- So what changed your life this year?
- Who and what made an impact on your 2014?
–Update to Post Mar 2014–
For many years us marketeers have focused on outbound marketing. A one-way message, attempting to buy people’s attention. Think Radio, Think Advertising, Think TV Adverts. With Inbound Marketing the focus switches to ‘earnt’ attention. By providing your prospects with something of value they give you permission to keep marketing to them. For example, giving away tips in a blog article/whitepaper, which your prospect finds via Google is a good form of Inbound Marketing. They like your content, it sounds like you know what you’re talking about, so they subscribe to your blog feed and in turn give you permission to market to them in the future. A powerful way of creating a relationship with someone who was a stranger only minutes before. You’ve ‘earnt’ their attention.
This is the first step.
True inbound companies work on converting these people into customers, taking them on a journey down a sales/marketing funnel (still providing value all the way). This is called lead nurturing. This can consist of email auto-responders; automated emails which keep giving you more information/help/advice, conversion optimisation; different formats for the same pages on a website, tested constantly for the best results and even dynamic content; if I know you’ve downloaded a document before from my site and you’ve given me your name, I might put a personal message for you on my site the next time you return.
The first step to becoming an inbound organisation is to work out your customer personas. You may have two or three for your business depending on audience types/number of products etc. In my business, one of our personas is Bob. Bob is the managing director of a successful business turning over more than a million pounds a year. He has built the business from scratch and is fascinated by marketing. He’s a true salesman and sells his business better than anyone else. Bob is interested in marketing because he recognises that it’s the route to take his business to the next level. He’s an enthusiastic chap who knows what he wants and looks to employ the best people for the job. He doesn’t try and drive people down on price because he appreciates quality. He calls his suppliers partners.
Now when we create marketing material we think of Bob. Would this blog article be of interest to him, would this letter we’re sending out get through his PA? Is this whitepaper going to be something he prints out and takes home to read at night? Your focus on marketing becomes more defined and less time is wasted trying to appeal to all.
As clichéd as it might sound, sharing is caring in this world. Create remarkable content that people want to talk about and tell their friends to check out. This is the way of an inbound organisation, is it the way of your organisation?
If you’re practising Inbound marketing I’d love to hear your stories in the comments. How is it working for you?
p.s. Hat-tip to Hubspot who are the masters of this world and coined the term back in 05/06. Love your work guys.
Wow – firstly just need to say this is my 100th post! Boom! It makes writing to thin air in the early days seem worthwhile when you hit milestones like this. Thanks to Dave at Optix for pointing this out to me!
So last week I attended Inbound Marketing 2013 in London with my digital marketing team at Optix Solutions. A great day put on by Deeply Digital and Hubspot. The various speakers covered everything from the basic principles of Inbound Marketing (more on that to follow), to how your sales team needs to adapt to an inbound world, to an excellent presentation on conversion rate optimisation by Will Critchlow of Distilled.
As with all these events, they often leave your mind whirring and if you’re not careful you can write down so many things you want to implement, that you don’t end up doing anything. In order that I don’t fall into that trap myself I thought it may be useful to share a few key takeaways with you.
1). Inbound Marketing is more of a philosophy than I’d realised. It all starts with working out your buyer personas (you can have a few). These are not generally demographics but behaviours of your buyers. What makes this persona tick, how do they feel about working with you, what problems do they have that you can solve. The next stage is to create your content plan based on these personas. The next and possibly most technical stage is bringing context into play. Inbound marketers are constantly learning about their users and offering up different experiences online depending on these. A user viewing a website for the first time will see different landing pages than one who has perhaps already downloaded your latest ‘best practice guide’. According to one of the speakers a great example of this was demonstrated by the Wall Street Journal who were able to work out their influencers, lower the pay wall for this group and in turn drive more traffic to their site. True Inbound Marketing at work.
2). Sales (and in fact your entire team) must engage very differently in an inbound world. Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot believes that in today’s social world, prospects of B2B companies are anywhere upto 70% down the purchasing funnel before they even pick up the phone to you. They’ve done their research on your company and products. They’ve read reviews, looked at your social media presences and probably looked up your staff. By the time they pick up the phone to call you they’ve made up their mind about the type of company you are so it’s vital your sales team understand this and treat them with the respect they deserve as an informed buyer. This needs to cascade down the entire ‘inbound organisation’ says Brian. Once the sale is made, the whole team need to be consistent in the type of relationship your company has built with them. The message was clear: Sell with integrity, sell with trust, listen more than talk.
