From all indications, followers of our social channels were most interested about resources, leadership and motivation (specifically what motivates someone to make a buying decision). With the push to create and use more content in our marketing efforts, it is understandable that you where looking for quality information around tools and resources to help you connect more meaningfully with your audiences, while easing the workload through the effective use of tools.
This is the first in an ongoing weekly series that will summarize the stories that you felt had the most interest and/or are of the greatest use to you in your day to day activities. The series will focus on original content from Diverse (if warranted by reader selection) as well as curated content from our favorite and proven resources.
As a small business ourselves, we understand the challenges (specifically the time challenges) that you face. For our own efforts, we are constantly on the lookout for materials that make the work lighter and the information more meaningful for our audience. Our goal for this segment is to give you a spot to find useful information on a weekly basis that time may have not allowed you to find on your own. After all, we can all use a hand up!
Three of the top five posts can be categorized as resource oriented; posts that look to provide useful information. Two of the posts where information based; one about the top marketing acronyms that we should all be aware of and the second about common grammar errors noted on a lot of digital content. The third is about tools that can help you with your content marketing efforts.
1. 60 Marketing Acronyms Every Industry Pro Should Know @HubSpot
A comprehensive list of marketing terms from A – Z. Worth having at hand, especially if your agency folks like to roll them out in meetings and documents.
5. Manage a Difficult Conversation with Emotional Intelligence @HarvardBiz
We’ve all had to have them, difficult conversations. You’ve taken the time to craft your arguments based on logic. However, it may not go as well as you’d hope. This excellent post from Susan David, provides great tips to help you communicate clearly and with empathy.
Below are three of the weeks best stories that came across my radar through my various social networks. Initially the theme for this post was about good communication skills, but has landed solidly on being present and in the moment to be successful.
These stories served as great reminders that though we’ve set our plans, deliberated over goals/steps and future projections for 2014, to be truly happy and effective, we need to stay in the present. Simon Sinek wrote and spoke about the rise of ADHD, and noted he believes that it is really just that we are all so much more easily distracted. I tend to agree (also check out Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Ed talk).
Mark Schaefer recently wrote a blog on “Content Shock” that could have easily been included in the best of the week. It created quite a stir and is a topic I’ll revisit in another post as I want to take the time to take stock. The central theme is that as consumers of content, we only have so much time. The one finite resource we all share equally. In my case, I’ve consciously chosen to spend my time (hours for content intake) on reading (novels, non-fiction, blogs), auditory (podcast – normally consumed in the car) and visual content (selected instructional/thought provoking videos, favored sports activities and the occasional movie/show with the family). I do occasionally wonder if I’ve missed something fun/interesting when others chat about favorite shows, but am content in my choices – it works for me.
The first story, is a very brief but excellent reminder of a stunningly underused “sales technique” by Jill Konrath. Jill, the author of “Snap Selling” is a leader in sales best practices and a fantastic resource that I’d encourage you to connect with. The 2 minute video covers how to effectively listen in your sales meetings/presentations when having conversations with your clients and prospects. The one thing, it seems that most of us can’t handle is silence, not real good if a radio broadcaster, but very acceptable in our personal conversations. A 10 second technique is all you’ll ever need – in sales or life in general. To listen effectively, it is essential to be in the moment with the person your are communicating with.
Seth is a favorite source to help make me think. This gem landed in my inbox a week ago and speaks to the very issue raised in Schaefer’s blog post noted above. If you’ve not had the opportunity to read it yet, tl;dr stands for “Too Long; Didn’t Read”. We feel the crunch of time, in fact, it’s likely the largest common complaint I hear, the lack of time (to create content, to do social, etc., etc.). The fact is that we all have the same amount of time and like our finances, the trick to using it effectively, is to know how you’re using it in the first place. Godin’s post is a lament that we’re all to easily lured by the quick hit, the 6 sec tidbit, the snappy headline and we may not be deep diving as much as we could/should. I concur with Schaefer and Godin, there is an awful lot of stuff to digest and a lot of noise. My favorite line in the post is “One option is to read incisively, curate, edit, choose your sources carefully. Limit the inbound to what’s important, not what’s shiny or urgent or silly” and it’s absolutely true (however only you can decide, what works for you). Take the time to determine what you need, whether it’s the latest on your industry, doing what you do better, enjoying that 2 hour special effects laden yarn with your family. Commit to what you’ll consume, scan for new or better sources and enjoy!
