3 LinkedIn Profile Tips for Sales Professionals You Haven’t Heard Before

The Web can be an unreliable place to get sales tips. Most advice we “Google” doesn’t work. LinkedIn profile tips are no exception. Most advice focuses on superficial face-lifts. Want to get more appointments, faster, using a LinkedIn profile? Follow these three tips:

The Web can be an unreliable place to get sales tips. Most advice we “Google” doesn’t work. LinkedIn profile tips are no exception. Most advice focuses on superficial face-lifts. Want to get more appointments, faster, using a LinkedIn profile? Follow these three tips:

Make your profile:

  • earn attention
  • spark curiosity
  • earn a response

Here’s how to get it done in three simple steps.

No. 1: Convince Prospects to Read Your Summary
The job of your professional headline is to create curiosity about your Summary section. Use the headline to:

  • get found by prospects searching for you
  • connect with buyers forcefully, clearly
  • present an irresistible reason to read the Summary section

Avoid listing your professional title in this space. Be sure to use words or phrases that your target buyer would use. For example, if you sell copywriting services to natural health marketers say so, like David Tomen of Swift Current Marketing does on his professional headline.

Also, appeal to the deepest desire of your buyer. Help buyers become curious about your ability to put out a fire, scratch a bothersome itch, solve a problem or help them fast-track a goal. As David Tomen says, “I help natural health marketers get as many customers as you can handle.” 

It’s no wonder a natural health marketer would want to read more about David’s qualifications! He sparks curiosity with this approach. You can learn more about how David improved his profile in this LinkedIn profile tutorial.

No. 2: Chunk Your Summary Section
Nothing sells you better than simplicity and brevity. This creates distinction. In a world filled with people positioning themselves with adverbs and adjectives you’ll stand out. Also, create easily-scanned “chunks” or sections for your prospect to scan.

Write these sections with headlines. Make each headline appeal to what your prospect really wants to know in most cases.

Check out how Blake Henegan helps learning and development managers quickly scan his profile’s Summary section.

  • What he does.
  • How he’s different.
  • How he can help.
  • How he gets paid.
  • Training he sources for clients.
  • His contact information.

You cannot get lost in Blake’s Profile summary. It’s a wonderfully structured bit of copywriting. It’s easy to scan with the eyes and speaks to what clients want to hear about most.

No. 3: Get Back to Basics—Less Is More
Your success depends on getting good at one thing: Copywriting. Borrow from the classic, time-tested, proven techniques of B-to-B copywriters. Speak in simple terms. Be pithy. Leave out all the descriptors.

For example, don’t have exceptional skills. Have skills. Stop trying to position, sell or convince. Just say it. Plain talk is refreshing, creates distinction and helps people want to learn more about you.

Being brief, blunt and basic sparks interest in humans. It’s a fact.

Also, make sure your summary is not a recital of your experience. This is not optimal for sellers. Yes, you may wish to have an “Experience” section but don’t make your experience the focal-point.

Here is how to take action on this idea:

Make sure the Summary section of your LinkedIn profile communicates:

  • What you do;
  • who you do it for;
  • how you do it (why customers choose you) and
  • how potential buyers can act on their curiosity.

Use David and Blake’s profile summaries as guides. Borrow from them. When you’re done drafting, go back and try to remove the “I’s” and adjectives/adverbs. This focuses your writing on what the prospect wants to hear.

Once you’ve executed the first three steps above, it’s time to get your prospect off your profile and on the phone or in your email inbox. Make clear calls-to-action and, yes, include shortened Web links. While not clickable buyers will cut-and-paste or right-click (in Chrome) to visit your landing page.

Be sure to land prospects at places where the call-to-action promise is fulfilled in exchange for a bit of information about the prospect (a lead).

Remember: Give your prospects what they want. They don’t want to know about you—they want to know what you can do for them. Good luck!

3 Steps to an Effective LinkedIn Profile for Sales Reps

Tired of getting so few leads from your LinkedIn profile, investing in LinkedIn Sales Navigator or needing to generate leads with email faster? You’ll need more than a pretty photo on your profile. You need a summary section that creates urges in prospects—provoking them to connect, email or call.

Tired of getting so few leads from your LinkedIn profile, investing in LinkedIn Sales Navigator or needing to generate leads with email faster? You’ll need more than a pretty photo on your profile. You need a summary section that creates urges in prospects—provoking them to connect, email or call.

Make sure prospects viewing your LinkedIn profile take an action and are producing leads for you. But first, ne sure your or your team’s profile is structured to:

  1. Create an urge for what customers’ want most in the Headline space;
  2. Spark buyers’ curiosity about what you can do for them in the Summary;
  3. Direct that curiosity—give them an irresistible reason to act.

These steps are the low-hanging fruit. Don’t just know them, do them. Every word, video, Powerpoint, PDF whitepaper and link on your profile can help buyers develop an irresistible urge to solve their problems or reach a goal—through you. But only if you take a minute to design it to. The best place to start is your Professional Headline.

Fire up your browser. Compare your profile against the checklist below. Check off each one as you implement these proven, effective steps.

STEP 1: Create an Urge to Read via Your Headline
Like it or not, headlines control our world. If you’re not getting to the point and sparking curiosity in a matter of seconds you’re not going anywhere. Just like an effective cold call or elevator pitch.

Use your profile’s Professional Headline space to display information that creates an urge to discover whatever is most important to them. Don’t list your title or job position. Make sure your professional headline presents:

  • what you do,
  • who you do it for and, if possible, and
  • elude to how you do it that creates distinction.

If possible, hint at why buyers should choose you. Make your why clear but not totally complete. Leave off the details. This creates an urge to scroll down to the next section: Your profile’s Summary.

For example, turnaround and acquisition expert, Carter Pennington, says he “maximizes shareholder value of troubled companies.” Mando Villareal names his target market and says he helps them “reduce cost increase efficiency & automate deliverables.”

In both cases, structuring words this way helps prospects wonder, “I wonder how he does that?” It creates an urge to scroll down and learn more about the seller.

Wondering where to start yourself? Use what you already know is most important to your prospective buyer. Don’t be clever. Instead, push your prospects’ buttons.

Trent Smith is a “Trusted advisor to attorneys who want to grow their practice.” He knows there isn’t an attorney on the planet who doesn’t want to grow their practice. In a moment, I’ll show you how Trent exploits this urge in various sections of his profile.

