Guest post by Paul Simon, Sharper Content, @paulcontentman
We all form instant impressions when meeting someone new. Guess what? The same thing happens when we read something from someone we don't know - and the proliferation of social media puts an awful of "new" people in front of us.
As Michael Damphousse says, "Good content creates value. Value creates trust. And, yes, trust creates leads."
On the Internet, it's all about content, whether you have a product to sell, service to offer or leads to pursue. The best content is clear, concise and compelling, creating a bond and a relationship with the reader. Can poor writing, misspellings and grammatical errors interfere? You betcha.
A few days ago someone in a sales group on LinkedIn posed this question: "Love reading and participating in this group, but I could not help noticing all the blatant spelling errors in our posts. Do you think it reflects negatively on our attention to detail and professionalism not to re-read our posts before we hit the send button? "
Intriguing responses followed, some dismissing an occasional error in a group comment as inconsequential and others characterizing them as a general lack of professionalism. Here are a few of my favorite comments:
"Numerous mistakes indicate a lack of attention to detail. If I am thinking of hiring someone to take care of my business, I want someone who is brilliant in their field AND cares about the details..."
"If one person, someone who is important to you, forms a negative image of you because of something you've written, doesn't it make sense to be more mindful? I would hate to think that I was shut out of an opportunity because I failed to take a few extra minutes to ensure that my spelling and grammar were up to snuff."
As someone who makes a living writing and editing other people's copy, I've often wondered about the same thing when I see a lot of errors. I've made my share of typos in rushing out an email here and there, but it does seem that a business communication rife with errors really gets you off on the wrong foot.
Can you afford to take a chance? Are your content marketing efforts going to impact demand gen? You owe it to yourself to pay attention.
You want to talk about improvements? You know what needed improvement? The Boston Celtics, that's who. If you're a fan of basketball, or maybe even a fan of rivalries, maybe you, like me, watched the Boston Celtics crumble last Thursday night (June 17th). Two storied franchises, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, both vying for the NBA Championship in a Game 7 match. Winner takes all, losers go home with their heads hanging low. For Celtics fan, it was a great game - up until the 3rd quarter. Spoiler alerts here, folks: The Celtics blew it. The Lakers tied the game and then went up and never looked back. It was a bad night for the Bean's Green, and their play in the 4th quarter certainly needed improvement -- minute by minute improvement -- constant improvement.
What about your B2B sales and marketing blog, though? I read 20-40 of them a day, do they need improvement? Are you on the verge of "blowing it" and driving prospects to competitors, or losing your industry leader status? Chances are, it could use some constant tweaking (I'm speaking to myself, too). Here are three ways, as we head into the second half of 2010, that you can improve your B2B sales and marketing blog:
- Revisit your blog's goals - When you first started writing your blog, you had a goal in mind. Maybe it was to establish your organization as a thought leader, maybe it was to bring awareness of your services or solutions, and more than likely, it was to create interest in your prospect audience. Somewhere along the line, maybe you've moved from one of those goals to another. That's not a bad thing, but maybe you've confused your audience. Go back and revisit what you intended to do when you first started. If that goal is still a worthwhile pursuit, resolve yourself to stick with it. If not, make the changes necessary to make your blog into what you want it to be. In my case, I had two goals, and I'm sticking to them: establish a leadership role in the b2b demand gen space (demand gen blog tag here), and to promote without being too self serving, the appointment setting and outbound marketing services offered by Green Leads. Not to mention SEO and Lead Generation.
- Write from a place of passion - This one really should go without saying. If you've lost passion for writing about your services or solutions, it's time to pass the torch onto someone else who may have some. That doesn't mean you can't pick it back up later when your batteries are recharged, but if you're not excited about what your writing about, neither will your audience be excited to read it. If you've got a "corporate" type blog, look for someone else who may have an interest in writing and encourage them to share their talents. And keep the passion regular -- be it once per week, or twice a day, maintain your article publishing consistency.
- Don't be afraid to stir the pot - While I don't necessarily subscribe to the belief that nice guys finish last, I do believe that nice guys are free to disagree with whomever they want, and then blog about it. The following two controversy articles were two of my highest traffic articles to date:
Web Leads: Pounce, Pause, Nurture or Wait
Lead Generation Tips: Take a 3 Hour Lunch
What I'm getting at here is that you shouldn't be afraid to use your blog to disagree with ideas or create controversial ones. It's a great way to get some good dialogue going with your audience. Remember, there's a good way to go about airing controversy, and there's a wrong way. We're all adults and professionals, so let's act like it. Don't hurt your brand.