3). My final takeaway was around how much management of staff has changed in the last 40 years and how this impacts anyone who employs a team. Brian showed us this fascinating table of his take on culture change in the last 40 years.
|Tenure||Whole Career||6 Years||18 Months|
For people who have lived their lives managing employees from one of the other generations (probably a large proportion of board level directors I’d guess) this leaves an interesting challenge. They must seek to understand their younger workforce and consider the overall makeup of their business if they are to continue getting the most from their team. So what does your staff benefit list look like? Does it impact across the company or just one sub-set of your team? When was the last time you even looked at it? I’m off to look at mine now!
Some great takeaways, some of which I have action points on already. If you can make it to next year’s conference I’d wholeheartedly recommend it.
Sales can be a dirty word to a lot of people. For me, it’s the life blood of any company, after all without sales, you have no work and without work you have no money. SO I’m sorry folks, if you were thinking of starting your own business and thought you could side step this one, you’re going to need to be incredibly lucky or have invented the next big widget that everyone wants!
I’ve been selling for 13 years. I started when I was just 19, in Exeter (UK) in a world that was dominated predominately by guys that were 40+ and had been in business as long as I’d been on this earth! A scary place and one that I made lots of mistakes in. Here are a few tips I’ve learnt along the way.
1). Qualify, qualify, qualify
When you get to that wonderful point where people start making enquiries, you need to qualify whether they are a fit for your business. The gut reaction is always to take anything that comes your way (especially when you start out). The truth is this leads to lots of unnecessary running around for nothing, dealing with people who don’t respect you and bad business. It may well be that you need to pay the bills but my honest feeling is that if I had my time again, I’d have spent a significant amount of time working out who to target and going for them rather than the scatter gun approach I used back in the early days. Does your sales process include a qualifying step?
2). Make friends
It’s a cliché to say that people buy from people. That said, it’s completely true. If you can’t bond with a prospect within 10 mins of meeting you’re going to struggle. No one wants the sleezy sales person with all the answers (did we ever want that?). We want someone human that understands our needs, our problems and then demonstrates knowledge and the skills to help us with both. Quick tip: When you first go into someone’s office, take a look around the walls for things you might share in common; pictures showing a certain sports persuasion, certain types of books, posters or pictures. Don’t go overboard or change the lifelong football team you’ve supported to that of theirs – it may just be that when the time is right you can bring something less sales related into the conversation and take the pressure off the meeting.
3). Talk openly about money
How many times have I sat there talking to someone I thought needed a website and in my head I know this project is 10k but after two meetings and a proposal I’ve found out they only have a budget of 2k? Too many to embarrassingly mention! How about using a line like this to get you started (yes in your first conversation). “So John, I just want to make sure we’re on the same page here. Our ecommerce sites start at around the 10k mark. There are cheaper alternative options which certainly have their place in the market. Before we meet to discuss all the exciting functionality, how does that sit with you as I know neither of us would want to waste the time of the other?”. You need to work on delivering this in a nurturing way but it can be done and it will save you days and days of wasted time.
4). Build relationships
There are lots of quotes about how much easier it is to sell to current clients than it is to secure new business. Some say 5x, some say 7. Whatever the true number is, you need to work out a strategy for building your client base and selling within it. I tell you one great way of keeping clients loyal – look after them. Amazing isn’t it! Don’t look for the quick buck, keep an eye on their needs using social media sites, be there to help them when they need it. Try and hook them up with your other clients, try and find them sales without the expectation of getting something back in return. Don’t allow yourself to get so blinkered that all you do is look for that next new sale or you’ll make really hard work for yourself.
In this day and age, my clients and prospects can connect with me in many different ways and where possible I always do my very best to respond quickly. They can get me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Email, Google+, my mobile and a number of other places if they want. I don’t turn off at 5:30pm (maybe a bad thing in some people’s books). I’m available because I want the edge and if that edge is helping someone after hours because I can then I’m there.
