You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
No, not that kind of fresh. You have an effective way to keep them visiting you online: your blog, and its immediate relevance.
How do you get prospects and customers to go to your website? You probably do some email marketing announcing sales. Maybe you provide links on Facebook and Twitter for new product announcements, unadvertised discounts, etc. Or you’ve been doing a stellar job with your SEO efforts and they’re finding you in Google searches.
There’s another way, one I haven’t discussed for awhile: a regularly-updated, engaging blog that offers education, news, and sometimes even lighthearted fun.
It’s Not Rocket Science
Have you created a blog yet? They’re really quite easy to launch and update – certainly much easier than building a website but a little more challenging than status updates and tweets. Blogger (free!) and WordPress are two of the oldest, simplest and best-known, but there are many others.
If you’ve started a blog but have lost your enthusiasm about keeping it updated, I suggest you either do so or take it down. The internet is full of ghost blogs, pages that were started with good intentions but then forgotten. Anyone landing on such a site may wonder if you’re still in business, and if so, why you’ve neglected the space. It will reflect on your brand.
Know what I like most about having a blog? It’s the only area of my online presence where I can quickly add or edit content. Yes, tweets and Facebook posts don’t take more than a minute or so—if that—but I can’t really expand on a topic there; rather, I have to get visitors to click on links. And if you run your own website, you know what a pain it can be to make a simple change – depending on what tools you use.
Your blog can be whatever you want it to be without putting too much time into the production end. I don’t think it’s necessarily the best venue for content like:
The first two are best placed where your customers and prospects would typically go for the latest news, Twitter (if you have an active, well-attended feed), Facebook (ditto) or email. That’s where your gotta-tell-it-now stuff should go. All of those communications tools, too, should be directing people to your website, where they can learn all they need to know about your offerings (and, hopefully, place orders).
But there’s room for fresh information on your blog, too, content that can drive people to your website. You could write about, for example:
You can write snippets when ideas strike you or news breaks, and drop in “fluff” occasionally (funny or heartwarming content you want to share), but your best blog content will showcase your own expertise and your products’ real-life applications as you help customers improve their personal or professional lives.
Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an absolute must, especially for small businesses. Are you using it?
I’ve written before about the importance of using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in your online content. If you keep the principles of SEO in mind as you’re writing, your chances of appearing high in the list of search results are increased.
This is really, really important for small businesses. Big businesses have advertising budgets and professional staff writers and name recognition (but they, too, have to practice effective SEO). Smaller companies have to fight harder to climb the massive Google ladder.
(If you’re unfamiliar with the principles of SEO, check out this Google tutorial.)
Clutch, a B2B research firm, today released the results of a study that surveyed 352 U.S. small business owners and managers. The majority of those who responded had 1-10 employees and brought in less than $1 million in annual revenue. The study was conducted to answer this question:
In what ways does search engine optimization (SEO) and paid online advertising factor into a small business’ digital marketing strategy?
Think about your own online marketing strategy for a minute. Do you have one? If you’re constantly in a quandary about what content to produce, where to post it and when, you probably don’t. So take a step back and do some soul-searching. What do you hope to accomplish through your presence on your own website and on social media sites? Know why you’re there and what you’re trying to do, and your editorial calendar will be easier to put together.
But back to the study. Here are some of the results that I find interesting:
From what the study uncovered, though, it looks like things may be changing over the next year or so. 60 percent of small businesses are planning to implement an SEO strategy by 2017 or later.
If you’re not in that 60 percent, your competition is about to get a lot tougher.
Everyone wants to get more work done every day. Here are some simple but effective tips.
I don’t usually use my blog space to excerpt other peoples’ work, but HubSpot—a marketing support company that does exceptional work—recently published an article that really struck a chord with me.
Who isn’t trying to be more productive? I know I am. I tackle my to-do list every morning and do great for awhile – until the day gets away from me. I dutifully copy what didn’t get done onto the next day’s to-do list and start the whole cycle all over again. By the end of the week, I know what I’ll be doing that weekend.
So I’m going to try Hubspot’s suggestions. They make sense to me. Here are some of them.
Work less. Yes, you read that right. You’ve undoubtedly heard that working excessive hours on a regular basis can cause health problems. Well, there’s another reason why you should avoid long hours: Productivity can actually improve when you work less. Researchers think the critical point is about the eighth hour. After that, your fatigue causes a drop in output. At least good output, I would add. So forget how it looks when you walk out of the office at 5 and your co-worker raises an eyebrow. You’re simply trying to get more done.