What are some of the ways you go about improving your blog?
*Photo Credit: The Game Is On via Flickr
So, for a few days last week in Boston and her surrounding suburbs, it was extremely hot. I'm not talking "spring time" hot, like in the upper 70's. I'm talking about temps in the 90's!
I'm a big guy, and I can tell you this -- I can't stand the heat. I hate it. Some days I think the only reason I stick around the Northeast is for the sports, and there are days when they make me cringe, too. There are days when I think,"Boy, the Eskimos sure have it nice." Okay, maybe that's a little too far, but it got me thinking -- what's the temperature like for my appointment setting team? Are they hot, cold, or lukewarm? If they're hot, great, but how do you keep them there? If they're cold or lukewarm, what can you do increase the temperature?
Let's talk about what you can do if your team is cold. Surprisingly enough, this isn't the worst place they can be; that would be lukewarm, but we'll get to that in a bit. If your team is cold and they're not producing like you'd like them to, here are couple of things you can do right now to heat things up:
Competitions -- I don't care if it's number of appointments set in a day or in a week, or number of conversations with prospects, but build competitions into your reps' workday. You'd be amazed at what people will compete for. Put a prize in front of it and watch your productivity climb. Movie tickets, cash, a DVD, it doesn't matter, because the very nature of the competition will heat things back up in your bullpen.
- Evaluate -- Are the right people doing the right job? Did you build the team too fast? Are some of them better suited for other roles? Take some time to evaluate and move folks around if you have to. You may find that the right person is doing the wrong job, and the right job for that person is just begging to have some added support. Good people are hard to find, so put them in positions that suit them.
If your team is lukewarm, I'd say you've got bigger problems. You know what lukewarm says to me? It says, "Meh." It says, "Eh, okay." It says you've got a team that doesn't really care about what they're doing. They're just a bit better than cold, and nowhere's near hot, and harder to tell the differences If your team is lukewarm, here are couple of ways to get them on fire:
- Clean House -- Yup, you read that right. Chances are, there is someone on that lukewarm team who is ready to move on to the next part of their sales career, and they're begging you (sometimes without even knowing) to let them go. Take a look at your team and see who that person is. I think the term to coin here is "addition through subtraction." Removing a lukewarm player may be just what the rest of your team needs to heat themselves back upm especially if that person is a negative drag on everyone else. You know who I'm talking about.
- Management? -- If your team is just so-so and lukewarm, maybe it's how they're being managed and motivated. Take some time and really evaluate yourself as manager here. Are you doing everything you can from a leadership perspective to help your team? Is there anything you could be doing better to help your team increase their production? If there is, get on it, and fast, before someone above you decides to "add" by "subtracting' you.
If your appointment setting team is hot, and they're on fire, keep it up. "Keep what up?" you may ask. Whatever it is you're doing to help them stay hot -- but don't leave without sharing how you're doing it with the rest of us!
Since I was spouting all about LinkedIn at Chris Brogan's New Marketing Experience last month, he has recently been on a LinkedIn crusade to find all the tips and tricks burried inside. Although I love taking a little credit, his recent articles have been full of LinkedIn Goodness.
Use LinkedIn Effectively
Your Network News
Keep LinkedIn Clean
With all the momentum, I thought I would share another LinkedIn tip, use Google to search the public profiles. If contacts aren't in your network, they will still show up!
Google using the site:linkedin.com parameter. For instance, looking for Mike Damphousse,
google: mike damphousse site:linkedin.com
Not only will it find my profile, but it will find answers I have provided and comments in groups.
Let's try another one. Looking for companies in the field of Demand Gen that work with Appointment Setting?
google: demand generation appointment setting company site:linkedin.com
Trying to find a lead at a company that has a specific title, try something similar to this example where I'm trying to find someone at the director or VP level responsible for network security at company.
google: "network security" (dir OR vp OR vice) companyname site:linkedin.com
You think you can find some quality leads through LinkedIn now?
Most sales people today have found that using LinkedIn as a research tool to identify specific prospects has been a fantastic way to find the needle in a haystack of potential leads. However, LinkedIn doesn't always show you all the names of the individuals your search produces:
So how do you find this specific person's name? Just three more clicks according to Green Leads' BDR Mira.