6). Become a student
…of your industry. Sales these days is about positioning yourself and becoming a trusted advisor for your clients. If you’re the goto guy for something (a product/service etc) because you know the most about it and how it can be used to solve your client’s challenges then you’re going to make sales. If you simply turn upto work, make a few cold calls and go home at 5:30 then good luck to you, I’ve got a felling you’ll be looking for work elsewhere soon.
I’m interested, do you consider sales a dirty word? What are your experiences of selling and can you add any more tips to this list which will help the people reading this?
In the interest of full transparency, today see’s a sponsored post from Leslie Harding who approached me a while ago to write about a topic I feel is important to you guys. When starting Optix Solutions, 13 years ago I quickly gained the nickname ‘business card’ with my peer group. At almost every opportunity I gave a card to anyone who would have one. It was a necessity back then to get the business off the ground. When Leslie sent me this post I was delighted as its a topic I’ve not written much about before. Enjoy…
Leslie Harding an Events Management graduate from Leeds Metropolitan University who has a keen interest in entrepreneurship and business development.
Many people argue that business cards have become somewhat obsolete since the 1990’s. Are they a worthwhile investment for start-ups?
In the 18th and 19th centuries, they were used to signal the arrival of someone important to your home or town. Today they are used as a way of self-advertisement much as they were previously but nowadays it is a less grandiose gesture, and more of a common attribute in business meetings. Which is why it is important to understand why they are a solid investment for any new business start-up.
Etiquette, seemingly an old and outdated formality can have a surprising effect on our modern lives and business. Business cards are very much about business etiquette. It is very much part of the corporate custom to swap business cards with people you meets at trade shows, conferences and such like. It is the first point of call for anyone you meet on a professional level and offers an extended first impression of you and your business.
You should also consider having double sided cards printed if you plan on working or expanding into different countries. Make sure your business cards are suitable for the foreign market and have them printed with the language of the country on one side. If you personally hand someone a card make sure you hand them it with their spoken language upwards.
Up close and personal
It is suggested that business cards help to increase personal relationships in the business world. They are important for this reason. Business is arguably all about contacts, people buy from people and connections are important. Business cards help promote personal relationships in the working world. Your business card is an extension of you and the first impression you give, the two should go hand in hand. Make it personal and professional at the same time, many people suggest a photograph of you helps to enforce this idea and also helps people put a face to a name, literally.
Business cards as mentioned are an extension of you. They are the second, “first” impression people are given of you. They should reflect you and what you do purely and simply. They are a way of self-promotion and advertisement and you should make sure you have more than enough when attending conferences and meetings with potential suppliers or business partners etc. Make them simple but effective.
Your cards should express you and what you do. They should be eye catching and have relevant information on them only. You should stick to the simple, “who, what, where, when and how to contact you” layout, your contact section should include your social media and website information. Keep your design clean and not too over the top, although a little personality won’t hurt covering your business cards in Hello Kitty is not relevant unless you’re running a fan club.
Cheap cost not cheap quality
You do not have to pay through the roof for marketing materials. Starting a new business is expensive and where possible you shouldn’t cut corners especially with your marketing materials as these are what your investors and customers see. This doesn’t mean you need to re-mortgage your house. There are plenty of options out there it’s just about shopping around and finding the best deals, companies offer free online personalisation and often free sample bundles. This is a great way to test the water and a cheap but professional quality source. Business cards are still widely used and for new business start-ups they are a great way of selling your company to potential investors, partners and your clients and customers. They are by no means the only reason you will succeed but if forgotten about can reduce your impact in meetings, imagine going to an interview without having prepared or leaving your CV at home.
One of the things its easy to forget when you’ve been blogging for a long time is all the great posts and content you’ve put together over the years. All that effort you put in, potentially lost in the mists of time.
Unless a user finds your posts by a search engine, its unlikely they’ll navigate back over years worth of content – lets face it, who has the time for that?
There is an easy solution to this though – A ’round up’ post. A collection of posts from your blog linked to from another post just like this. It could be your ‘favourite 5 articles’, ‘7 posts you’ve written on a particular topic’, it could just be a random mixture you want to highlight for another reason.