A favored blog to help me think outside the box and expand my horizons. I’ve discovered some interesting thinkers and materials through this thought-provoking portal. This post is what tipped us in to being present. Alan Watts was the West’s leading thinker on Eastern philosophy and mindfulness. He noted that “The best predictions are still a matter of probability rather than certainty…”. It’s important to make plans, create our goals and monitor our progress, but it’s equally important to live in the moment. If you’ve decided to spend your time watching “Downton Abbey”, then do so without fear or regret that you’re not reading the latest on neuroscience so that you can influence your prospects more effectively. There is limited time, but there is time enough for both if that’s what is important to you. I’ve read much recently that talks about becoming even more effective/productive, by taking the time to smell the flowers, laugh with friends, curl up in the arms of a thrilling novel or indeed by investing your time in personal or professional development.
Allowing yourself the right to be present in what you are doing will provide you the opportunity to be aware of the opportunities that may lay before you, but don’t fit nicely into that carved in stone plan. You may find that your destination might change because this new opportunity fits your values, needs and wants better. The nice thing about our goals and plans is that they can be reviewed, tweaked and adjusted, but never abandoned.
What is your weeks best stories that you sourced, that had a big impact on you? How will you invest your time?
One of the many reasons I’ve been a fan of the band “Rush“. Not only have they supplied the “song track” of my life, they have provided a solid illustration of how to work collaboratively, in and out of the “Limelight”. The band has 20 studio albums, numerous live and retrospective albums, global concerts and this month join the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame“. They survived a five-year hiatus after the tragic and untimely deaths of drummer Neil Peart’s daughter and wife and came back all the stronger. To hear the band talk about how they work and collaborate is a testament to mutual respect, tolerance, understanding and true admiration of each others skill and contributions. How does a Canadian rock band relate to your business? It’s a good question, that I’ll address below.
As businesses, we may have some of the same issues to contend with. We face turbulent business environments, we need to work alongside others, we need to find ways to build loyalty with our customers and not have our businesses grow stale and complacent. There are many takeaways from the career of Rush, collaboration; longevity; understanding their audience; trusting and respecting their audience; and delivering exceptional service (live shows, albums and communication with fans), that has provided the band with a 40 year career, doing what they love and from all reports, doing it their way. Let’s look at some of the lessons:
1. They are incredible storytellers.
Rush achieved a strong following by crafting a great story and communicating that story with their wide and diverse audience. It’s not only in the musical chords and lyrics, but in how the band presents themselves and their art to the world. They’ve come to know who and why their audience is attracted to them and are able to connect deeply with those emotions in their audience.
Do you know your story, or your “why”. Take some time to reflect on “why” you do what you do and how you will communicate it to your various audiences: you staff, your customers and your influencers.
2. Trust your partners and your team.
Can you business survive the loss of a key member for five (5) years. Sure you’re not a rock band, but have you made the plans you need to overcome an unfortunate event. To do so effectively, you’ll need to have strong and understanding partners to help you get over the hurdle. Whether those partners are internal or external (vendors, etc); building trusted relationships that are not focused on immediate gain but long-term mutual growth will be the key to success.
3. Quality ahead of Quantity
Having said that, Rush has been prolific in creating their art, but since they’ve been at it for over 40 year, this is understandable. On an individual basis, each album can be compared to one and other and the listener/critic can determine what they believe to be quality or not. But from the band’s perspective they are on record as saying they have given their best at the time of creation for each of their albums. Have you, in your business, given your best efforts in each of your products/services? Have you created the environment internally to foster creativity and innovation?
