Helping Your Website Bridge the Sales and Marketing Divide

If you think about sales and marketing as separate activities, you’re probably not thinking about the customer experience from the prospect’s perspective. That’s a potentially fatal mistake that can sap the strength of your marketing efforts and your sales team.

If you think about sales and marketing as separate activities, you’re probably not thinking about the customer experience from the prospect’s perspective. That’s a potentially fatal mistake that can sap the strength of your marketing efforts and your sales team.

There is a (probably) long path that your prospects follow from having never heard of you to deciding you’re the answer to their needs. The path differs slightly for different audience segments or industries and, of course, some prospects step off before they’ve made it to “the end.”

But all have this in common: They don’t care if or when they’ve graduated from prospect to lead to marketing-qualified lead to sales-qualified lead. Only you care about that. Any breaks in continuity you create based on those classifications are entirely artificial to your prospects. And those breaks can derail any momentum you may have gained with your prospects.

sales and marketing
Credit: Pixabay by Anemone123

Sales/Marketing Coordination

Perhaps the most critical hand-off point is the one between your marketing and sales teams. Making that hand-off seamless from the prospect’s perspective requires tight coordination between the two teams. Your website can help facilitate that cooperation.

Start by involving both the sales and marketing team in the development of your website. Neither team needs to get involved with the technical details, but both should have a say in the following:

  • How the site is organized
  • What content hubs are created around key client issues
  • Where lead magnets are offered
  • How leads are nurtured
  • When prospects are provided to the sales team

Who Else Can Help

Ideally, other departments or roles within your organization will provide input on these critical marketing questions, as well. Customer support and product teams will have entirely different perspectives on client motivation, and their knowledge should be leveraged.

Sales and Marketing Cooperation and Digital Marketing

Sales and marketing departments should both be involved in the ongoing maintenance of the information and materials being presented to prospects, not just on your website, but on social media, via email and in any thought leadership efforts you’ve undertaken.

And just as your website can’t effectively shoulder the load on its own, neither side of the sales and marketing equation is going to be as effective as it could be without the support of the other. If you can get your team leaders pointed in the same direction, your digital marketing will be much more effective.

The 10 Most Fascinating People in B2B Marketing

The top reason I love my work is the fascinating people I have the privilege to meet. I’ve always thought B2B marketing attracts unusually interesting professionals. People who see the potential, embrace the complexity and relish the challenges of our field.

B2B marketing
Credit: Getty Images by pagadesign

The top reason I love my work is the fascinating people I have the privilege to meet. I’ve always thought B2B marketing attracts unusually interesting professionals. People who see the potential, embrace the complexity and relish the challenges of our field.

Today, I am happy to introduce 10 of the many fascinating people I’ve interacted with during my adventures in 2018. All of them are high-energy contributors to the advancement of our field. And I’ve included a look-back shout-out to my fascinating contacts from 2017, 2016 and 2015.

  1. I’ve known Christopher Ryan, founder and CEO of Fusion Marketing Partners, for years, but this one is a standout. Check out his new book, “The Expert’s B2B Revenue Growth Playbook.” It’s practical and action-oriented, with a zillion tips on how to build sales — enhance your website, choose your key metrics, develop compelling content and more. Chris even offers a free PDF copy.
  2. Samantha Stone’s energy and good humor seem single-handedly to keep the wheels of B2B marketing going. She’s everywhere, providing advisory services to marketers who are grappling with how to go to market in an increasingly complex world. Her website offers a treasure trove of resources to help the rest of us get a head start.
  3. Every year, Scott Brinker brings our attention to the growth of martech, with his famous Marketing Technology Landscape graphic — now clocking in at over 6,800 point solutions. He’s the insightful blogger of ChiefMarTech and program chair of the informative conferences. Great work, Scott!
  4. Shane Schick’s Toronto-based B2B News Network is a top source for up-to-the-minute news in our industry. In this world of disappeared media, Shane deserves a lot of credit for running a successful publishing business. I find his daily email newsletter one of the best around. Somehow, Shane also finds the time to blog for Cision.
  5. A few years ago, Dan Konstantinovsky took the reins at R.H. Blake, a small Cleveland agency serving the manufacturing industry. Since then, he has taken the lead in converting traditional industrial marketing into a modern marketing powerhouse.
  6. Talk about high energy. Sangram Vajre, co-founder of Terminus and FlipMyFunnel, takes the cake. I was pleased to be invited to cover the conference this year, and shared a bunch of great ideas I picked up about ABM. With all that going on, how does Sangram also produce a daily podcast, I wonder?
  7. Jill Rowley, longtime martech sales leader (Salesforce, Marketo) and pioneer in the field of social selling, shared a big idea at the FlipMyFunnel conference. She envisions a day when B2B sales are transacted entirely through e-commerce, and the sales role will evolve to subject matter experts to buyers. “I have eliminated the word prospect from my vocabulary.” She says. Intriguing.
  8. Olle Leckne, a Stockholm-based LinkedIn advisor, has created a clever lead generation process for appointment-setting with highly refined audience targeting. His breakthrough: Measuring the time invested in generating and converting a lead, instead of response rates and media cost. The goal is to get a lead from hours down to minutes to set an appointment. The icing on the cake? Using GetAccept to track proposals as they make their way along the purchase path inside the prospective customer organization.
  9. Seattle-based Howard Sewell, president of Spear Marketing Group, consistently produces some of the best B2B marketing advice in the world. I am a subscriber to The Point, and recommend it to all my colleagues for its wisdom, clear thinking and actionable tips.
  10. Most B2B marketers already know Bob Bly, prolific author and sought-after copywriter. But this year, I am extra admiring of Bob because of his unique approach to Facebook. Instead of the throwaway comments the rest of us post, Bob uses the forum for thoughtful discussion of important and — dare I say, fascinating — topics. Always a joy to read and discuss.