Eat breakfast. Avoid the sugary foods that taste so good—donuts, Pop-Tarts, sugary cereal—but don’t give you the energy that eating breakfast food that has protein and vitamins and minerals does. Have some hard-boiled eggs ready for morning or put a slice of good cheese on a piece of whole wheat toast. Oatmeal and bananas are good, too.
Sleep more. Some people wear their lack of sleep like a badge of honor. There’s no shame in sleeping eight hours every night if that’s what your body needs. Studies reveal that besides the health problems minimal sleep can cause, it’s also a productivity killer. You know this.
Don’t be a perfectionist. Learn when good enough is good enough Here’s one expert’s formula for evaluating your work:
If so, move on.
Take a lunch break. Take it whether you eat anything or not. Just walk away from your desk or office for a spell during the day sometime. Not doing so is bad for your body – and productivity.
Have a short snooze during the day. You’ve heard of the “power nap,” I’m sure. Research has shown that it can boost both productivity and alertness. It can kind of be like starting the day over. If it’s not logistically possible, take a walk or lean back in your chair and daydream.
I think I like these last two the best.
Look at pictures of cute baby animals. A study by Hiroshima University in Japan in 2012 actually confirmed this. Research participants performed 44 percent better at concentration after seeing pictures of baby animals, and experienced the greatest increase in productivity.
Finally, clean your desk. You may take exception with this; many people like to maintain a messy work environment. And some research has supported that preference, indicating that it can make people focus on their goals more effectively. Other research has shown that 90 percent of adults surveyed felt that clutter had a negative impact on their lives and their work. 77 percent reported that clutter had a detrimental effect on their productivity.
Other suggestions in the article included visiting a coffee shop (the ambient noise can impact creative performance); exercising during the workday (take “active breaks” or sit on a giant stability ball); and actually using your vacation time (another badge of honor for some, and fodder for bragging rights, but counterproductive to productivity).
Too basic, too common-sense, too not-creative? Sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective.
Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Watch for important signals that indicate the need for a change.
In any sales career, movement is inevitable, since few positions offer long-term permanence. It’s the nature of the occupation. Still, career moves without a good reason make little sense. There’s much to be said for stability, and opportunities to advance often exist right where you are.
Even so, knowing when it’s time for a change is the key to planning for a beneficial change. Changes in your current work environment often signal the need for thoughtful attention.
1.) Your inner voice may be telling you something important.
Pay attention to increasing feelings of dissatisfaction. If you’re having trouble staying motivated or wondering if you’re in the right spot, investigate the reasons. If you’re losing confidence in products or services you’re marketing, ask why. If your progress toward career advancement seems to have stalled, look for answers.
2.) Difficult relationship issues with supervisors or peers may be other signals. Ask yourself whether those problems originate with you or come from outside. Look for ways to improve the situation, but if a careful evaluation doesn’t suggest potential solutions, it may be time to begin looking elsewhere.
3.) Changes occurring at your workplace may predict your future.
Every company occasionally makes adjustments in business strategies. If those changes affect you negatively, concern is warranted. Try to assess the situation. Are sales down across the board? Is the company in financial difficulty? Search for news about market changes and watch for cutbacks.
Have there been modifications in sales strategies or major leadership staffing changes? These may be signs of impending downsizing.
Do your due diligence in researching any changes you’re noticing. Search online for clues to what’s happening at your workplace. Actively assess conditions and evaluate the company’s prospects. Changes could be either beneficial to your career or signal the need to explore other options.
Unusual attitudes toward you may be warning signals. If relationships with supervisors and co-workers deteriorate unexpectedly, pay close attention. Unrealistic demands for increased production and sudden increases in sales quotas are causes for alarm. If you’re being nudged out of the loop or your input is ignored, find out why. Such issues are signs that should be carefully monitored.
Those changes may have nothing to do with your performance, but may reflect alterations in company policy or others’ personal issues. Regardless of the reason, though, don’t ignore reality. If you can’t reverse such changes, you may need to act.
If Signs Indicate That It’s Time to Move, Start Planning Right Away
If you’re uneasy about your current position, keep in mind that you were looking for a job when you found the one you have. Try to resolve current issues, but be prepared to look elsewhere. Polish your resume and discreetly explore other options. Don’t wait for a crisis. Be proactive about your career and take action before you’re forced into it.
Every sales email is a high hurdles race. Don’t stumble.
Each sales pitch you broadcast to your email contact list is in a race with a large field of competitors. Getting to the finish line at the front of the pack is never easy. So clearing every hurdle in this race cleanly is essential.