So with that in mind, here is one from me.
I use a tool called Postrank (owned by Google) to help me work out which of my posts are well received and which flop. It scores on all sorts of metrics like comments/shares etc…
So here are my top 8 posts of all time according to my post rank stats – enjoy:
1). Here’s a great way to loose some customers – I got quite miffed one holiday in Cornwall a year or so ago and decided to rant a little on my blog. Right or wrong, this post topped the charts!
2). Do what you do best and delegate the rest – A post about my framework for delegation, essential as your company grows.
3). 7 Super useful resources for busy business owners – Gotta love a list of useful resources. It seems other people did too.
4). Facebook Places – Are you Aware – One of my most commented on posts so it clearly hit a nerve. A post about thinking before you ‘check-in’
5). If I were a solicitor… – Here’s a post for all solicitors thinking about how to use social media. Loads of great ideas, crowd-sourced from others as well.
6). The sale ain’t made ‘til the bill is paid! – Putting together a policy on money and collecting it is essential to any business, large or small. This post gives some hints and tips on this topic.
7). 5 traits successful business owners have – This one got a lot of traction. The title speaks for itself.
8). Cash Flow is King! Guide to setting up a cash flow forecast - My most visited post (and one of my oldest) by a long way. It proves that if you give a bit of value away you get search engine listings and lots of traffic in return.
Now Your Thoughts
Photo courtesy of Fabio Marini under creative commons
p.s You can now add your email address to my ‘newsletter’ signup. I’ll be adding value to this group of people as often as possible – they will receive things from me that others don’t have access to, so please signup today.
p.p.s. If you like what you’ve read here then you should sign up to my RSS feed and every time I update this site the post will be sent to your reader automatically.
Some of you might be wondering why I’m writing about email marketing today – it’s old hat isn’t it? With all this new social media buzz, there is surely no place in the world for email marketing is there? Well I believe there is and I intend to tell you why and how you can use it to grow your client base today.
Let’s settle one thing quickly – if you’re reading this, thinking about buying a database from someone on a street corner (or even a more reputable source) then this article probably isn’t for you. I’m focusing today on using your own valuable data, built up over years possibly.
I want to start with a story. About a year ago a guy approached Optix having met me 6 years ago at a networking event. I’d agreed with him to receive the Optix newsletter and we both went our separate ways. Optix kept in touch with him by way of our monthly newsletter and recently he became one of our largest clients. He’d watched the business grow and liked what he’d seen.
Here are a few sure fire ways to use email marketing to help your business grow:
1). All about the data – A good email marketing campaign revolves around good data. Make sure yours is clean or you’ll just be throwing money away.
2). Build your data – what can you give away to build a database of leads/contacts/prospects? This year we launched our free social media policy generator: http://www.optixsolutions.co.uk/free-social-media-policy-generator/ – A tool of real value which also helps us build leads – true ‘Inbound Marketing’.
3). Split Test your email subject lines – A good email marketing system will split test campaigns for you. It will take 50% of your database and send two different subject lines, content variants or from names and then track the most successful delivery rate, then send the winner to the other 50% – using this will give you better open and click through rates.
4). Spam & Client Testing – Emails show up differently in different email clients. Now email is consumed more and more on mobile devices you need to make sure your email is designed and developed for all these variants. This again is something a good system should be able to do for you. If not, make sure you ask your designers to consider this.
5). Deal with bounces – If an email bounces (doesn’t reach its destination) it can be for a couple of reasons. A soft bounce may infer a problem with the routing of an email to someones email box/server and is likely to be ok next time round. A hard bounce means that email doesn’t exist any longer and should be cleaned from the database – no point spending money on people that won’t ever answer!
6). Use Autoresponders – When you signup to something on a site have you ever received an email a few days later which follows it up…and then again a week or so after that? You’re part of an autoresponder system. Clever marketers know that it takes a few ‘touches’ to get to a sale but tracking and sending emails to everyone that signs up with your site manually would be far too inefficient to deal with so autoresponders help to do this for you. Used cleverly, these are extremely powerful tools
7). Segment your data – If you’re blasting everyone in your database in one go you’re probably not getting the most from it. Segment your data into interests/purchases made if you’re running an ecommerce shop or even simple things like male/female if this makes a difference to your customer. For example, I’m not hugely interested in the latest dresses from Reiss (a favourite shop of mine) but they don’t send me that because I’m segmented in their database.