Another great year in B2B marketing. Happy new year to all!

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Does Your Copy Have a ‘Human’ Voice? Or a ‘Copywriter’s’ Voice?

The other day I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” Wow, I thought! I haven’t heard from this person in a long time, so I eagerly opened the email. But in a split-second, I realized this wasn’t a personal email. It was an autoresponder. And it didn’t sound like the person I know who sent it. It felt like it had been written by a copywriter.

The other day I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” Wow, I thought! I haven’t heard from this person in a long time, so I eagerly opened the email. But in a split-second, I realized this wasn’t a personal email. It was an autoresponder. And the voice didn’t sound like the person I know who sent it. It felt like it had been written by a copywriter.
business_personalThat experience jarred me into wondering about my own copy: Does it sound human? Do I capture the right “voice” of either the sender or the organization?

Sometimes copy gets lost by overthinking it, making sure every “t” is crossed and “i” dotted. Sometimes the tone gets lost through input from other marketing team members, rounds of approvals, and review for compliance, where the tone degrades into being less human and more unnatural — to the point of being distracting or off-putting.

So today I share a few thoughts about copy’s “voice.”

I’ve come up with a scale that might help guide you to the “voice” or tone of copy for you. It’s a scale of 1 to 3. One is the most casual. Three is the most formal. You might find there are more than three for your situation. These are examples of how you might greet someone, ranging from a close friend, to casual acquaintance, to someone you’d meet for the first time:

  1. ‘Sup my brother/sister?
  2. Hey there, <name>! How are you?!
  3. Hello, <name>, nice to meet you.

In the example email from a friend I cited earlier, the subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” But the tone shifted, once the email was opened to a more canned, more formal, “Hello, nice to meet you” approach.

It was distracting. And disappointing. These unintended — but very real — impressions overwhelmed whatever impact was hoped for about the message content. So my advice is this:

  • Know your audience. When you know your audience, you’ll know if your voice can be casual or formal. Settling on the appropriate voice can be based on past transactions, the type of product or service you offer, or what you know about your customer’s age, demos or behavioral data.
  • Distinguish the level of relationship and product awareness. The voice of a subject line of an email, and headline of any copy (website, landing page, letter, etc.), should be based on the awareness and relationship your prospective customer has with your product or its category.
  • Choose the right type of lead. The relationship and awareness (or lack thereof) dictates if you should use a direct lead (offer, promise or problem-solution) or an indirect lead (secret, declaration or story). I’ll share more about these six lead types in a future blog post.
  • Be consistent. Don’t shift from one voice type to another within the same promo. If the copy has been significantly edited, be sure to read it aloud so you can hear if the voice is consistent throughout.
  • Be consistent across channels. If you’re using email, make sure the voice is consistent from the subject line to the email body, and from the email to the landing page, and yes, consistent all the way through the order page.

Finally, let someone read your copy who is unfamiliar with what has been written, to make sure the voice is appropriate and, probably most importantly, that it sounds like it was written by a human.

