leadership into white papers, videos, or otherwise tangible “offer content” assets that are specifically written NOT to sell your company, product or services, but rather to SOLVE a business problem. (Problems that coincidentally, your product/service can assist with.)

Then, develop a plan to promote the content socially.  Tactics can include lacing links to the offer content in relevant blog posts, posting bite-sized snippets of the content on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, and including links in the comments of related blog posts and community forums (but only when they add value, never spam links in unrelated posts).

If the nature of the content is meant for prospects in the early stage of the buying cycle, it’s a good idea to present it as “un-gated” (i.e. no registration required). For offer content that would be most interesting to audiences later in the buying cycle, it might be a good idea to have it accompanied by a landing page* (with registration form), a thank you page and/or a fulfillment email.*

*If your company has invested in a marketing automation (MA) solution like Marketo, visits to the content assets can be tracked, providing valuable sales and marketing intelligence.**

To learn more about choosing the right offer, download a free copy of the white paper “How To Choose Your Carrot: Effective Lead Generation Offers for High-Technology Marketers,” from the lead generation experts at Spear Marketing Group.

2.  Dedicate Sales Time To Social Listening & Social Selling

Social selling is very similar to attending conferences, user groups and association meetings. Except you do it daily.

Your first job is to position yourself in online communities ripe with your target audience.

The second part of your job is to participate in conversations with solutions to their problems, make friends and be as helpful as possible – without coming across as “salesy.”

The third part is to always watch and listen. Keep an eye out for pains and needs that your product or service can solve. Watch for changes in jobs, industry news and other events that signal an opportunity for you to engage.

I’ll post later on more strategies to find your target audience, but in the meantime here are some suggestions on where/how to find your audience:

*LinkedIn Groups & Other Online Forums

*Twitter

*RSS Feeds

3. Craft A Great Intro Email

Believe it or not, the Intro Email is quite possibly the most effective weapon of successful social selling.  At some point, you’ll want to connect outside of social media to get the meeting, and good old-fashioned email  (along with a follow-up call) still reigns king for that purpose.  As with all good marketing emails, the subject line must bestow a benefit to the audience.

Example Subject Line: Learn how to improve your XXX

Once you have their interest, the body of the email needs to speak to their needs and business problems and demonstrate your credentials for offering a solution.

Example Email Body:

[FirstName]:

This email is to introduce you to ABC Corp, an XYZ company specializing in XXX. We help companies like [CompanyName] improve their XXX by assisting with:

<Distill your message to 3 points, maximum. Bullet point them here.>

I’m interested in learning whether you have any XXX initiatives upcoming. If you’re interested in discussing XXX or in learning more about XYZ company, please feel free to contact me directly.
Regards,

[Your FirstName]

<Pay attention, because here comes the important part>

P.S. If you’re interested in tips on maximizing your XXX, get a free copy of our [insert title of  and link to business problem-solving offer content asset here].

[Your EmailSignature]

Trust me, the P.S. works.

So, now that you have the basics, how will you integrate this strategy in your initiatives?

**[Full disclosure: The agency I work for is a Marketo partner.]

7 Ways Sales Intelligence Gives You Super Powers

I was recently invited to guest post for InsideView, one of my favorite sales & marketing software tools. The abridged version is below and you can read the original post here.

Sales Intelligence Super Powers

Image courtesy of InsideView

In his June 27, 2011 Harvard Business Review article, “Seven Personality Traits of Top Salespeople,” Steve W. Martin published the main key personality attributes he discovered after administering 1,000 personality tests to top business-to-business salespeople.

Mr. Martin revealed that the seven most common personality traits of top performers are:

  1. Modesty
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Achievement Orientation
  4. Curiosity
  5. Lack of Gregariousness
  6. Lack of Discouragement
  7. Lack of Self-Consciousness.

Martin notes that the “key personality traits directly influence top performers’ selling style and ultimately their success.”

Could it be that these traits of sales superstars could be considered the inherent “super powers” of successful sales people?

Now, before you start exposing your sales team to gamma rays and radioactive spiders, there’s another solution. You can use sales intelligence to amplify these traits amongst your sales team and empower them to be better salespeople. Here’s how:

1. MODESTY

Selling Style Impact: Team Orientation

Top salespeople aren’t concerned about who gets the accolades for a sale – they just want to do their job and help their clients. So, they position their team to accounts as the centerpiece of value.