- Click on the Title, which brings up the full profile.
- Remember the Title, and look to the right where it says Viewers of this profile also viewed... Once there, find a contact with a similar title/company -- In this case, Gerardo (hard to see).
- Now while remembering the title/company of the prospect you want "Research Engineer Intern at VW Electronics Research Lab", click on the name of the person with the most similar title/company that we found above, Gerardo.
- Up pops Gerardo's profile, now look to the right again, and find a contact with a similar title/company to Gerardo in the "also viewed" section -- this is most likely your prospect. So Tanya, expect my call.
If you have any LinkedIn tips, or Lead Gen Tips in general, please share them.
Last week, I was out with the team at Focus.com and enjoying "bourbon and proteins" with Craig Rosenberg (The Funnelholic) when the subject of campaigns came up from his point in a recent post to "forget campaigns, build a factory." We agreed completely that marketers that think in the world of "campaigns" are shortchanging their results.
Marketing programs need
- Staying power
It may be that campaigns seem normal because our needs change, strategies are modified or budgets are handed out piecemeal, but the most successful clients both Craig and I work with all treat marketing programs as ongoing efforts.
- Budget for ongoing activity - Treat it like headcount. Would you hire good talent and then shut them off 60 days later?
- Remain committed to the effort - Most common example here is when a marketer gets gung-ho to start blogging to boost inbound marketing and then stops publishing regularly.
- Results take time - In the world of B2B, sales cycles can be long. Don't try to measure pipeline results in just months. Give it time and commitment.
- Measure what you can measure - If you can't wait a year to measure revenue impact, measure tangible results: Did the introductory meeting result in a second meeting? Did the email sent result in a clickthrough?
- React - Make that adjustment -- but adjust, don't start and stop. If you see something that needs a tweak, stay productive while you are tweaking or have your vendor/team work on something complementary to the project while you make that quick adjustment.
- Conserve Costs - Lastly, consider the cost impact of starting, stopping and switching gears. There always are considerable startup and adjustment efforts and ramp-up costs. Optimize your budget by creating programs with power.
Measuring the effectiveness of lead gen programs is always at the top of a demand gen expert's list of priorities. One of the gating factors happens to be out of their control -- what does the sales team do with a lead once they start working it?
In a previous blog article, I shared poll results showing C Level prospects being more than willing to take their first introductory appointment by phone. Of their initial meetings with vendors, 58% were by phone and of those, 69% were "effective."
In general, it is becoming more the norm to begin a relationship by phone. But what happens next? The outcome of meeting number one should be to have a follow-on sales activity. What should be the goal for meeting number two?
For myself, I made it my goal over the past six months if an introductory call was going well to ask for a face-to-face meeting. The next step in the sales process may be to present a quote or meet other decision makers, but by insisting on a face-to-face meeting, I was able to put my best foot forward and start building rapport at a level beyond what a second phone call could provide. No hard stats to back it up, however: In Q1 of 2010 we closed the same amount of business as Q3 and Q4 of 2009, and in 2009 we grew by a factor of 3X.
Questions this raises:
Should that first meeting have been face-to-face?
I think not. Of the appointments I took, roughly 4 in 10 resulted in that second meeting. A third resulted in nurturing activities, and the remaining meetings were discarded as unqualified. Making the first appointment by phone allowed me to avoid travel and time investment in the 60% that didn't result in immediate sales activity.
Should I have handled meeting number two by phone?
I've done it before; in fact, a majority of 2007 through 2009 was spent effectively selling with phone relationships. That said, I think that my best selling is when people get to meet me, in person, and can feel the integrity and passion that I bring to each project.
Should you add "meeting two should be face-to-face" to your demand gen SLA with sales in order to increase the effectiveness of the leads you generate?
If you are in a sales environment that eventually end up in face time, then I recommend it. Have a qualfied criteria that defines which opportunities move to the face time requirement, but definitely consider adding it. The Internet and increased communications tools could be holding back your conversion rate.
Have you seen our webcast replay of The 10 Pillars of an Ideal B2B Demand Gen Platform on Focus.com?
I've been participating with Focus.com as one of their contributing Focus Experts. The site is a community destination for business leaders to find and produce industry information, research, whitepapers and webinars. The content value is huge, and the knowledge generated is phenomenal and growing daily. If content syndication and webinars are part of your demand gen mix, you should explore Focus in more detail.