Just curious: do you feel my “voice” in these blog posts is appropriate? I invite your feedback.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!,” available from the DirectMarketingIQ Bookstore. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Why an “Hour a Day” Doesn’t Work on Social Media

You’re consistent. Diligent. You spend your hour a day on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. And then you get back to something that might actually generate a lead or sale. Like cold-calling. You know, that “dead” strategy that is difficult these days—yet still gets you paid!

You’re consistent. Diligent. You spend your hour a day on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. And then you get back to something that might actually generate a lead or sale. Like cold-calling. You know, that “dead” strategy that is difficult these days—yet still gets you paid!

Being consistent with social media is not working.

For most of us, there are too few leads coming from being diligent. So why, then, do you continue to post updates, share content, re-tweet?

Maybe you still believe in LinkedIn or Twitter and realize success (at anything) requires diligence. That’s true. Good for you. Or maybe because your boss expects you to—and you continue despite the lack of outcomes.

Despite having a reliable process. This process.

Having a Process Always Gets You Paid
Can’t find time for social? Don’t want to invest time because of lack of results? Your process is wrong. Stop focusing on being consistent. Instead, get a few small results, then build on them.

Be diligent. Be consistent. Most of all, be sure you have a chance at getting early results that you can build on.

Let’s be honest. Getting early results is all that matters. This isn’t about doing things to feel accomplished or satisfy management. Time investments on social media should pay you in these terms:

  • more appointments in less time
  • moving through your prospecting list faster
  • leaving fewer voicemails
  • less time asking for demos—more time giving demos to pre-vetted leads

How can you get these kinds of early results? Follow a proven, effective system.

  1. Attract Attention by saying something bold, new.
  2. Spark Curiosity in what you have to say by holding back details.
  3. Provoke Response by using words that trigger immediate reactions.

The Process Must Make Sense to You
Don’t just follow a system blindly. Make sure YOU believe in the system. Most of all, make sure the approach you use has a high probability of paying off—producing want you want in the near-term.

“In general I like the approach you are recommending, Jeff, because it really makes sense and its something I can relate to and believe in,” says IBM Digital Sales’s Johan Hoffert.

In fact, in a matter of a few days Hoffert tested this approach on a non-responsive prospect he was struggling to reach. He turned it into a lead. What changed his luck? Process, not diligence.

Beware: If it feels like a waste of time it is. Trust your instincts.

You’re an Idiot, but I Have a Cure for That
“When was the last time you bought something from someone who said, ‘You’re an idiot, but I have a cure for that?” asks Bruce Johnston, a respected provider of outsourced LinkedIn lead generation services.

Johnston is concerned with many social selling experts and trainers—their approach to helping reps who need guidance in this area.

“Underestimating your customers’ intelligence and using a fear based approach rubs me the wrong way,” says Johnston who blogs at www.practicalsmm.com.

In a recent email exchange, Johnston told me the message he tries to get across respects his customers and tones down the revolutionary hyperbole. Specifically, social selling, when combined with what you are doing now, is a sales accelerant.

“What many of these ‘experts’ are doing is pushing an ‘if you are not doing social you are a Luddite’ point of view,” says Bruce Johnston. It’s time to tune them out!

What Sellers Need to Know—Versus What They Want to Hear
The truth is this “hour a day” idea is a lie. It’s an excuse to be lazy. The act of “sharing valuable content” with customers is not effective. These ideas are what we want to hear—not what we need to know.

It’s natural for us to want shortcuts. But when you’re a front line seller you can’t afford to waste time. And if you manage a team of sellers you had better pay attention!

“The experts” all agree: Diligent use of social media is the key. An hour a day.

But they’re wrong. Dead wrong.

Evolution, not Revolution
Can you generate leads by regurgitating information (“sharing valuable content”) and Liking prospects’ posts in an hour a day? Is this a revolutionary idea? No and no.

Success is rooted in sales fundamentals—not digital time-wasters coming from people who have never actually sold a B2B product or service!

Your/your team’s success depends on evolving to use what we already know works with the new tools. It sounds trite, obvious. But most organizations have yet to put the obvious to work for sellers. Now you have the key … the process. Good luck!

Drive Leads on Facebook by Getting Customers to Gab

What can a regional supplier of HVAC products and services teach you about Facebook? Plenty. I’ve already explained how Steelmaster Buildings gets leads on its Facebook page using a similar strategy. Today I’ll give an update on how Amanda Kinsella, of residential HVAC provider Logan Services, is getting along. She is continuing to generate leads and tracking ROI to the penny on Facebook. Yes, Facebook.