Remember: Use your Professional Headline space to create an urge to discover more about what makes you someone worth paying attention to. Be bold. Grab your prospect, fast.

STEP 2: Ditch the Resume, Go for a Reaction
Your LinkedIn profile is a tool to get prospects curious about what you can do for (not sell) them. Because once they’re curious, they’re more likely to react—to act. Since your Summary section is often “above the fold” (is seen before anything else) it’s the best place to start sparking reactions.

The idea is to quickly make statements that cause customers to become excited, unsure, eager or even a bit scared. This is different than reciting information about yourself, resume style. Showing customers, “I have a better way,” telling them you have short-cuts they desire or making a bold claim helps you:

  • prove to be worth listening to (grabs the prospect) and
  • position yourself to make a big claim.

Every B-to-B seller has a big claim that plays on the desire of buyers—no matter what you’re selling. It’s believable, credible and needed. So use it. Your LinkedIn profile is a great place to

  • set up the claim
  • make it and
  • create an urge to act on the reaction your claim creates.

For example, Gerry Blaum makes the claim he’ll save Fortune 1000 clients $500,000 in health care over-spending and connect them with better service providers. If he cannot he’ll give clients his fee back. He says, “we only get paid when we save money for our clients.”

Gerry makes his claim in dramatic form. To keep it believable and credible, he reveals how he gets paid. This encourages HR executives at some of the world’s largest companies to wonder, “how, exactly, does Gerry accomplish this?”

Be careful to balance. You don’t want to make a claim that is unbelievable. Or a promise that gives away too much, too fast. Only make claims that sound believable and help buyers develop hunger for all the details. You’re going for a reaction, or an irritation—not total satisfaction.

The idea is to scratch the buyers’ itch-stopping short of offering full relief.

To more fully relieve their itch (or help them reach a goal) they need to take an action. This is just one way to effectively spark connections, email conversations or phone calls with prospects. Shoot me an email or comment below and I’ll share more examples.

STEP 3: Make a Direct or Subtle Call to Action
Give ’em what they want. Whether you’re a job-seeker, marketer or sales rep, your LinkedIn profile should contain “exit points.” Spots where a call to action should be placed—driving prospects away from your profile, toward your landing page, telephone or email inbox.

Toward shortcuts, tips, advice, pain relief, clarity on a fuzzy (yet important) issue or confirmation of nagging fears—whatever they want most.

Make sure you use calls to action to the fullest. Here are quick tips on how to make effective LinkedIn profile calls to action.

You cannot use HTML or links in the Summary section. But you can place calls to action inside it. Creating clearly identifiable sub-sections and headlines gives you the chance to make calls to action.

Look at how Gerry Blaum executes it. It’s easy to scan with the eye, grabbing the essence of each “chunk” of copy.

Stick to the basics. In a few words, use sub-sections inside the Summary to describe:

  • What you do & who you do it for
  • Why the prospect should care (how you do it differently than everyone else)
  • How & WHY customers should contact you (email, Facebook, Twitter, phone, Web site, etc.)

Give ’em what they want. Prove to them, quickly, you’ve got what they want.

Use trigger words to encourage action. Use phrases like:

  • Get all the details
  • Call me, email me
  • Discover fresh tips
  • See examples here
  • Start here (this one is very powerful believe it or not!)

Although you cannot use HTML here, readers will take advantage of links your provide.

Your target audience will visit your Web URL by cutting & pasting or right-clicking. In some Web browsers (like Chrome) users can jump to your Web site by highlighting the URL, right-clicking and immediately visiting your site.

Trent Smith uses his Contact and Summary sections to speak directly to prospects:

If you want visitors to say, “Wow! I’ve got to talk to this attorney right now!” then get website strategies for attracting clients at: http://www.JangoStudios.com

Of course, there are subtle, indirect approaches that are also effective. Choosing the specific approach often depends on your target market, type of decision-maker(s), sales cycles, complexity of what you’re selling etc. For example, Challenger sellers will need to take a much different, educational approach.

If you’re interested in taking first steps on everything I’ve presented today this free video training will get you started in just 12 minutes. Otherwise let’s chat in comments below!

5 LinkedIn Best Practices That Don’t Work

Prediction: 95 percent of sales reps and distributors will invest time in LinkedIn best practices that fail to generate leads in 2015. Be sure you’re not one of them.

Prediction: 95 percent of sales reps and distributors will invest time in LinkedIn best practices that fail to generate leads in 2015. Be sure you’re not one of them.

Most LinkedIn best practices for sales reps are not, in fact, best practices. They’re time-wasters. This is one of the most important insights I gleaned in 2014. That’s why I’m offering you five commonly recommended LinkedIn best practices to avoid in 2015.

The 5 Worst LinkedIn Best Practices

  1. Using “Who’s viewed my profile” to drive profile views.
  2. Requesting connections from new prospects.
  3. Sending InMails that ask for appointments and referrals.
  4. Sharing valuable content with your connections.
  5. Adding value in LinkedIn Groups by giving away your best advice.

Instead, follow these five steps to avoid falling down the LinkedIn “best practices” rabbit hole that truly don’t work for sales:

1. Beware of ‘Who’s Viewed Your Profile’
We all like candy and LinkedIn is handing it out. The experience is becoming increasingly Facebookesque. Case-in-point: The “who’s viewed my profile” feature. Beware: for most of us it’s a trap.

I’m not suggesting this feature isn’t handy. It’s just not what we (as sellers) want it to be. It can be a time-suck.

Our instincts to find buyers can overpower rational thought—especially when we’re pressed for time. Mix in some “online candy” and it’s a productivity risk.

Is it good to know who’s viewing your profile? Yes. Can you tell why someone outside of your immediate network is viewing your profile? Not with certainty. You cannot qualify a lead based on them looking at your profile.

A lot of experts claim you can. You cannot. Deep down, you know you cannot. Using software or other techniques to increase your views is not a smart strategy, especially when:

  • LinkedIn encourages random, casual viewing of “people you may know”
  • Many views aren’t views at all (they are momentary, fleeting arrivals at your profile)

LinkedIn wants you to know who’s looking at your profile. I’m cool with that. But when you believe people are viewing your profile for reasons you’re creating from thin air? You’re in trouble.

Spend time making sure arrivals at your profile spark curiosity in you. Invest less time in hope. And please don’t ask visitors you do not know (who view your profile) to connect with you!