8). Tie into your Social Profiles – If you have a fantastic Facebook page and a tremendous Twitter presence then make the most of them. Ask people to sign up for your updates – if you don’t ask you don’t get after all. Don’t bombard them but a few calls to action every now and again is fine.
It’s time to get clever with your email marketing – it’s still one of the most powerful tools in the online marketing toolbox.
Oh and if you’re looking for a provider, we have our own that you can find out more about over at http://www.envirosend.co.uk
Image courtesy Ramberg Media Images
Now Your Thoughts
For those of you who follow me on Twitter you’ll know that this week I attended The East London Expo in Dagenham. It was a great event but it highlighted a few things for me which I felt were worth blogging about this week. Hopefully if you find yourself getting ready for an exhibition, you can take some of this advice and use it to your advantage.
First things, first – Expo’s are not cheap. You have the price of the stand, the cost of travel, the cost of the equipment and printed material and (don’t forget this one), the cost of your time. If you’re going to invest in this, you need to be sure you’re going to make proper use of it.
So rather than tips today I’ve made a list of thoughts for you
1). Prepare, prepare, prepare – Think out your stand well in advance, work out the dimensions, what you’re going to have on there in the way of furniture and plan it properly (we marked ours out with tape first to see what space we had).
2). Watch out for the ‘snatch and grab’ brigade - Yes, those people who walk round and take every bit of literature going as if it were to be part of a collection or something – placing expensive material near the front of the stand allows this group to do this and guess what, you’re not going to get any work from them – don’t waste it.
3). Seminars – Many shows I’ve been to over the years have had seminars running at them. These are usually unpaid speaking gigs but they give you the ability to raise awareness of yourself and your company. I highly recommend putting yourself up for these talks, at which you can of course invite people back to your stand afterwards to chat further.
4). Dress Appropriately – Suit and smart clothing may be best for your business but if you have branded clothing this goes down especially well because you’ll be walking about a lot. At the expo this week I even saw someone dressed as a spark plug!
5). You’re there to learn, not to sell – POW – you weren’t ready for that one were you? I lost count of the times that I walked around shows and people on stands practically accosted me and pulled me into their stand and waffled at me regarding their service or product. Sound familiar? What had these guys done? They’d spent their valuable time telling me about their business (which by the way I wasn’t really interested in) while their perfect client walked past, saw they were busy and walked on.
6). Them not you - A quick cursory glance at your stand name and then the inevitable, ‘So what do you do then?’ Heard that one before? Crikey, I must have heard that 300 times this week. I almost always respond in the same way (this works at networking events aswell by the way) – ‘We run a web design and online marketing agency, but hey that’s not important, what do YOU do?’ Turning the question around on someone allows them to talk about themselves and for you to learn…that way you’re far better placed to work out which of your services might be able to help them.
7). The next step – Work out what your next step is for the show. What is the perfect outcome for you? Do you want hundreds of cold lead business cards that will probably take you ages to follow up and get back to or would you like fewer, but more serious appointments or at least phonecalls booked? I know which one we go for.
8). Follow up material – If sending out follow up material is important to your business then make sure it’s prepared before the show so all you need to do when you get back is hand over the addresses and away you go.
There are probably hundreds of hints and tips for tradeshows so I could go on but I’ll let you guys take the stage and add some more
Now Your Thoughts
In my last blog post I talked about the influence project. This week I want to focus on finding your influencers.
How do you spread the message about your business? Do you try and do it yourself? Do you employ sales people to go out and do it on your behalf? These are valid tactics but I want to let you into a secret today – it’s far easier and more effective to spread the message about your company if you let others do it for you. Sounds obvious right but how do you do it? Here’s how:
1). Work out who your ‘sneezers’ are. Seth Godin came up with the concept of the sneezer in a book entitled ‘Unleashing The Idea Virus’ (aff link) a few years ago. The idea being that your sneezers will help you push out a message to far more people and far quicker than you could hope to do on your own. A sneezer is the type of person that loves to talk, they love to tell other people about other peoples business. I’m sure if you think hard enough about it you will work out a few of your sneezers right now. More often than not they are the people that attend every networking event and seem to know everyone. Their personalities just lend themselves to ‘sneezing’
2). Give them the tools to pass your message on. If you’re hoping they will pass your message on in real life, the message better be good. You better have a fantastic new product or a purple cow (another great book by Seth, also an aff link). These days we have social media which allows us to push a message on quickly by sharing, retweeting or forwarding on a message – it can literally be at the click of a button.