What can a regional supplier of HVAC products and services teach you about Facebook? Plenty.

I’ve already explained how Steelmaster Buildings gets leads on its Facebook page using a similar strategy. Today I’ll give an update on how Amanda Kinsella, of residential HVAC provider Logan Services, is getting along.

She is continuing to generate leads and tracking ROI to the penny on Facebook. Yes, Facebook.

A Simple Approach
Drive prospects to your page and get them talking about themselves. At first it sounds too simple. But that’s the beauty of it. Here’s the short version: grab customers’ attention and “ethically bribe” them to visit your Facebook page.

Sure, use a contest … BUT … make sure you provide an incentive for prospects to talk about themselves.

Bribe Customers to Talk About Themselves
Get a bowl of candy. Then, hand it out. Free. Just like at a trade show booth.

Why do vendors set out a bowl of candy? To encourage you to linger? Yes.

But smart booth attendants know the key to success is not using candy to talk about what they’re selling. Generating leads is 110 percent about getting prospects talking about themselves first.

A Strange Place to Start
Don’t be fooled by the bad advice online about how to generate leads on Facebook. We’re being hoodwinked into believing social media is a no-cost way of generating customers.

Wrong! It is a low-cost strategy. Smart, targeted advertising is often where to start: Buy attention. Pay for advertisements in places your target market can be found.

For example, Amanda is a one-woman marketing team at Logan Services. This small business serves a large chunk of territory in the Dayton, Ohio region.

Amanda keeps it simple—buying ads where her target market hangs out. She invests precious budget-dollars in local newspapers, TV and radio spots. This creates attention she can work with … that she can push towards Logan’s Facebook page.

Her lure? A free heating or air conditioning system for a customer who needs one. She runs a contest on Facebook that gives away a multi-thousand-dollar residential HVAC system!

Sound crazy? Keep reading. She’s been doing this for a few years now—generating positive ROI.

Tactic No. 1: Use an Incentive to Spread the Word
Any fool can run a contest on Facebook. But when giving away thousands of dollars in equipment and a service contract, Amanda has to be SURE her investment will pay off.

She needs guaranteed leads that will generate thousands in profit for Logan.

When potential customers (from the ads) first started landing on the Facebook page, Amanda told them about the catch. Nobody would win a new furnace unless a minimum of 200 prospects entered the contest.

Her prospects needed to:

  • tell Logan why they needed the system (in a few sentences); and
  • spread the word about the contest.

Amanda put her prospects under incentive to help make sure Logan got what it wanted—leads! You can do the same.

Tactic No. 2: Use Your ‘Thank You’ Page
After prospects filled out the contest application, they were presented with an opportunity to get a quote from Logan on the contest “thank you” page. On average, 20 percent of all contestants started requesting quotes.

Prospects were realizing, “Hey we need a furnace sometime soon … and we may not actually win … so why not check out Logan’s prices anyway?”

This is the power of good direct response social marketing design and this is why you should know people like Amanda.

Tactic No. 3: Give Customers an Incentive to Talk
Human beings love to talk. Especially about themselves. Your potential new (and existing) customers are no different.

Once Amanda’s hopeful contestants spread the word (and reached the minimum threshold) they were given a chance to enter the contest. To enter, prospects filled out an application. The contest form captured valuable insights … stories on why the prospect needed a new furnace so badly.

Talking about themselves naturally revealed details about current and future need for Logan’s products and services.

Convincing customers to talk about themselves is how Amanda grew her database of qualified leads well into the hundreds. That was just in the first year.

Exactly How She Did It
Here is a visual example of how Amanda “ethically bribes” customers to talk about themselves … in ways that reveals leads for her sales team to gently follow-up on.

YOU can do the same. See how it works?

Today, Amanda uses the same lead generation model for Facebook. It works, so why change it?

She also exploits her captive audience on Logan’s Facebook page. As you can see above, these are people who have come to expect giveaways. So, Amanda gives away regularly!

In this case, cash. Gift cards.

Amanda’s reward? More leads at even less cost.

Here’s the rub: She’s not spending on ads for these leads because prospects been “trained” to keep in touch with Logan. Lately, they’re hungry for energy saving tips that save them some money. But most of all, prospects and customers are on Logan’s Facebook page accessing the latest contests.