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: Intros, Referrals and References

Sales intelligence can quickly identify connections between the salesperson, the salesperson’s colleagues, and the account contact. Through those connections, the salesperson can humbly leverage their network for intros, referrals and references instead of boasting about how great they are directly to the prospect.

2. CONSCIENTIOUSNESS

Selling Style Impact: Account Control

Top salespeople control the sales process; quickly determining when an account is not a candidate, when it’s time to re-engage and when it’s time for the next step.

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: Smart Agents and Watchlists

Features like “Smart Agents and Watchlists”, provide instant alerts on events such as leadership changes, mergers & acquisitions, funding and product launches. Rather than scouring the Internet on a daily basis looking for news and updates, InsideView sends these alerts so that the salesperson is always knowledgeable and in control of their account.

3. ACHIEVEMENT ORIENTATION

Selling Style Impact: Political Orientation

Martin states that, “During sales cycles, top sales performers seek to understand the politics of customer decision-making. Their goal orientation instinctively drives them to meet with key decision-makers.”

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: People

One of the greatest new features from InsideView is Industry Insights which gives a 360 degree view of the company and its industry. Salespeople can quickly research and obtain information on the key decision-makers before even asking the customer to explain their decision-making process.

4. CURIOSITY

Selling Style Impact: Inquisitiveness

Successful salespeople are naturally curious and unafraid to ask customers the questions that are vital to uncovering a fit.

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: Account Profile, News and Smart Agents

Sales intelligence aggregates and provides quick access to the mundane data, allowing the salesperson to be well-informed going into client calls and focus the time on the vital questions around needs and process. Using a sales intelligence platform, such as InsideView, salespeople can now find the right people in an organization and understand the right message they need to reach out.

5. LACK OF GREGARIOUSNESS

Selling Style Impact: Dominance

Successful salespeople establish expertise with contacts and as a result, their customers are willing to follow the salesperson’s recommendations and advice.

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: Intros, Referrals and References

Authority is established early on when a relationship starts with one of the customer’s trusted peers making a recommendation to speak with the salesperson. Using the connections feature from InsideView, you can easily peer into the connections you have within every organization. What’s great is that it grabs connections from social media sources such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

6. LACK OF DISCOURAGEMENT

Selling Style Impact: Competitiveness

According to Martin, “top performers are able to handle emotional disappointments, bounce back from losses, and mentally prepare themselves for the next opportunity to compete.”

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: Build a List

If you missed your quarter because one deal fell through, it’s hard not to feel like you’re in the dumps. Sales intelligence allows you to quickly build a list of targeted accounts to keep your prospecting engine running and your pipeline full of opportunities so you can shrug off the lost opportunities and continue to charge like a rhino.

(For more tips, advice and best practices for filling up your pipeline, download a free copy of Spear Marketing Group’s High Tech Direct Marketing Handbook.)

7. LACK OF SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS

Selling Style Impact: Aggressiveness

Top salespeople are fearless and comfortable fighting for their cause.

Sales Intelligence Amplifier: Sales Intelligence

The bottom line is simply that confidence is preparation. Sales intelligence empowers your salespeople with quick access to the tools they need to hit the goals and drive revenue.

The 5 Key Questions To Consider For Database Segmentation Success

I’m very pleased to welcome Walker Settle as a contributor to Inbound Marketing Insights. Be sure to follow him on his new Twitter account, @WalkerSettle. -Tom

Customer Database Segmentation

Customer segmentation implementations are often extremely time and resource intensive projects. In most cases, those that fail to meet expectations simply lack the initial planning and strategy that is the key to success.

Unclear goals compel marketers to leverage their segmentation into areas where it wasn’t initially designed or intended to inform. As a result the segmentation fails to perform and companies abandon the scheme as a failure or spend additional time and money to build second systems with different “views” of the customer inside the organization (often while the first is still being adopted).