By building their compelling story (and it’s definitely not for everyone), Rush has been able to able to reinvent themselves from time to time to explore their musical interests and through those reinventions maintained their audience. As a business, do we sometimes get to fearful to look at what we do, how we do it and most importantly why we do it. Do we ignore the environment around us until it’s too late. Or, at the extreme other end, do we hastily reinvent ourselves based on poor information (think New Coke). Having a good grasp on your customer and their needs, will help steer you in the right direction. In addition you can use today’s technology to listen to your audience and tweak your services to meet their needs. It’s never been easier to get immediate feedback from your audience. It’s one of the advantages that Rush has had all along – there can’t be any more immediate feedback than stepping “into the lighted stage”.
Why use Rush as an example?
Rush has endured for over forty years, delivering quality music and performances. The result of these efforts is a worldwide following hard-fought for and won by determination, creativity and hard work. As every guy knows, who has tried to explain the attraction of the band, that even Geddy Lee in conversation with Jian Ghomeshi admits “our music is weird”, we’ve defaulted to: it’s all about the lyrics. In reality, it is so much more. What I believe I’ve enjoyed most about my association with Rush, is their spirit, their ability to step outside of a norm and experiment and to trust that those of us that have been fans for a very long time, to enjoy the journey along with them. Congratulations to Rush on their installment in the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”, from a fan since 1975!
You can do the same with your business. Get to know your customers, understand what makes them tick and build trust with them. Listen to their feedback and adopt what you can within your business and you’ll turn the consumer of your product/service into a brand champion.
To get a good insight to the band, their development, intellect and perseverance, check out this CBC radio retrospective, from CBC’s Rewind aired April 4, 2013. You may also enjoy the interview from 2012 on Q in advance of the Clockwork Angels release.
I’ve long-held the belief that marketing is an enterprise wide responsibility. At its core, effective marketing programs connect the customer experience across the organization from manufacturing and service best practices to customer preferences and the capabilities of your competitors. With the continued advances in technology, it’s become easier to collaborate within your organization to achieve stellar results. The downside to the advance of technology is that your customers can easily assess your capabilities, can see if your actions aligned with your messaging, and most importantly whether or not you live your corporate values.
All to frequently, organizations believe that the role of marketing is purely to promote the organization’s products or services. In fact, the discipline is much greater than promotion. The substance of marketing is centered around the customer, always! There has been performance programs built since the early ’90’s focused on how an organization can meet or exceed a customers needs.
I know it sounds like an episode from Rod Sterling’s “Twilight Zone”; but, imagine an organization that empowers its line workers to halt production of the entire line when the machinery falls out of alignment, threatening the quality of goods (reducing returns). The accounts receivable clerk responsible for understanding customer issues and sticking with the customer through the entire organization until the issue is resolved satisfactorily (reducing days outstanding and building stronger customer relationships). The customer service department that is charged with ensuring the customer isn’t just satisfied with the fix, but is committed to making the customer happy (leading to your ultimate marketing tool – word of mouth referrals). Sounds a little outlandish doesn’t it? Based on your customer service experiences would you believe it to be true? I can assure you from my experience that when you put your customer first, good things can and will happen.
As a marketer and an entrepreneur, I’ve been in large organizations with national and international reach, worked with “Mom and Pop’s”, owned my own businesses , and I’ve seen first hand the difference having, or not having, a solid customer service program can have on the bottom line performance of the organization. For solopreneur’s or micro-businesses, you may believe that this is beyond your capabilities. Please take the time to do your research and learn more, because you can do this. In fact, doing so might provide you with the competitive advantage you’ve been yearning for. I’d also recommend that if you haven’t read the work of Micheal Gerber, that you consider get a copy. It was and continues to be fundamental to my successes (read the E-Myth series if you’ve not*).
Lately, it’s the work of talented friends and closely followed virtual mentors that has brought the issue of integrating marketing efforts with those in sales and other customer facing departments to the forefront for me. This weekend, Terry O’Reilly (@terryoinfluence), released his latest installment of “Under the Influence” on CBC Radio One, and the focus was on customer service. The episode has real life examples of organizations that have gone above and beyond to make their customer not only satisfied, but happy. As O’Reilly states “A happy customer, is a loyal customer”. Could you imagine, taking a return on an item that you stock, but didn’t sell, or ordering a pizza for your customer at 2am, when you’re an online fashion store? Well, these organizations not only did it, they encouraged it. I’d recommend that you give the episode a listen, in fact, when you have time, give them all a listen (I believe you’ll enjoy them).