It wasn’t always easy for Amanda. She struggled for a long time. Amanda tried everything to get potential buyers to talk with her on Facebook. But nobody wanted to talk with a HVAC company. Not even about subjects like saving money on taxes and other energy tips she provided.

But today is a different time for Amanda!

The 1 Simple Way to Sell via Your Webinar

Want to sell with your webinar? Actually go for the close at the end or generate an appointment for your reps to follow-up immediately? Stop wasting the audience’s time with blather about your speaker.

Want to sell with your webinar? Actually go for the close at the end or generate an appointment for your reps to follow-up immediately? Stop wasting the audience’s time with blather about your speaker.

Ok, it will take more I admit. The rest can be done by getting to the point fast and helping your buyer become attracted to the idea of talking more about the itch your speaker just scratched. Here’s a three-step process to getting that done.

You Have the Email but not a Lead
The word webinar itself has a negative connotation. At best it is something your prospects attend while they check email and put out any number of fires. You might argue, “Sure, Molander, but I have the prospects’ email.”

True. But you don’t have them on the way to becoming a lead. You blew it. How? By wasting every single moment from “go.”

It’s time for tough love about your Webinar and the lousy leads it’s sending to sales. Of course, I’ll also offer three simple steps to help produce Webinars that spark customers’ curiosity in what your solution can do for them.

No. 1: Avoid all Introductions Like the Plague
“I find the need to hear the presenters personal story for 10-20 minutes a huge turn off,” says sales coach, Iain Swanson of UK-based Kolzers. “In most cases I have literally switched off and missed the content of the call.”

Enough said. And let’s face it. You’ve probably done the same. Or perhaps you make it habit to join the webinar late in an effort to avoid the irrelevant blather.

This time-wasting tradition needs to stop. Right now. How? NO introductions.

Your potential buyer isn’t attending the webinar to hear about the backgrounds or experiences of the presenter. Nor what the sponsor does, for whom or how well.

They’re there for one reason: To take from you. They want as much as they can get, for free, as possible. Why? They’re human.

Let them take. Let them gorge.

Just structure the way you release the information. Copywrite it. Yes, copywrite it. Scripted? Yes but only for the pros. If you come off as canned you can kiss the leads goodbye.

Start by canning your introduction. Shock your audience by immediately getting to the point. They’ve already qualified the speaker. They’re there, after all.

Brighten their day. Surprise them. Make them think, “WOW, he/she just skipped the boring introduction stuff!”

This is how to sell using Webinars. Trust me, it works.

No. 2: Promise Viewers Something They Don’t Already Know—Then Deliver It Fast, Clearly
Start your webinar by telling prospects, “You’re about to hear information that you probably don’t already know.” Then, follow the Golden Rule of communication. What if prospects already know most of what you’re about to tell them?

You’ve designed the webinar to fail. Just like a whitepaper that looks sharp but is worthless, your Webinar must contain useful information and new know-how, tips or knowledge. If it does not contain enough new information you will not hold the audience.

Build in useful, actionable and fresh information and present it according to the Golden Rule:

  • Tell them what you’re about to tell them (the main insight, short-cut, better way or remedy)
  • Tell them the “better way” (at a high level, yet specific)
  • Tell them what you just told them (come back and remind of the main point)

This approach serves the most essential goal: Getting customers clear on your message. Without clarity your webinar will fail.

Remember the last time you were clear—really clear—on something? Remember how you felt?

Remember the sense of confidence that came with your “ah-ha moment?” You might also recall a feeling of wanting to know more—wanting to have more clarity, more confidence. That’s what we’re after.

That’s your webinar’s job: get buyers crystal clear, confident in themselves and trusting you.

No. 3: Help Them to Want to Know More
When is the last time you attended a Webinar and learned something new? Think about a time when the presenter gave you everything they promised they would at the beginning of the presentation—and more. Did you want more from them? Were you ready to act on that impulse?

Give your best insights, tips or warnings away. Give away all of your best knowledge. All of it.

“But, Jeff, giving prospects my best advice for FREE will help them to do it without me!”

Doubtful. Be careful to not confuse customers qualifying you with what you perceive as their purchase intent.

The act of looking for answers does not always translate to customers’ wanting to do what you charge money for themselves. Even when it does “signal” a customer’s desire to do it themselves, what customers want can change.

You want to be there when it changes.