What's' behind the curtain? I'm conducting a webinar for them this week, The 10 Pillars of an Ideal B2B Demand Gen Platform, and having done many webinars -- and being a demand gen marketer myself -- I've been utterly impressed with the process and the team putting the event together.
I've shared webinar tips before in Lead Gen Tips: How To Produce A Successful Webinar, but one thing Focus added to the agenda for preparation was to run through the mechanics of the webinar-hosting software. We did a practice session where each presenter used the platform to push slides to the audience, comment between moderators, and deal with Q&A. I've done enough webinars to have seen most of these functions before, but the simple task of reviewing them for 15 minutes beforehand was helpful.
Also, kudos to the ON24 staff for sharing best practices. My favorite: Use the mute button as a caugh button only; don't stay on mute as you may forget to unmute yourself when it's time to talk. I've fallen victim to that before.
Join me and Craig Rosenberg, the Funnelholic
, Tuesday March 2, at 10AM PST / 1PM EST. You can register here: The 10 Pillars of an Ideal B2B Demand Gen Platform
On a recent sales call, the prospect told me he is working with a pay-for- performance appointment setting company like Green Leads. The difference, and the reason for the call, is that he wants more meetings per month, but the other vendor is "dictating the pace" at which he gets them. Was I dreaming? Did I hear that right?
If you are paying for performance after the meeting takes place, isn't the vendor incentivized to deliver the exact number of meetings you ask for? Frankly, by not delivering the requested run rate of appointments, the vendor is (a) disappointing the client and (b) leaving money on the table.
Whether you have an internal team or an external team, whether it is pay for performance or retainer based, here are a couple of lead gen tips for you:
- You -- the demand gen specialist -- should dictate the production you are seeking.
- Establish and manage to a Service Level Agreement (SLA). If you want 20 meetings a month, then you should get 20 meetings a month. Vice versa, if you are to supply inbound leads or lists, you deliver, too.
- Vendors, as well as inside teams, are all about headcount, and that is what they are juggling -- production per person. That's their problem, not yours.
- Understand why you are not receiving your request. Is there a skill issue? A headcount problem? A list issue? Reschedule/cancel rates? Messaging? You may not own their issue, but you can understand it and help solve it.
- If you don't get what you want, make changes. It can be as drastic as replacing a vendor or laying off some deadwood, but don't live with mediocrity. You own the budget and are measured on your results.
Dialing the phone all day is a task. I have one guy who calls it panning for gold. He'll say he just swished the phone 20 times, found 4 shiny objects and none were gold. Then an hour later he'll yell "Eureka!" when he does successfully set an appointment.
I presented these 5 Outbound Calling Best Practices last week at Papa Razzi in Burlington at the AA-ISP meeting (American Association of Inside Sales Professionals).
These 5 points may get more Eureka's out of your outbound marketing efforts:
- List Hygiene - Keep lists clean and ready at all times for prime calling. Track things like Time Zone, Direct Dials, Admin Names, Dialing Tips (press 0 for the operator), etc. Validate lists prior to dialing. Remove bad contacts, or research and replace them. Don't dial until the list can be worked top-to-bottom in one sweep without a struggle.
- Functional Tools - Fill the toolbox with tools, and know how to use them: Jigsaw, NetProspex, InsideView, LinkedIn, Google Alerts and Google Search, LeadLander, others... Use them to work smarter. If you find they get in the way when you are in power-dial mode, clean the desktop (next tip).
- Clean Desktop - When it's prime time to dial, cluttered desktops and browsers can bring things to a grinding halt: Instant Messenger, Email, Browser Windows, etc. (that means Facebook and ESPN too). Close everything that is not pertinent to dialing.
- Don't Dial - Still dialing with fingers on a number pad? Don't. Get a click-to-dial, auto-dialer or predictive dialer. Or get on steriods with ConnectAndSell. The productivity increases are phenomenal.
- Prime Time - Don't be power dialing at 10:20 am. This is the most common time of day for prospects to be in a meeting. They are more likely to be at their desks and willing to talk in the early morning, at the top of the hour (from 10 minutes to the hour until 5 minutes after, they are between meetings), at lunch, in the late afternoon, in the early evening, on Monday holidays. Check out the article I wrote, Take 3 Hour Lunches, which discusses the day in detail and backs it up with data.
Just the tip of the iceberg here. What outbound calling tips can you offer? If they are tip-worthy, I'll add them to the growing list of lead gen tips.