2. Don’t Ask for Connections as a First Step
The most deadly—and common—mistake sales reps make on LinkedIn is asking prospects they don’t know to connect.

Be warned: It is against LinkedIn’s terms and conditions to send connection requests to prospects you don’t know. I know, I know. The “experts” all offer invitation personalization tips to earn connections from strangers. Ignore them!

Being banned by LinkedIn for inviting too many people who don’t know you is common. If your connection requests are not accepted often enough, LinkedIn will remove your ability to make requests.

Please don’t try to make first contact with prospects on LinkedIn—unless you use InMail or Groups messages. You may get connections accepted sometimes, but:

  1. You’ll rarely spark conversations after the connection is accepted;
  2. you’re taking a risk you don’t need to take; and
  3. the risk isn’t worth it; being connected is better for nurturing (not creating) leads.

3. Don’t Ask for Appointments in InMails, Attract Them
We all want appointments. But trying to get an appointment from “go” is a failing tactic. You will be rejected by 90 percent to 97 percent of perfectly good prospects according to Sharon Drew Morgen. She would know. She invented the Buying Facilitation method, and she has 20 years of experience to back up the statement.

Here’s why: A majority of buyers don’t know what they need when you email them. Or they are aware of their need, but aren’t ready to buy yet.

Use the first InMail or email like a good cold call: Earn permission for a discussion that can lead to an eventual meeting. Don’t jump the gun. Once you have permission, execute the email conversation in a way that sparks an urge in the prospect to ask you for the appointment.

Get the prospect so curious about what you have to say they cannot resist acting—asking you for a call.

Just like on a hot date, would you rather ask the other person out—or be asked? Don’t say too much too fast. Attract your prospect. This is one of my most mind-bending (yet effective) LinkedIn InMail tips. It also works on regular email messages.

4. Stop Sharing Valuable Content, Start Provoking Behavior
Sharing valuable content in groups and via LinkedIn updates rarely creates leads for most sellers; mostly because of “expert” tips that don’t work. There is way too little focus placed on how and when to share knowledge in groups.

Most “expert” tips focus on:

  1. gathering (curating) content quickly,
  2. defining what is valuable to buyers and
  3. deciding how often to post.

Instead, focus on how you post. Focus on structure. The design of words. Copywriting.

Defining what’s valuable to your target buyer is vital to know. But it’s worthless unless you know how to provoke customers to call or email you. (Not just comment on your update or share it with others.)

Likewise, knowing how to gather content quickly is important. But if what you share does not intersect with a lead capture system, you’ve squandered the engagement.

We’ve been told “share and they will come.” But the top 5 percent of LinkedIn sellers know an important fact. Sharing valuable content on LinkedIn won’t help you find clients. It takes solid social media copywriting.

Instead, start shockingly truthful discussions in LinkedIn Groups. Post updates on issues that competitors don’t dare go near. Tell the truths your competitors don’t want told. Then connect what you say to an action your prospect can take (begin the lead nurturing journey).

5. Adding Value in Groups Is Often a Win-Lose
Giving away your best advice in Groups can be a win-lose. The prospects win, you lose. Success depends on your prospects’ curiosity in you. And that depends on how and when you give away specifics. Just like effective InMail/email message writing and sequencing.

You’ll experience more success (requests for appointments, calls, emails) by giving away “just enough” information to be credible … yet not quite complete. The idea is to create an urge and the curiosity to know more.

For example, do you give answers and advice away in ways that create more questions in the mind of your reader? Do you give away just enough to create more curiosity about you that can be connected to what you sell? If not, you’re struggling.

You’re probably giving away too much too fast—smothering the prospect.

Are your posts grabbing customers? Are potential buyers responding—hungry to talk with you about issues, short-cuts or better ways you know about?

If not you’re probably over-focusing on what you are saying. Instead, focus on how you structure words and when you release key bits of information. Are you saying too much too fast?

Again, think of it like a great date. The most attraction occurs when you get “just enough” information about the other person that you become curious. Too much information overwhelms—leaves nothing to the imagination and is often flat out boring.

Once again, relevant content is elementary. The difference between wasting time with LinkedIn prospecting—and generating leads—is sparking buyers’ curiosity in what you can do for them.

Getting them to respond.

Remember, most LinkedIn best practices we read about online are not. They’re time-wasters. They’re edicts written by people who know about LinkedIn but who don’t know enough about sales prospecting. What do you think about my five commonly recommended LinkedIn best practices to avoid in 2015? Are you having any success with these? I’m open to hearing your rebuttals!

Death of the Salesman

There’s no question that the Willy Lomans of this world have been dying a slow, agonizing death—only instead of losing the fight to travel exhaustion, the opponent is the Internet … And marketing

There’s no question that the Willy Lomans of this world have been dying a slow, agonizing death—only instead of losing the fight to travel exhaustion, the opponent is the Internet.

According to a recent CEB article in the Harvard Business Review, 57 percent of purchase decisions are made before a customer ever talks to a supplier, and Gartner Research predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85 percent of their relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human. That shouldn’t surprise anyone since we spend much of our days tapping on keyboards or flicking our fingers across tiny screens.

In Willy’s day, the lead generation process would have consisted of making a phone call, setting up an appointment, hopping a plane to the prospect’s office, and dragging a sample case through the airport. In the 1980’s, that sample case turned into an overhead projector, then a slide projector and a laptop, and finally a mini projector linked to a mobile device or thumb drive. In 2014, salespeople are lucky if they can connect to a prospect on a video conferencing call.

Clearly the days of gathering in a conference room for the sales pitch are long gone. We’ve always known that sales people talk too much and buyers, who’ve never had the patience to listen, now have the tools to avoid them altogether: websites, whitepapers, case studies, videos, LinkedIn groups, webcasts—virtually anything and everything to avoid talking to sales.

As a result, the sales function has now been placed squarely in the hands of the content strategists and creators. And yes, that means that the sales function is now in the hands of marketing.

Now a different problem exists. Most marketing folks don’t know how to help the buyer along their journey because that’s not how they’ve been trained. They have no idea how different types of buyers think, or how they search for information, or make decisions, so they don’t know how to create nor position content in a meaningful and relevant way—and that’s long been the complaint of sales. In their opinion, all marketing does is churn out “fluff” that is irrelevant to a serious buyer.

Now marketers must step up and really understand how to optimize marketing tools in order to help that buyer reach the right brand decision at the end of their journey. That’s really why content has become the marketing buzz word.