Most importantly you need to create a craving, deep inside your prospects. A desire to know more details about your big claim, better way, short-cut or system.

The only way to get prospects hungry for more of you is to attract them to the idea of talking to you. Attraction takes a reliable, effective system.

The idea is to structure (copywrite) the content you release in a way that makes asking more questions irresistible to your attendees. Yes, questions can be answered in Q&A. That’s fine. This builds trust and creates more intense curiosity in you—a hunger for more of what you can offer.

But only if you are careful about how you answer those questions.

To get started, present the answers or solutions clearly but in ways that provokes prospects’ curiosity. Answer questions always creates more questions about the details (relating to what you sell).

To create this hunger:

  • Make your words specific, filled with integrity, true and useful
  • Be action-oriented (make your answer clear and easily acted on)
  • But be incomplete (make a credible answer yet leave out most of the details)

Tee-Up Your Call to Action
The idea is to create hunger for a short-cut at the end of your webinar. In other words, the goal of this three-step process is to get prospects hungry for a faster, easier way to get all the details you just spent 40 minutes talking about.

This faster, easier way can be:

  • a lead generation offer
  • your product/service.

The idea is to present content that helps customers begin to desire your lead generation offer. Or at least be primed for the idea of taking action on it.

Making the pitch for viewers to buy at the end of your webinar? Help viewers see buying your product/service as a logical next step in the journey you just started with them.

Using this three-step process transforms what you sell from “something I need to think about buying some day” into “the obvious next step I should take right now.”

Your fee or price tag becomes a logical investment that “feels right, right now.”

Good luck!

Today’s B-to-B Marketing: It’s a Lot Like Shark Tank

As a marketer, I understand the challenge of reaching business decision makers like me in a fresh and meaningful way, but I will tell you that as a focus group of one, I despise the direction marketers seem to be headed:

As a marketer, I understand the challenge of reaching business decision makers like me in a fresh and meaningful way, but I will tell you that as a focus group of one, I despise the direction marketers seem to be headed:

  • My LinkedIn inbox is now overflowing with invitations to connect to people I don’t know and now choose NOT to connect to because I know they’re going to simply try and sell me something based on their job description/profile.
  • To download a whitepaper of interest requires me to complete a form that includes my phone number, which means dealing with unwanted calls from a bored sales rep.
  • My regular inbox is stuffed with offers from strangers that want to set up meetings, desperate attempts to sell me data from unknown sources, demands that I click links to view the video about revolutionary new technology that will “change the way I do business.”
  • If I express any interest at all in a product (attend a webinar, visit a tradeshow booth, download a spec sheet), I am relentlessly mobbed by emails and phone calls.

I get that sales folks have a job to do, so what’s the answer?

It’s called Lead Nurturing.

An organized and systematic way of building a relationship that will, over time, help turn a cold prospect into a warm prospect… and from a warm prospect into a hot prospect… and ultimately to a sale.

But excellence in lead nurturing seems to be a lost art form as I haven’t been exposed to many companies that are doing it—let alone doing it well.

Best practices suggest that the marketer try to ask just a few questions at the outset of the relationship to try and determine the prospects pain point (the reason for their download or visit to your website or tradeshow booth), and the role the individual plays in the purchase process (influencer, part of a decision making team, final decision maker).

Based on the answers to these and perhaps one or two other pertinent questions that would help you define your lead nurturing strategy (for example, industry or job title/function), leads should be scored and placed into an appropriate lead nurturing system that will help the marketer deliver ongoing content that will be most relevant to that prospect.

Best practices do NOT include asking questions about intent to purchase timeframes (God forbid you answer “in the near future” as that will guarantee an instant follow up call), budget size (really? Do you think I’ll reveal that I have earmarked$100K on a form?).

Lead nurturing programs should include:

  • Additional assets that can be distributed via email: Content can include a competitive review, an article that’s relevant to the prospects vertical industry, research findings, videos that demonstrate how a product works, etc. These should NOT be sales literature but rather help the company position itself as an expert in their field. This in turn, helps build credibility and trust (key components in a B-to-B purchase).
  • Invitations to webinars where a particular topic is explored. Webinars should include speakers from OUTSIDE the sponsoring organization to give the topic value and ensure the attendee isn’t just signing up for a sales pitch.
  • Invitations to breakfast or luncheon roundtable discussions: Bring in a speaker of interest and discuss a topic that is most relevant to your audience (especially if it’s industry specific).