3). Find these people online. I keep a list of my sneezers on my computer at all times. I started with a list of everyone that’s ever passed my name or my company name onto a contact as a recommendation. That’s the holy grail by the way (someone putting their neck on the line for you). Treat these people very carefully and concentrate on them when you need to get a message out there. Influencers online are usually quite easy to find. They are normally well liked, well followed people. If they run blogs then look for signs like numbers of rss subscribers, number of comments, number of times they get retweeted. If these people push your message on you’re going to get traction. Spend time building relationships with them, engage with them and help them wherever you can.
4). Hang out in places where influencers are. I’m a member of two or three online communities. These cost money but boy are they worth it. The quality of member I’ll meet here will be worth their weight in gold. There are two that I’d recommend joining today, one here in the UK and one in the states.
Entrepreneurs Circle – If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur then join up today. I believe at the time of writing you get two months free so what have you got to lose? This group has both online content, which is worth the joining fee alone and offline meetups where you can network with successful individuals.
Join Entrepreneurs Circle (aff link)
Third Tribe – Chris Brogan et al started Third Tribe with the vision of scaling their knowledge and bringing like minded online marketers together. There is an excellent forum and the podcasts (which you can download to your mp3 player) are second to none. If you want to mix with the best online marketing people in the world then this is the place to be.
Join Third Tribe Marketing (aff link)
I make no bones about the fact that I am an affiliate for both these groups. I never promote things I’m not a fan of or have not benefitted from myself. These two groups have had a profound effect on my business life so I heartly recommend you joining today if you can.
Now Your Thoughts
Do you know who your influencers are? Have you got processes in place to look after them and help them to help you?
A week or two ago I tweeted the following, “If you were a solicitor, what would you use Twitter for”. I did this because I was visiting a solicitors that day and wanted to show both the power of crowd sourcing but also what other people’s ideas were. I was pretty overwhelmed by the response to be honest, receiving over 25 replies before I’d even got to my meeting.
So this got me thinking, why not start a new blog series called “If I were a…” The idea is that every month or so I’ll crowd source a blog post on a different industry and credit everyone that takes the time to write back and participate.
So any solicitors out there listening, here are a few of the tips from the twitter community for you:
0neLife – Trust, authenticity and finding a voice
lukus1984 – To gain social insight & perspective on particularly tough moral issues, especially surrounding current affairs. The peoples voice!
jaimesteele – Use LinkedIn to build relationships – Complete profile 100%, add applications esp slideshare, add as many connections as possible
Partridgewilson – No hard sell. Be interesting & informal but professional. Try to engage with followers as you would in any other social setting.
sarknight – To update re changes in legislation and to connect with local businesses in a different way to other firms
Nick_Edin – Networking, giving advice, sharing information, mentoring stars of tomorrow, business development and reputation.
RalliSolicitors – Good Morning. Where would you like us to start? (I was impressed with these guys listening out :))
Joel_Hughes – Help project credibility in target services, build relationships with key prospects
Innovateip – Not a solicitor but a Trade Mark Attorney, use twitter for 50% social/50% business with hints and tips about protecting IP
MattYoungMedia – I think Twitter would give a solicitor the chance to show their human side…
steelcitym – A solicitor should be an “informer”. They have to read daily to keep up to speed. Blog, write & post before others do it first!
So there you have it, a selection of the best tweets I had back from the community and some good solid advice.
So if I were a solicitor what would I do (and I do have the benefit of more than 140 characters of course)
Most importantly I’d try and give value where possible and project my personality in order that when someone needs my services I’ll be in with a shout of that contact or having my name passed on.
If you were a solicitor what would you do? Maybe you are a solicitor and want to let us into your strategy for social media?