And just like we despised the salesman who talked too much, potential buyers despise content that is full of sales-speak. While a product brochure has a purpose, it is not strategic content. Similarly, a webinar in which most of the supporting slides are simply advertising for the product, turns off participants who quickly express their displeasure via online chat tools to the host and by logging out of the event.

Great content should seek to:

  • Be authentic: What you say needs to sound genuine and ring true—no one believes you are the only solution to a problem. On the contrary, the discovery process is all about evaluating your options (the pros and the cons). Avoiding a question because your answer may reveal the flaws of your product or service only shines a spotlight on the issue. Honesty is always the best policy.
  • Be relevant: Share insightful information that leverages your expertise and experience; help the buyer connect the dots. “How to” articles are popular, as are comparison charts—if you’re not going to do it, the prospect will be doing it for themselves anyway, so why not help by pointing out comparison points (that benefit your product) they might not have previously considered?
  • Be timely: To get a leg up in the marketplace, you need to be prepared to add value when the timing is ripe. It’s highly unlikely that your marketplace hasn’t changed in the last 50 years. Help show buyers how your product/service is relevant in today’s marketplace—how it deals with challenges you know they’re facing or are going to face tomorrow.

Smart marketers have a lead nurturing strategy in place—an organized and logical method of sharing relevant content along the buy cycle. And that content is well written and segmented by type of decision maker. The CFO has a different set of evaluation criteria from the CEO and the CTO. Business owners look at purchase decisions through a completely different lens than a corporate manager.

Depending on the industry, business buyers have different problems they’re trying to solve, so generic content has less relevance than content that addresses specific issues in an industry segment. Those in healthcare, for example, perceive a problem from a different perspective than those in transportation.

The new name of the selling game is “Educate the Buyer—but in a helpful and relevant way.” And while Willy Loman may continue to sit at his desk making cold calls or sending out prospecting emails, the reality is nobody has the patience or interest to listen to his sales pitch any more. So marketers need to step up and accept responsibility for lead generation, lead nurturing and, in many instances, closing the sale.

Planning ROI? Turn the Funnel Upside-Down

Many marketers use a funnel to illustrate the progression from prospect to buyer because the narrowing graphic neatly shows the narrowing segments of the sales progression. Most construct the funnel by starting at the top and working their down chronologically through the sales cycle.  They apply projected percentages to each stage, funnel down to a number of buyers, calculate revenue based on average sale, and determine ROI based on promotion costs.

Many marketers use a funnel to illustrate the progression from prospect to buyer because the narrowing graphic neatly shows the narrowing segments of the sales progression. Most construct the funnel by starting at the top and working their down chronologically through the sales cycle. They apply projected percentages to each stage, funnel down to a number of buyers, calculate revenue based on average sale, and determine ROI based on promotion costs.

A different approach to using the funnel starts at the bottom. It has its roots in the tried and true direct response principles of Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) and Allowable Acquisition Cost (AAC). Because these two principles are the components that make up ROI (with LTV as the “R” and AAC as the “I”), the upside-down funnel becomes a useful tool for planning and creating ROI scenarios.

Start with the value of a customer. Set a target ROI and calculate your AAC. For this illustration, let’s assume that a buyer is worth $300 and we set our revenue target ROI at 3:1. This results in an AAC of $100.

See Equation No. 1 in the media player at right.

As you move to the lower portions of the upside down funnel, you apply assumptions about the conversion rates at each stage. For example, if you assume that 30 percent of all qualified leads will convert to buyers, then the Allowable Cost per Qualified Lead is $30.

See Equation No. 2 in the media player at right.

Similarly, you can calculate the Allowable Cost Per Lead, Per Response, and Per Impression all the way to the top of the upside down funnel. So if you estimate that two-thirds of your leads will be qualified, your Allowable Cost per Lead is $20, and so on.

When you reach the bottom of the upside-down funnel, it becomes particularly useful for media planning. You can determine the required response rates from each medium under consideration by:

  1. Dividing the cost of the media by the Allowable Lead Cost to determine the number of leads required from each medium
  2. Dividing the number of leads required by the circulation or number of impressions associated with the medium

For example, see Equation Nos. 3 and 4 in the media player at right.

Then, do a gut check. Is that response rate attainable? Don’t know? Test it. A carefully controlled small test will quantify your assumptions at each point of the upside-down funnel.

Beyond RFM Data

In the world of predictive analytics, the transaction data is the king of the hill. The master of the domain. The protector of the realm. Why? Because they are hands-down the most powerful predictors. If I may borrow the term that my mentor coined for our cooperative venture more than a decade ago (before anyone even uttered the word “Big Data”), “The past behavior is the best predictor of the future behavior.” Indeed. Back then, we had built a platform that nowadays could easily have qualified as Big Data. The platform predicted people’s future behaviors on a massive scale, and it worked really well, so I still stand by that statement.

In the world of predictive analytics, the transaction data is the king of the hill. The master of the domain. The protector of the realm. Why? Because they are hands-down the most powerful predictors. If I may borrow the term that my mentor coined for our cooperative venture more than a decade ago (before anyone even uttered the word “Big Data”), “The past behavior is the best predictor of the future behavior.” Indeed. Back then, we had built a platform that nowadays could easily have qualified as Big Data. The platform predicted people’s future behaviors on a massive scale, and it worked really well, so I still stand by that statement.

How so? At the risk of sounding like a pompous mathematical smartypants (I’m really not), it is because people do not change that much, or if so, not so rapidly. Every move you make is on some predictive curve. What you been buying, clicking, browsing, smelling or coveting somehow leads to the next move. Well, not all the time. (Maybe you just like to “look” at pretty shoes?) But with enough data, we can calculate the probability with some confidence that you would be an outdoors type, or a golfer, or a relaxing type on a cruise ship, or a risk-averse investor, or a wine enthusiast, or into fashion, or a passionate gardener, or a sci-fi geek, or a professional wrestling fan. Beyond affinity scores listed here, we can predict future value of each customer or prospect and possible attrition points, as well. And behind all those predictive models (and I have seen countless algorithms), the leading predictors are mostly transaction data, if you are lucky enough to get your hands on them. In the age of ubiquitous data and at the dawn of the “Internet of Things,” more marketers will be in that lucky group if they are diligent about data collection and refinement. Yes, in the near future, even a refrigerator will be able to order groceries, but don’t forget that only the collection mechanism will be different there. We still have to collect, refine and analyze the transaction data.