Over the course of time, you’ll be able to ask additional questions / gain additional insights into your prospect pool that will help you become more familiar with them and the problem they’re trying to solve.

After all, don’t we all want to do business with people we know and like? The reality is, it is highly unlikely that I’m ready to buy after one simple download, so stop treating me like a piece of meat that has fallen into a tank full of hungry sharks.

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.

Hottest 2014 Marketing Tip for Small Business? Put Aside a Budget!

Over 50 percent of the working population (120 million) work in a small business, and that trend is growing. According to the SBA definition, there were nearly 28 million small businesses in 2013, and 6 million of those had employees beyond just the owner

Over 50 percent of the working population (120 million) work in a small business, and that trend is growing. According to the SBA definition, there were nearly 28 million small businesses in 2013, and 6 million of those had employees beyond just the owner.

Judging from the number of small business attendees at webinars, online and at events and conferences on how to grow your business, they’re craving solid marketing advice. But unfortunately, it seems no one told them that marketing takes time, costs money (more than you’d think!), and doesn’t pay out instantly.

So I dedicate this blog post to all the small business owners out there who want some solid marketing advice—for free. Here are eight marketing tips that every business, no matter what size, should take to heart:

  1. Create a Clear USP
    This is the secret sauce missing for many companies—your Unique Selling Proposition. What makes your business different from the next guy’s? Why should I do business with you at all? If you’re a dry cleaner, it’s all about location and ease of access (including parking). But if you’re an accountant, how do you distinguish yourself from every other accountant? Are you more current on tax codes? Are you faster and therefore more efficient on the preparation of my tax return? Think about why you started your business in the first place and what makes your customers loyal—those can be good foundations for a marketing platform.
  2. Build and Maintain a User-Friendly Website
    Your website is the face of your business, and too often there hasn’t been enough time, effort or thought given to this critical calling card. Broken links, typos, lengthy copy that rambles on and on (without a point), too many navigation options, poor design choices (tiny type, or worse, tiny type reversed on a dark background) are all the hallmarks of a bad first impression.
  3. Create Marketing Solutions Based on the Business Problem You’re Trying to Solve.
    There’s too much emphasis these days on generating new leads. Take a look at your existing customer base—is there an opportunity to sell them more product or additional services? Examine your sales funnel—where’s the drop-off point? Why do people start a dialogue with you and then discontinue? I worked with one company recently who focused their entire effort on “new lead” volume, but after auditing their sales funnel discovered they weren’t adequately following up with leads after a key decision-making point in the conversion process. Once we adjusted that process, they doubled their sales (even though they maintained their lead level).
  4. Smart Marketing Costs Money
    Many smaller businesses hire a marketing person and expect them to understand marketing strategy, planning, art direction, copywriting, HTML, SEO, SEM, printing techniques, database design and management, analysis, web design, and email blasting. But the reality is, most marketers at this level are simply good project managers. As a result, the creative work is unsophisticated and the strategy non-existent. Different aspects of marketing should be handled by different professionals—I have yet to meet that “jack-of-all-trades” who is also “master-of-all-trades.”
  5. Respect Marketing Professionals
    If you do hire help, fight the urge to ask your friends and neighbors to review/assess the marketing advice/creative recommendations you’ve received. If you’ve spent the time and energy to vet professional help before you hired them, then trust them do their job. If they know what they’re doing, they should be able to develop a strategy (which you approve) and work with other professionals to develop the media and creative to support that strategy (with rationale). You don’t need to rewrite headlines, make color change recommendations or choose your favorite font. That results in bad, disjointed work … period.
  6. Social Media Is Not the Answer
    While there’s plenty of good that can come from social media marketing, it’s highly unlikely that it will keep your business thriving by itself. You can spent a lot of energy generating Facebook “likes” which result in $0 sales. Instead, think about your target audience and their media consumption habits. Then, as the cliché goes, fish where the fish are. And yes, that means spending some money.

So here’s the big “AHA!” that’s missing in most marketing efforts: It’s called a marketing budget.

Want folks to find your website? That means your site needs to be optimized for Search (SEO)—and you need to some money on key words, banner ads, etc. Think about the role that Yelp might play in your business and consider an ad campaign on Yelp.

Just because you build a business doesn’t mean they will come. It will take time—and money—to drive traffic to your doorstep. Visiting your website is only half the battle, so you’d better be diligent about figuring out how to convert that traffic into buyers or all the effort you’ve spent to drive them there will be wasted.