The key to success is in the planning. The number one tip? Start backwards, think about how you want to execute the system and get key stakeholders on the same page about how they want to “view” customers. Below are the 5 key questions to consider when developing your customer database segmentation strategy:

1. What aspects of our business does the segmentation need to inform?

Good segmentation needs to be highly actionable. Knowing, before you start, what you want it to do and establishing key performance indicators against those actions will be crucial for measuring the value of the segmentation.

2. Will the segments be used purely for strategic planning or for tactical execution?

This question will help define what type of segmentation you need. Execution for media messaging, product development or customer psychology will be a survey based approach discovering the needs and attitudes of the customer. A more tactical execution will often lead to demographic or lifestyle segmentation.

3. Who are the stakeholders in the organization that will use the segments and get their input?

Input from all the stakeholders, including the mid level employees who need to implement it, will be critical to adoption and success.

4. Do we need to find these segments in our database, a third party database or both?

This question will help you identify what data assets can be used when building your segmentation. The data elements that assign the segments need t be available where you want to execute the scheme.

5. Do I need to size the segments for local markets or are national perspectives ok? How local?

This question will also assist to determine which approach you use for segmentation and what data assets you will need.

Answer these questions before you start to look for companies to help you with your segmentation and you’ll be on your way toward a successful engagement.

7 Tips for Successful Sales Meetings

I recently came across the infographic (below), “Don’t Suck At Meetings” and had to share it along with 7 Tips For Successful Sales Meetings:

1.  Make Sr. Management participation optional unless they need to be there

While you might ultimately need buy-in from the CEO, COO or SVP to get the deal done, if their participation isn’t required to meet a specific meeting goal, make it optional for them to join.  Ask account contacts to describe who makes various decisions in the buying cycle so you know when more expensive employees need to be in the meeting.  Also, remember your value to your company as well.  Make sure the meetings you participate in have clear goals and the right decision-makers to authorize next steps so you’re not wasting company dollars.

2.  Keep it concise

You’ll likely get more meetings and accomplish more if you keep meetings to 15-30 minutes.  Doing so, along with clearly articulating the goals of the meeting in advance will not only be more productive than longer meetings, but will also demonstrate to a prospect that you are professional, courteous and efficient.

3.  Listen

Speak less than half the time and when you do speak, ask open questions that uncover needs and lead to achieving the meeting goal.

4.  Follow up with concise collateral (with next steps)

Follow up with collateral that gives an overview of what you discussed, what you accomplished in the meeting and what you understand the next steps to be.  Ask for participants feedback and/or buy-in on what was accomplished and the next steps.

5. Present a follow up date and time

If a follow up call is part of the next steps, assign a date and time.  Try to make it within 24 hours of the meeting.  Ask participants for their feedback/buy-in on this as part of the next step.

6.  Structure emails to be easily read with clear ownership of next steps

This isn’t on the infographic, but it’s a great trick that I learned from my production team.  Bold names of the people who are responsible for next steps and create separate paragraphs for each “assignment.”  People read through emails pretty quickly and if someone “misses something” it can delay the sales cycle.  Here’s an example:

[Contact names]:

Great chatting with you today.  Thank you all so much for your time and participation.  Our goal for the meeting was to establish whether [Your Company’s Solution] was a fit for [Prospect’s Need] and I think we can all agree that our XYZ solution is a good match.  As I understand it, our next steps are to determine whether there’s  budget to get started this quarter and to see if my team can implement by month end.  Please feel free to respond if I’ve missed anything.

Bob:  I’ll send you the cost proposal under a separate cover later today.  Let’s you and I huddle up for 5 minutes tomorrow to make sure everything is in order.  I’ll go ahead and send a meeting request for 10am tomorrow, please feel free to reply with an alternate time, as needed.

Mary:  I’m happy to have my team review your project schedule to confirm we can deliver by month end.  My team is available at 11am tomorrow, so I’ll go ahead and hold that time so we can review the schedule together.  Let me know if later in the afternoon works better for you, we can also meet at 2pm.

We should have everything in place by end of day tomorrow, so I’ll go ahead and send a tentative meeting invitation to regroup on Friday at 11am.  Regards,

[Your Name]

7.  Send those LinkedIn invitations

According to the inforgraphic, more than three out of every four professionals will accept a LinkedIn invitation.  Connecting on LinkedIn is a great way for prospects to learn more about you and see who you have in common – not to mention a great way to broaden your network.

 

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