Last month, I talked about three major types of data (refer to “Big Data Must Get Smaller“), which are:
1. Descriptive Data
2. Behavioral Data (mostly Transaction Data)
3. Attitudinal Data.

If you gain access to all three elements with decent coverage, you will have tremendous predictive power when it comes to human behaviors. Unfortunately, it is really difficult to accumulate attitudinal data on a large scale with individual-level details (i.e., knowing who’s behind all those sentiments). Behavioral data, mostly in forms of transaction data, are also not easy to collect and maintain (non-transaction behavioral data are even bigger and harder to handle), but I’d say it is definitely worth the effort, as most of what we call Big Data fall under this category. Conversely, one can just purchase descriptive data, which are what we generally call demographic or firmographic data, from data compilers or brokers. The sellers (there are many) will even do the data-append processing for you and they may also throw in a few free profile reports with it.

Now, when we start talking about the transaction data, many marketers will respond “Oh, you mean RFM data?” Well, that is not completely off-base, because “Recency, Frequency and Monetary” data certainly occupy important positions in the family of transaction data. But they hardly are the whole thing, and the term is misused as frequently as “Big Data.” Transaction data are so much more than simple RFM variables.

RFM Data Is Just a Good Start
The term RFM should be used more as a checklist for marketers, not as design guidelines—or limitations in many cases—for data professionals. How recently did this particular customer purchase our product, and how frequently did she do that and how much money did she spend with us? Answering these questions is a good start, but stopping there would seriously limit the potential of transaction data. Further, this line of questioning would lead the interrogation efforts to simple “filtering,” as in: “Select all customers who purchased anything with a price tag over $100 more than once in past 12 months.” Many data users may think that this query is somewhat complex, but it really is just a one-dimensional view of the universe. And unfortunately, no customer is one-dimensional. And this query is just one slice of truth from the marketer’s point of view, not the customer’s. If you want to get really deep, the view must be “buyer-centric,” not product-, channel-, division-, seller- or company-centric. And the database structure should reflect that view (refer to “It’s All About Ranking,” where the concept of “Analytical Sandbox” is introduced).

Transaction data by definition describe the transactions, not the buyers. If you would like to describe a buyer or if you are trying to predict the buyer’s future behavior, you need to convert the transaction data into “descriptors of the buyers” first. What is the difference? It is the same data looked at through a different window—front vs. side window—but the effect is huge.

Even if we think about just one simple transaction with one item, instead of describing the shopping basket as “transaction happened on July 3, 2014, containing the Coldplay’s latest CD ‘Ghost Stories’ priced at $11.88,” a buyer-centric description would read: “A recent CD buyer in Rock genre with an average spending level in the music category under $20.” The trick is to describe the buyer, not the product or the transaction. If that customer has many orders and items in his purchase history (let’s say he downloaded a few songs to his portable devices, as well), the description of the buyer would become much richer. If you collect all of his past purchase history, it gets even more colorful, as in: “A recent music CD or MP3 buyer in rock, classical and jazz genres with 24-month purchase totaling to 13 orders containing 16 items with total spending valued in $100-$150 range and $11 average order size.” Of course you would store all this using many different variables (such as genre indicators, number of orders, number of items, total dollars spent during the past 24 months, average order amount and number of weeks since last purchase in the music category, etc.). But the point is that the story would come out this way when you change the perspective.

Creating a Buyer-Centric Portrait
The whole process of creating a buyer-centric portrait starts with data summarization (or de-normalization). A typical structure of the table (or database) that needs to capture every transaction detail, such as transaction date and amount, would require an entry for every transaction, and the database designers call it the “normal” state. As I explained in my previous article (“Ranking is the key”), if you would like to rank in terms of customer value, the data record must be on a customer level, as well. If you are ranking households or companies, you would then need to summarize the data on those levels, too.

Now, this summarization (or de-normalization) is not a process of eliminating duplicate entries of names, as you wouldn’t want to throw away any transaction details. If there are multiple orders per person, what is the total number of orders? What is the total amount of spending on an individual level? What would be average spending level per transaction, or per year? If you are allowed to have only one line of entry per person, how would you summarize the purchase dates, as you cannot just add them up? In that case, you can start with the first and last transaction date of each customer. Now, when you have the first and last transaction date for every customer, what would be the tenure of each customer and what would be the number of days since the last purchase? How many days, on average, are there in between orders then? Yes, all these figures are related to basic RFM metrics, but they are far more colorful this way.

The attached exhibit displays a very simple example of a before and after picture of such summarization process. On the left-hand side, there resides a typical order table containing customer ID, order number, order date and transaction amount. If a customer has multiple orders in a given period, an equal number of lines are required to record the transaction details. In real life, other order level information, such as payment method (very predictive, by the way), tax amount, discount or coupon amount and, if applicable, shipping amount would be on this table, as well.

On the right-hand side of the chart, you will find there is only one line per customer. As I mentioned in my previous columns, establishing consistent and accurate customer ID cannot be neglected—for this reason alone. How would you rely on the summary data if one person may have multiple IDs? The customer may have moved to a new address, or shopped from multiple stores or sites, or there could have been errors in data collections. Relying on email address is a big no-no, as we all carry many email addresses. That is why the first step of building a functional marketing database is to go through the data hygiene and consolidation process. (There are many data processing vendors and software packages for it.) Once a persistent customer (or individual) ID system is in place, you can add up the numbers to create customer-level statistics, such as total orders, total dollars, and first and last order dates, as you see in the chart.

Remember R, F, M, P and C
The real fun begins when you combine these numeric summary figures with product, channel and other important categorical variables. Because product (or service) and channel are the most distinctive dividers of customer behaviors, let’s just add P and C to the famous RFM (remember, we are using RFM just as a checklist here), and call it R, F, M, P and C.

Product (rather, product category) is an important separator, as people often show completely different spending behavior for different types of products. For example, you can send me fancy-shmancy fashion catalogs all you want, but I won’t look at it with an intention of purchase, as most men will look at the models and not what they are wearing. So my active purchase history in the sports, home electronics or music categories won’t mean anything in the fashion category. In other words, those so-called “hotline” names should be treated differently for different categories.