To illustrate how effective customer service is so fundamental to your business success, here are a couple of sample tweets pulled from my feed this morning.
Some quick examples of tweets from today alone. If you’re not doing it already, it’s time to take your marketing/customer service to the next level and learn to deliver an exceptional customer experience. We know that it takes up to seven or more contacts to get a new customer to consider buying from us and only a few to get an existing customer to buy again. As O’Reilly so aptly reminds us “Customer Service doesn’t cost money, it makes money”.
Whether you’re in a large-scale enterprise, a small business, or a sole-proprietorship, we are all faced with a similar challenge in today’s changing markets; the shift from the “selling process” to the “buying process”. In the not too distant past, prospects needed to touch base with an organization’s sales department much sooner in the process to get the information they needed to make their buying decision. It provided the sales teams the opportunity to “persuade” prospects with why the product or service you offered was the best for their particular situation. However, in today’s world of digital natives and savvy consumers, the power has changed. Today, consumers can find as much information as they feel necessary to make their buying decision or ask targeted specific questions. It is more likely that they will put more credibility into other sources of information, instead of the well-trained and knowledgeable staff in your organization. Right or wrong, Joe, their recently met social network friend, is a trusted resource on what you have to offer.
In today’s marketing, that means adapting to this new model of business and integrating proven traditional marketing techniques with new digital tools and channels to get your message out. Instead of broadcasting your message, you’ll spend time planning how to make your information available to your prospects, when, where and how they want to consume it. You’ll be working diligently to provide valuable content to help them before, during and after the buying decision. I hear you, it’s a common refrain; how am I supposed to do all of this at the same time as run my business? It’s a good question and where marketing automation comes into the mix.
By definition; Marketing Automation is the process of automating repetitive tasks that are normally done manually, requiring time and resources that could be better used elsewhere. One of the goals of using automation, specifically in marketing is to streamline sales and marketing processes to improve efficiency and reduce potential human error. It’s main goal is to use techniques to improve the overall customer experience, to move closer to a meaningful discussion, ideally in person.
Automated Marketing Programs:
The outcome of most marketing efforts is to generate leads, whether that is a new prospect or up selling to existing clients to other offerings or more enhanced services. When implementing an automated marketing program your goal should be to improve the engagement from the inquiry stage to the close of the deal with your prospect (imagine Marketing and Sales living together in harmony). Complete marketing automation programs provide you with the ability to create digital and behavioral consumer profiles that allow you to market to a very specific niche of consumers. A full program will consist of content creation, lead generation, email messaging creation, comprehensive and unique landing pages, drip or nurture marketing campaigns for each segment you identify. Sounds like a lot and it is (most you are already doing, if not all), but by using an automation system the time required to complete each of these tasks is reduced significantly. It will allow you to have a meaningful conversation with your prospects about what matters most to them in the buying process.
By way of example (as noted in an earlier blog post How not to sell an $18,000 Car), recently we bought a second vehicle for our home. We did our research, narrowed our choices to one known brand (used) and one unknown brand (new). All we needed was a test drive to make our final decision. We used the new brand’s online tools to price the vehicle, compare it to other brands and finally to arrange a test drive, all along sharing critical information with the brand. Five dealerships later, we finally got the test drive in the model we wanted. Had the organization as a whole, instead of independent dealerships, had an effective program in place, we should have been in and out and very satisfied within a couple of days, not the weeks it actually took which almost cost them the sale.
“By publishing content that shows buyers your understand their problems and can show them how to solve them, you build credibility” Ardath Albee, author of EMarketing Strategies for Complex Sales.
Let’s imagine how the marketing automation process works (this is true for any product/service).
Create content to attract prospects to your organization (Blog, Ebook, Whitepaper, Newsletter, Imagery and Video) and share that content with your networks.
Capture the leads driven by your content (using a sCRM system). Establish the quality of the lead and where they may be in the buying cycle/consumer journey.