While you don’t always need to win the gold, if you aren’t on the winners’ platform regularly, improving your technique can improve your performance. Here are five ways to boost your chances:
Competition in Every Inbox Is Fierce. Winning Demands Perfection
Conversion rates for email sales campaigns are always low. It’s the nature of the game. Paying close attention to the details of every sales email is the key to boosting conversion. Focus on converting just one or two percent more of your recipients and you’ll be a medalist in every race. Refine your efforts, monitor results closely, and you’ll lead the pack consistently.
Use first quarter slow periods to punch up your marketing plan.
For most small businesses, except for accounting and tax prep firms, January is the beginning of a relatively slow period. It’s an ideal time, though, to focus on marketing strategies for the upcoming year.
Your online content marketing will be more and more important in 2016. Making a concerted effort to increase its effectiveness during slow periods could be the best way to ensure maximum profitability as people recover from the holidays.
Here are five ways to build up the impact of all content marketing now. You’ll reap the benefits as the year progresses.
Beat the New Year Blues by Boosting Content Marketing Performance
Once the holidays are over, it’s always tempting to take some time to recover from year-end stress. Everyone, including your contact list, seems to go into a slump.
Soon, though, people will wake up and be ready to take on the future. Get a jump on that awakening by maximizing the impact of your online marketing content now. Surprise your customers and clients by hitting them with fresh new reasons to choose you. Energize your marketing today and you’ll stimulate new business throughout the year.
Stock image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I was surprised by some of the findings uncovered by Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2015.
It’s funny. When you’re deeply entrenched in something – a type of technology tool, a TV series, or a political affiliation (who knew that that person you really like was a member of a different party?) – it seems inconceivable that everyone isn’t on board with you.
That’s kind of the way I felt when I read Hubspot’s recently-released State of Inbound 2015. Most of the nearly 4,000 participants, representing more than 150 countries, were, “…marketers who work for B2B SMBs, half of which generated less than a million dollars annually in revenue.”
Dedicated Sales Technology Use Low
Several things struck me in this report. Since I am involved in sales for a leading CRM application developer, I was especially interested in CRM solution adoption rates.
Well, according to Hubspot’s survey, 46 percent of the salespeople who responded were not using dedicated technology to store lead and customer data.
That means that nearly half are relying on physical files, Google Docs, and other “informal means” in place of or addition to dedicated systems.
That’s stunning. I can’t imagine not using a CRM application any more than I can envision going back to my typewriter for correspondence. This reticence to use dedicated state-of-the-art sales solutions, the survey revealed, results in less successful sales teams, which were, “…more than twice as likely to use Excel, Outlook, and/or physical files to store lead and customer data than their successful counterparts.”
Data Entry the Big Bottleneck
What’s not surprising, though, is the number one reason sales professionals gave for their CRM challenges: manual data entry.
What this means to me is that the survey respondents were not aware of how leading-edge CRM applications operate. The best of them let you pull in existing contact information, schedule information, social streams, etc.
This lack of knowledge was also evident in the second most common CRM challenge named: lack of integration with other tools. CRM solution developers usually have numerous partners that have created ways to exchange data.
Inbound Marketing Good for Many Business Types
Much has been made of the pros and cons of inbound vs. outbound marketing. The fact is, though, that outbound marketing, which involves vehicles like flashy ads with stellar placement, requires a bigger budget.
Not surprisingly, the sales professionals that Hubspot talked to said that increasing revenue by closing deals was their top priority. This was the case regardless of the company’s size, region, etc. Which method did they find more effective?
“Even outbound marketers say outbound marketing is overrated,” Hubspot’s survey revealed. Inbound was said to work in B2B, B2C, and nonprofit sectors.
Social Selling Not the Answer
One of the things that Hubspot’s findings should say to you is that the quality, depth, and visibility of your content (inbound) marketing are critical, and may even move you closer to finding leads and closing deals than the approaches that big companies with a lot of money use.
I’ve talked about the concept of “social selling” more than once in this blog. Hubspot’s findings confirmed what I already believed to be true: Social selling is more hype than reality, Hubspot learned from its respondents. In fact, the results of this year’s annual report indicated that social selling does not live up to the hype surrounding the term.
So I guess the message for us who keep plugging away at creating the best marketing emails, blogs, websites, and other sales content we can, as well as faithfully using our CRM applications, is that these are the kinds of efforts that can pay off.
Stock image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
January is a month of new beginnings, but you should close down December satisfactorily before 2015 turns into 2016.
Your personal and professional calendars may already be getting full for December. You have end-of-year reports and those last-minute sales appointments to try to meet your quota. Your department and/or company may have holiday gatherings, and you’ve probably arranged seasonal events with family and friends.