Channel information is also important, as there are active online buyers who would never buy certain items, such as apparel or home furnishing products, without physically touching them first. For example, even in the same categories, I would buy guitar strings or golf balls online. But I would not purchase a guitar or a driver without trying them out first. Now, when I say channel, I mean the channel that the customer used to make the purchase, not the channel through which the marketer chose to communicate with him. Channel information should be treated as a two-way street, as no marketer “owns” a customer through a particular channel (refer to “The Future of Online is Offline“).

As an exercise, let’s go back to the basic RFM data and create some actual variables. For “each” customer, we can start with basic RFM measures, as exhibited in the chart:

· Number of Transactions
· Total Dollar Amount
· Number of Days (or Weeks) since the Last Transaction
· Number of Days (or Weeks) since the First Transaction

Notice that the days are counted from today’s point of view (practically the day the database is updated), as the actual date’s significance changes as time goes by (e.g., a day in February would feel different when looked back on from April vs. November). “Recency” is a relative concept; therefore, we should relativize the time measurements to express it.

From these basic figures, we can derive other related variables, such as:

· Average Dollar Amount per Customer
· Average Dollar Amount per Transaction
· Average Dollar Amount per Year
· Lifetime Highest Amount per Item
· Lifetime Lowest Amount per Transaction
· Average Number of Days Between Transactions
· Etc., etc…

Now, imagine you have all these measurements by channels, such as retail, Web, catalog, phone or mail-in, and separately by product categories. If you imagine a gigantic spreadsheet, the summarized table would have fewer numbers of rows, but a seemingly endless number of columns. I will discuss categorical and non-numeric variables in future articles. But for this exercise, let’s just imagine having these sets of variables for all major product categories. The result is that the recency factor now becomes more like “Weeks since Last Online Order”—not just any order. Frequency measurements would be more like “Number of Transactions in Dietary Supplement Category”—not just for any product. Monetary values can be expressed in “Average Spending Level in Outdoor Sports Category through Online Channel”—not just the customer’s average dollar amount, in general.

Why stop there? We may slice and dice the data by offer type, customer status, payment method or time intervals (e.g., lifetime, 24-month, 48-months, etc.) as well. I am not saying that all the RFM variables should be cut out this way, but having “Number of Transaction by Payment Method,” for example, could be very revealing about the customer, as everybody uses multiple payment methods, while some may never use a debit card for a large purchase, for example. All these little measurements become building blocks in predictive modeling. Now, too many variables can also be troublesome. And knowing the balance (i.e., knowing where to stop) comes from the experience and preliminary analysis. That is when experts and analysts should be consulted for this type of uniform variable creation. Nevertheless, the point is that RFM variables are not just three simple measures that happen be a part of the larger transaction data menu. And we didn’t even touch non-transaction based behavioral elements, such as clicks, views, miles or minutes.

The Time Factor
So, if such data summarization is so useful for analytics and modeling, should we always include everything that has been collected since the inception of the database? The answer is yes and no. Sorry for being cryptic here, but it really depends on what your product is all about; how the buyers would relate to it; and what you, as a marketer, are trying to achieve. As for going back forever, there is a danger in that kind of data hoarding, as “Life-to-Date” data always favors tenured customers over new customers who have a relatively short history. In reality, many new customers may have more potential in terms of value than a tenured customer with lots of transaction records from a long time ago, but with no recent activity. That is why we need to create a level playing field in terms of time limit.

If a “Life-to-Date” summary is not ideal for predictive analytics, then where should you place the cutoff line? If you are selling cars or home furnishing products, we may need to look at a 4- to 5-year history. If your products are consumables with relatively short purchase cycles, then a 1-year examination would be enough. If your product is seasonal in nature—like gardening, vacation or heavily holiday-related items, then you may have to look at a minimum of two consecutive years of history to capture seasonal patterns. If you have mixed seasonality or longevity of products (e.g., selling golf balls and golf clubs sets through the same store or site), then you may have to summarize the data with multiple timelines, where the above metrics would be separated by 12 months, 24 months, 48 months, etc. If you have lifetime value models or any time-series models in the plan, then you may have to break the timeline down even more finely. Again, this is where you may need professional guidance, but marketers’ input is equally important.

Analytical Sandbox
Lastly, who should be doing all of this data summary work? I talked about the concept of the “Analytical Sandbox,” where all types of data conversion, hygiene, transformation, categorization and summarization are done in a consistent manner, and analytical activities, such as sampling, profiling, modeling and scoring are done with proper toolsets like SAS, R or SPSS (refer to “It’s All About Ranking“). The short and final answer is this: Do not leave that to analysts or statisticians. They are the main players in that playground, not the architects or developers of it. If you are serious about employing analytics for your business, plan to build the Analytical Sandbox along with the team of analysts.

My goal as a database designer has always been serving the analysts and statisticians with “model-ready” datasets on silver platters. My promise to them has been that the modelers would spend no time fixing the data. Instead, they would be spending their valuable time thinking about the targets and statistical methodologies to fulfill the marketing goals. After all, answers that we seek come out of those mighty—but often elusive—algorithms, and the algorithms are made of data variables. So, in the interest of getting the proper answers fast, we must build lots of building blocks first. And no, simple RFM variables won’t cut it.

How to Create High Performing Sweepstakes for Lead-Gen Efforts

OK, I know what you’re thinking … viable leads typically don’t come from sweepstakes and contests. And when not done correctly, that’s exactly right. However, just as any online direct response tactic, this one is no different. Over the years, sweepstakes marketing has become refined through testing and targeting. And since the boom in social media, sweepstakes are more popular than ever. But before you embark on this tactic, there are a few core concepts to know—as well as best practices.

OK, I know what you’re thinking … viable leads typically don’t come from sweepstakes and contests.

And when not done correctly, that’s exactly right.

However, just as any online direct response tactic, this one is no different. Over the years, sweepstakes marketing has become refined through testing and targeting. And since the boom in social media, sweepstakes are more popular than ever.

But before you embark on this tactic, there are a few core concepts to know—as well as best practices.

The Precursors

It’s important to get to know your list to help determine its value and how much you are willing to give away for a lead, such as:

  • What is your average conversion time (how long does it take someone to move from a lead to a buyer—30, 60, 90-plus days?)
  • What is the lifetime value (LTV) per buyer?
  • What is your average revenue per name?
  • What is your average cost per lead (CPL)?