Nurture your lead(s) – provide additional content that helps the prospect know more about the solutions to their particular issues, show value and thought leadership (blog, additional resources in Ebook, video, podcasts). Monitor the feedback and tweak your messaging to better serve the prospect. This is accomplished by creating compelling email marketing campaigns, not one offs, but a series, spread out over time.
Convert the consumer of your information to a consumer of your product or service. This is achieved by having generated a better understanding of the prospect and their pain points and demonstrating you can provide the solution).
Deliver your product/service and provide outstanding service. Provide content on best practices. For example, you own a beauty salon, and to provide added service you’ve created a series of How to videos on your website so that your customer can maintain their look in between visits. You also recognize, that some will be leery of trimming their own bangs, or worse aren’t and shouldn’t. To show greater value, you offer a touch up in between scheduled visits. You now generated the loyalty and opportunity to offer more products or services.
Up sell your customers. They’ve signed on to your basic package, love your product and your service. It’s time to share additional information to show how moving up the product scale can save them what matters most (and to most of us it’s time or money). Demonstrating the value proposition of moving to an enhanced service is huge. For example, if you are a Hootsuite user, you know the free version is very useful. However, the power in the Pro plan is immense and may help advance your business at a very low and effective price point, including having two of you able to post, monitor and respond to your various social channels.
Get Referrals! You’ve earned your customers respect, trust and vote of confidence. They now turn to your first and foremost when they have a question. Sorry Joe, but you’ve been replaced. You may now reap the rewards of the fields you sowed, by cultivating new leads from your current customers. You’ve shown they matter to you, you’ve tweaked your messaging and reacted positively to both negative and positive product/service feedback from your customers. They are brand champions and would be pleased to share your company with their personal and guarded networks.
If you think about it, you’ve all likely experienced marketing automation at work. Have you downloaded an Ebook about your favorite hobby, watched an instructional webcast or signed up for a newsletter on great Italian recipes. If you have, you’ll recall receiving a thank you email, a follow up message about other activities, a call to subscribe to the paid version that provides greater details, etc.; marketing automation at it’s best.
There are many excellent all-in-one marketing automation systems on the market that seamlessly connect to CRM systems. They vary in scale and price depending on the size of your organization, your prospect list and so forth. On average you can expect to invest a dollar figure between $300 and $1,000 per month. I’ve been fortunate enough to have used an all-in-one and test drove many others in the past and they are worth their weight in gold. I understand that not everyone may have this commitment in their current budgets. It’s okay if you don’t, you can do this on a limited budget. To do so, all it takes is more planning, a front to end strategy, a piecemeal of tools, and an investment in time (as not all the processes will be seamlessly integrated). So for example (please note all suggestions are just that, are available at no or low cost and should be researched to meet your organizational goals):
Using a blogging platform (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad) and create the content you are going to share;.
Promote your content via email on an email system (MailChimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, etc) and through your social sharing channels (Twitter, G+, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc)
Create a unique landing page for your content to capture the leads that are generated from your content (for example a child page on your website or using Premise if on WordPress).
Integrate your email list into a CRM system, ideally one that provides for social integration (Nimble, SugarCRM, SalesForce, etc)
Create and nurture an email campaign within the email system you’ve chosen and provide a thank you, an automated follow up within a given period of time, an offer for more content, a free review, etc..
Monitor your social channels with a social management tool such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck, etc. Use the information from listening to your networks to tweak your offerings and create additional content to resolve their issues. Also use tools such as Google Analytics to monitor your engagement, where and who is consuming and sharing your content to more efficiently use your channels to get your message out to your network (prospects, customers, advocates, influencers, etc).
Engage with your prospect to get additional information, invite them to connect with you on a webinar, or to contact you directly to answer any lingering questions.
Close the sale; service; rinse and repeat.
Your ultimate goal:
Imagine an Internet that is uniquely your own. You see only the content that interests you, and you can browse in peace without salespeople getting in your face until the moment you’re ready to buy. After your purchase, you receive automated answers to questions you haven’t even yet asked, and when you visit your vendor’s website for more information or training, forms already include your contact information, as if they’ve been expecting you.