Have you put much thought, though, into how you’ll put a period at the end of the year with your customers and lay the groundwork for a new sentence in January?
Obviously, Remember Them
If you haven’t yet made plans for a holiday mailing, it’s time. These days, you have to be sensitive to the fact that people celebrate different types of winter holidays in the U.S. Card designers are well aware of this, and if you’re just going to send a card with your signature and a personal note, you can still order them. There are also countless websites and applications that let you design their own. Try to keep your message generic but celebratory, if that makes sense. Or you can just send traditional Christmas cards and assume everyone will understand that that’s the dominant December holiday.
If you have a little extra money to spend, do have at least your name and phone number printed on a promotional item that can be mass-produced. Calendars and nice pens are good because they’re more likely to be kept and seen, but you’d be amazed at the multitude of options you’ll have by browsing sites that sell tschotchkes. There’s still time.
More to the Point
Rather than just wishing them a happy or merry whatever, you could also make this a more professional “touch.” Here are some ideas:
Illustrate that you know who each customer is. This is only realistic, of course, if you don’t have a customer list that numbers in the hundreds. Select a product or two that they’ve ordered during the year and tell them you hope they’re still enjoying it/them. If you’ve struck up personal conversations, pull a comment or two out of your CRM application and let them know that you remember them as individuals, not just names on an obligatory card list.
Thank them for their patronage. Obviously.
Extend a special invitation for an end-of-year discount, shipping upgrade, etc. Especially good if you sell,things that people might buy for gifts. If you can tie this in to their previous purchases, all the better.
Put all of this in a handwritten note. It’s such a pleasure to get one of those these days. If you have the time and nice handwriting, give your holiday greeting this personal touch.
Include a teaser for 2016.
You get the idea. Smart, thoughtful holiday mailings will most likely be remembered when it’s time to buy.
Stock image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Customer relationship-building is a good thing. But are you giving your content creation short shrift?
I know I’ve written about this theme before, but it bears repeating, since so many social media gurus continue to preach the gospel of social selling.
In theory, the tenets of social selling make some sense. They go something like this:
Is there anything wrong with any of these suggestions? No. They’re all part of the path to sales growth.
The problem is the amount of time that these actions take when you consider them an isolated set of activities. (And think about how easy it is to be distracted when you’re on LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook.)
The process of building customer relationships should be organic. It’s not something you should schedule blocks of time for. Let it happen while you’re busy doing your other social media work. If a thread catches your eye while you’re posting a tweet, see if there’s an opportunity for involvement. Then go back to what you were doing so that you don’t look up and realize that an hour has gone by with nothing of substance accomplished.
Use your social media time intelligently by spending the bulk of it creating great content. You will build relationships by doing so as people comment on your blog or retweet a post or share some of your carefully-written pieces. Keep these things in mind as you go:
In all of the content you create, try to be worthy of being shared. It’s a high compliment to have your work passed along to others.
Stock image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
How do you get your sales team to embrace your CRM solution? Training is the first and most critical step.
The statistics are grim. The percentage of companies who have successfully implemented and continue to use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is rising, but there are still a lot of salespeople who are hiding their Rolodexes in a drawer, maintaining their customer contact records in overflowing file folders, and trying to use Microsoft Outlook to track their interaction with clients.
What are the barriers that separate salespeople from their CRM solutions? There are many, including:
The complexity of the application. CRM software and websites are — necessarily — deep, multi-function, complex solutions with a lot of moving parts. They contain in-depth customer information templates that can help salespeople build exceptionally thorough profiles of every contact. They track historical and current interaction, and, sometimes, real-time social network engagement. They document the sales pipeline. These are very different types of activity, yet they function as integrated elements of the same system. Quite the challenge for both developer and user.
The time required to keep the system updated. State-of-the-art CRM applications make use of existing data, letting you import contact and other information. Some support connections to social media sites, and most can have their functionality extended by integration with third-party add-ons like marketing solutions. Older software requires more data entry, and even the newer ones need attention every day. Salespeople would rather be chasing leads and closing sales than updating their CRM data.
Impatience, frustration, and unwillingess to wait for results, understanding, and insight. It can take months for a CRM solution to start providing the kind of feedback that can help salespeople paint detailed pictures of their prospects and customers — and see when and where they should be engaging with them. A great deal of data input is required first. Which is not to say that CRM applications can’t be of use from day one. They just grow “smarter” as they learn more.
Training can help your sales team overcome all of these obstacles. Here are some suggestions for you to consider as you take on this task.
Ideally, of course, training should start as soon as you’ve chosen a solution. But if you’re already using one without much success, it’s not too late to back up and get a fresh start.