Conversion Time. Monitor a group of new names (perhaps by campaign) who come on your file and see at what point, at what percent and for what dollar amount your leads convert to buyers. This will help you know how much and how long it takes a lead to convert. Let’s say you have a pay-per-click campaign and, in the first 30 days, 20 percent of the leads convert and the average unit sale is $50. This shows you your time threshold for getting a sale. You’ll know when to anticipate revenues and can manage your budget accordingly.

LTV. You take the total your buyers purchased: Let’s say over five years, this group collectively spent $100,000, and divide that amount by number of buyers (let’s say its 500). Your LTV is $200. This will show you the potential long-term opportunity for a buyer’s worth, as well as the loss (if the customer leaves your list).

Rev Per Name. This is more for the current buyers on your file not long term, as with LTV. Take the total your buyers spend at 30, 60 and 90 days; and at each time point, divide that amount by the number of buyers. So let’s say at 30 days, your newest names bring in collectively $10,000 and there are 1,000 buyers. That is a $10/rev per name. This will show you current buyer worth and your threshold for acquisition costs.

Cost Per Lead. When you’re doing an acquisition effort, how much does it cost you per name? Take the cost of the media buy and divide by the number of leads that came in. This will tell you how much you typically spend to bring in a new name. Ideally, you want to keep you cost per lead much lower than your revenue per name and LTV. I like to hover between $5 and $25 CPL. CPLs will be different by channel. However, if you bring in a lead at $50 and you know, based on your list performance, that name will spend $75 in the first 6 months, you can afford to take an initial loss.

The Offer

What are you going to give away? The value of the giveaway should be something that won’t be viewed as too good to be true by users as well, as one you can earn back (based on the aforementioned list criteria and in a certain time period). So knowing your giveaway threshold is important.

In addition to being realistic and appealing, the offer should also be relevant and interesting to your target prospect.

I’ve seen random sweepstakes offers on the Web, as I’m sure you have. One in particular, a publishing company, featured an offer: “Win a free iPad.”

This makes zero sense to me in so many ways …

Unless this publishing company is uploading an app on the iPad with a free online subscription to one of their publications, I don’t see the relevance for the end-user. This publisher will likely wind up with thousands of leads, but they will be unqualified, irrelevant people looking for a free electronic device and not in the other information products they offer.

Plus there’s an out-of-pocket cost for the product and shipping of the product.

This, in my opinion, is typical of the “old” sweepstakes offers where little strategy and direct response knowledge seemed to go into planning the campaign.

However, one website I discovered in my research for this article seems to hit the nail on the head and offer something synergistic to their leads, as well as qualifies the lead for future potential sales via cross-sell and upsell efforts.

Take skin care company, Dermagist. Their sweepstakes offer is for lead generation, touts a “$200 shopping spree,” and is featured on their website and Facebook page. The tactics they are using can be applied to most any industry.

Leads have to “register” by liking Dermagist’s Facebook page, as well as post on Dermagists’ Facebook page why they love the product. Winners are chosen monthly and given a promo code worth $200 toward anything in their store. No purchase is necessary.

What I Like …

The offer is ongoing, so it’s a continuity of new leads (email addresses) coming in on a monthly basis to help build the list and offset any attrition.

The prize is realistic, targeted and qualifies the recipient based on relevant interest—it’s appealing to those interested in skincare products and is a great way to get repeat and referral sales.

Leads have to “register” by liking Dermagist Facebook page, as well as post on their Facebook wall why they love the product. This strategy helps with social media engagement (boosting page “likes,” visibility and credibility), as well as product awareness.

I also liked that on the website’s sweepstakes registration page, last month’s winner’s name was posted. This helps reinforce contest legitimacy.

Location, Location, Location

Where you promote your sweepstakes is equally important for targeting and relevance.

There’s the obvious, such as having a banner ad, header content or interstitial on the website’s home page mentioning the promotion.

You can also promote it on your business’ Facebook page organically (through fan page timeline and wall posts), through apps, as well as through targeted ads and boosted posts, selecting audiences in the Newsfeed that are like-minded with your target customer.

Tabsite has a variety of Facebook-friendly apps for contests and sweepstakes (photos, trivia and more).

A word of caution: If you are promoting a sweepstakes on Facebook, make sure to follow its guidelines or your campaign may run the risk of getting shut down.

Promoting it organically with search engine marketing is another tactic, such as with free online press releases.

And, of course, if your budget allows, you can promote your sweepstakes through targeted media buys (banner ads, email list rental) and pay-per-click. These costs should be factored into the overall campaign effort and cost per lead.

So when you start thinking about your acquisition efforts and how sweepstakes may be used, know that through the evolution of the consumer and Internet marketing in general, this is not your father’s sweepstakes anymore.

Being a creative and strategic marketer will help you take this strategy to a whole new, high-performing level.

LinkedIn Premium Is Worth It IF …

Is LinkedIn Premium worth it for sales pros? Yes, but only if you have an effective, repeatable way to get conversations going once connected. Getting buyers talking about their pains and your solution is tough. So here is a three-step process to make sure LinkedIn’s Premium or Sales Navigator is worth the cost.

Is LinkedIn Premium worth it for sales pros? Yes, but only if you have an effective, repeatable way to get conversations going once connected. Getting buyers talking about their pains and your solution is tough. So here is a three-step process to make sure LinkedIn’s Premium or Sales Navigator is worth the cost.

Make sure you/your sellers systematically:

  1. Spark prospects’ curiosity;
  2. provoke buyers to act (become a lead);
  3. connect that curiosity to what you sell.

Why Most LinkedIn Premium Investments Don’t Pay Off
We forget to give the other side a distinct, compelling reason to connect beyond, “my network.” Fact is, 95 percent of sellers asking for connections are promising access to their network.

But nobody cares about your network unless you give them a reason to.

Increase your connections and conversations by stating a specific reason the other side will benefit. What is the:

  • Pain you’ll remedy?
  • Hurdle you’ll help them clear?
  • Risk you’ll help them avoid?
  • Short-cut to more success you’ll give the prospect?

How to Spark a Sales-Focused Conversation
Want to start discussion with a potential buyer? State a reason in your connection request or shortly afterward. But remember, it must be mutually beneficial, worthwhile and crystal clear.

What you “put into” LinkedIn Premium, InMail or the Sales Navigator makes the difference.

Also, state the reason and set expectation for the other side. Promise access to a specific benefit. Tell the buyer how and when they’ll benefit. Make your promise something worthwhile.

Distinct. Unusually useful. Credible. Then, follow through on your promise.

How to Connect: An Example Template
Here’s how you can get started right away with this concept, even if you don’t know your prospects’ pain.

The following connection request example can be used as a template. It was written for a student of mine in the sales training business.

Greetings, [First name]. I’d like to decide if connecting on LinkedIn will benefit both of us. Are you seeking effective ways to boost sales managers’ productivity? This is my specialty. Based on what I’m reading on your profile, connecting may open the door to mutual opportunity. Would you like to quickly explore? Thanks for considering, [First name].

All the best,
Sam Smith, Sales Manager Productivity Coach

Of course, you may not want to reveal a specific benefit (to connecting) up front. Or you may not (yet) know their pain. Thus, you might not know what benefit to promise.

So you’ll hold back a bit and provoke the prospect to tell you their pain.

Why and How Provocation Works
Let’s quickly dissect why the above approach is so effective at earning connections and conversations about what you’re selling. It’s all about creating curiosity in the prospect—fast.

Line 1 gets right to the point: Let’s decide if there’s benefit here or not.

Line 2 gets to the point of pain/goals.

Line 3 signals, “This is why I’m relevant to you” and “I’m bold.”

Line 4 says, “I did my homework” and “This is why you are now considering talking to me” plus it creates curiosity (“What does he/she see?”).

Line 5 says, “I’m looking for an answer and you have the power to give it to me” as well as “I’m not out to waste your time.”

Line 6 says, “Again, I know this is your decision … and I also know your name. You are not part of a mass emailing.” (You become distinct)

The Post-Connection Email
Once connected to the prospect, your next email (thanking them for the Connection) must:

  1. Provoke the buyer to tell you his/her near or far-term goal or pain.
  2. Tempt the buyer to talk on the phone or in a short, but more detailed, email conversation

Thus, be sure to communicate:

  • “If you need a better, faster way to increase success—now or in the future—we should talk more.
  • If not, no worries.
  • But if so, I’m the person for you because ________ (insert your point of distinction).”

Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions.

How to Convince Trade Show Contacts to Engage and Buy on LinkedIn

You’re attending conferences, coming back to the office and requesting prospects connect with you via LinkedIn. You’re getting connections, but are you getting any action? Are you generating leads and nurturing them to transact? You will, and more often, if you follow this simple template:

You’re attending conferences, coming back to the office and requesting prospects connect with you via LinkedIn. You’re getting connections, but are you getting any action? Are you generating leads and nurturing them to transact? You will, and more often, if you follow this simple template:

  1. Remove all focus on you—dramatically.
  2. State a benefit to connecting they cannot resist.
  3. Nurture the lead to fruition using provocative tips.

For example, one of my students used this message to approach prospects … and failed.

Hi, Juile,

Nice meeting you at _______ [conference]. If it’s ok, I’d like to invite you to become a member of my professional network of prospective buyers on LinkedInmade up of high-level executives worldwide. Check them out. I don’t sell to them, but they do buy from me. It’s up to you.


Let’s examine the mistakes made and an approach that increased his connection ratio and sparked discussions about what he sells.

Remove All Focus on You
It sounds obvious. But are you doing it—and doing it dramatically? If you’re like most sellers using LinkedIn, you’re letting what you need (leads) get in the way of what your prospect needs to act on (a problem or goal).

The solution is to put what your buyers want to hear up front in the first sentence. Clobber them with it. Tell them how you can remedy their pains or increase their success rates.

“Nice meeting you at the conference,” is an effective way to set context. However, asking someone to become a member of your professional network:

  • is not distinct—it sounds like one of countless other requests
  • is not clearly beneficial to the recipient

Using descriptors like “high-level” and “worldwide” is noise. It’s not important to the prospect. Period. The general rule is to remove all descriptors (adjectives and adverbs). If you do, you’ll sound bold and create an attraction.

Keep the focus on the other side.

State the Benefit in Dramatic Terms
Set the bar high. You don’t want a connection or discussion. You want the prospect to act—to see you as relevant to a pain or goal and irresistible. You want them to act, now.

Specifically, let’s get your prospect to take action—connect and, in near or far term, identify as a warm lead. However, be careful: don’t let your need cloud your ability to focus on the prospects’ point of view.

In my example with Charles, he uses an occasional newsletter to nurture leads. He aims it at his LinkedIn contacts tagged as “long-term leads.” These are buyers who are qualified to buy, but have not yet identified themselves as needy.

Charles’ newsletter is sparking discussions—helping him nurture and identify buyers. People are reading the newsletter and hitting reply, reacting to what he says. With this valuable tool in mind, we can improve Charles’ success rate when approaching conference leads to join his list.

For example:

Hi, Julie. Nice meeting you at _______ (conference). Connecting on LinkedIn will benefit both of us. For example, I send out a newsletter to a privileged group of colleagues on occasion. It provides useful tips to my most valuable relationships … in a way that often sparks reactions. This keeps us in touch … so we increase chances of helping each other whenever possible. What do you think? Thanks for considering.


Notice how confident and useful Charles sounds, right up-front. He sounds certain: this is a good idea. Plus he states why by focusing on what the other side wants—useful tips that creates benefits.

Also notice the use of the word privileged and how it implies exclusive benefit to the prospect.

Bottom line: If Charles has an asset (a newsletter that sparks reactions with potential buyers) he should leverage it. Also, instead of positioning his LinkedIn network as being valuable (sounding like 98% of LinkedIn users) he positions what his prospects want as what he has for them.

All his future buyer need do is act.

Your Turn
Can what you sell solve a problem? Can it give customers a life-altering experience or bring them closer to reaching a goal?

Let them know you’ve got a sample of it waiting for them.

All they need to do is respond.

Politely tease them a little. Dangle a carrot. When you’re writing the goal is to help them think, “I wonder what, exactly, he/she means by that?”

In the end, it’s easy to end up feeling like a zombie—dumping contacts into LinkedIn, hoping prospects will connect. After that? This is where the strategy tends to fall apart. Don’t let it happen to you.

Remember to avoid:

  • losing focus on benefits you bring to the other side (state them up-front!)
  • asking prospects to do what they likely don’t want to do or have time to do … or see immediate benefit in (explore your LinkedIn connections / network)
  • using descriptors like “high level executives worldwide” (don’t try to convince prospects of something they may already understand—your value!)

Good luck and let me know how this works for you!