Don’t Let Old Habits Dictate Your Marketing Thoughts

When marketers play with data, we often get confined within the limitations of the datasets that are available to us, or worse, tool sets through which we get to access data. Some bad habits live through an organization for multiple generations, as we all get trained in marketing thoughts, in the beginning of our careers, by others who have been doing similar jobs.

marketing thoughts
Credit: Pixabay by Mohamed Hassan

When marketers play with data, we often get confined within the limitations of the datasets that are available to us, or worse, tool sets through which we get to access data. Some bad habits live through an organization for multiple generations, as we all get trained in marketing thoughts, in the beginning of our careers, by others who have been doing similar jobs.

When a few iterations of such training go on through a series of onboarding processes, the original intents of data, reporting and analytics get diluted. And the organization ends up just using those marketing thoughts to go through motions of producing lots of reports that no one cares about or benefits from. I’ve heard some radical claims that the majority of decision-makers today won’t miss over half of automatically generated reports.

We shouldn’t really look at a single report or initiate data-related projects without setting a clear goal first. Often, the most important role of a consultant is to remind clients “why” they should do anything in the first place.

For example, why should we all watch clickthrough rates every day, often locked in a set frame of time parameters? As in, compared to the same time last year, the clickthrough rate went down by 0.8%! The horror! Why do marketers make a big fuss about it, when the clickthrough rate is just one of many indicators, not even the most effective one at that, of actual purchases? Because someone in the past set the KPI reports up that way?

In other words, sometimes marketers and analysts who help them needed to be reminded that the goal is to sell more things and retain customers, not live and die with open and clickthrough rates. I am not flatly dismissing those important metrics at all; I’m just pointing out that we need to have a goal-oriented mindset when dealing with data and analytics. Otherwise, we end up in a maze of metrics and activities that do not really help us achieve organizational goals.

What are those ultimate goals? Not that I want to be a smart ass who would say “From Earth” to an innocuous question “Where are you from?”, but let’s really go to that high level for a moment; we play with data (1) to increase the revenue, or (2) to decrease the cost. Since Profit=Revenue-Cost, well, we can even reduce this whole thing to just one goal: Increase the Profit.

Why am I pointing out the obvious? Because I’ve seen too many data players who just go through motions without questioning the original intent of the activity or key metrics, and blindly believe that all that hard work will somehow lead to success. Unfortunately, that is far from the truth.

If you run on an airplane midflight, would you get to the destination any sooner? Definitely not. In fact, the captain may even go back to the originating airport to drop such crazy person off, further elongating the length of the journey.

You may think this analogy is silly, but in the world of data and analytics, such detours happen all of the time. All because no one questioned how and why any activity set in motion in the distant past would continue to help achieve long and short-term organizational goals – especially when goals need to be constantly adjusted thanks to ever-changing business environments. Nothing in scientific activities, no marketing thoughts, should be carved in stone.

That is why the first question by a seasoned consultant should be what the organization’s long and short-term goals are. Okay, we can all easily agree that we are all in this data and analytics game to increase profit, but what are the specific goals, and what are the immediate pain points? Of course, like any good doctor, a consultant must remedy immediate pain points first. But what do we call those doctors who make the patient’s condition worse just to relieve immediate pain? We call them quacks.

Bringing back this discussion to the world of marketing, having the clear long and short-term goals for every data and analytical activity is a must. If you do that, you may never need an expensive consultant just to remind you that you are wasting resources digging wrong places. Clear business goals beget proper problem statements (not just list of all symptoms and wish lists), which beget appropriate measurement metrics, which in turn lead us to proper digging points in terms of data and methodology, which would minimize waste of time and energy to achieve predetermined goals. In short, we can avoid lots of mishaps and detours just by remembering the original intents of data and analytics endeavors.

How to Train and Retain Your Millennial Workforce in 2017

As we wrap up budget season and plan for 2017, one question should be on the minds of sales leaders: Is your company prepared to effectively train and retain your Millennial sales force?

Millennial marketerAs we wrap up budget season and plan for 2017, one question should be on the minds of sales leaders:

Is your company prepared to effectively train and retain your Millennial sales force?

As of 2015, the Millennials are the largest segment of the workforce. They learn differently, work differently and think differently than previous generations. And as Generation Z begins to enter the workforce, many sales organizations will have four generations working side by side:

  • Baby-Boomers (1945-64)
  • Gen X (1965-80)
  • Millennials (1981-95)
  • Gen Z (1996-2010)

So, is your company well positioned to handle the needs of your Millennial sales representatives?

Consider how your company stacks up against the following statement:

To inspire the millennial learners of today, sales training must be accessible anytime, anywhere and in ways that are structured, yet flexible, personalized, interactive, stimulating and social.

To compete in the war for talent, effectively on-board, develop and retain Millennials, we believe that the above statement outlines the absolute minimum for leading companies over the next two to three years.

Let’s break it down:

1. Accessible Anytime, Anywhere

Millennials want answers now! Millennial learners have grown up as digital natives; Millennials turn to Google for instantaneous response to any burning question they may have. Whether during the workday, or at 9:30 p.m., “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

2. Structured

Millennials crave structure. Many started in structured soccer at the age of three and grew up with parent-arranged “play dates.” No other generation has grown up with this much structure. As a result, Millennials continue to yearn for structure within their careers. Contrary to popular belief, they are not looking for “participation trophies,” but rather, want to compare how their results stack up to the developed competencies for their position. They expect structured sales processes from which they can learn, master, and be measured against.

3. Flexible

Millennials prefer to learn from a variety of channels and formats: e-learning, mobile video, virtual classrooms, and podcasts should be used alongside direct coaching and instructor-led, in-person training.  A comprehensive curriculum that leverages a variety of these formats engages Millennials more effectively, resulting in greater retention of training concepts.

4. Personalized

Millennials have been told they are special. Perhaps by their parents, but definitely by the data-driven, hyper-personalized business world around them. As the most digital savvy generation to enter the workforce, they have an unconscious expectation that onboarding programs will be personalized as well. Companies can meet that expectation by beginning the onboarding process with an objective assessment, creating a Personal Learning Portal (PRP) and converting to a customized curriculum as outlined above.

5. Interactive

Millennials have grown up with control and continuous feedback … so it’s no wonder that interactive learning appeals to this generation. They crave a learning environment where they can interact with their coaches, as well as collaborate with their peers. To start, we recommend push/pull learning. A simple example would be to “push” a series of objections to the millennial learner and ask them to effectively handle the objection by video recording their response through their smartphone (see process graphics below). Statistics show that the millennial will practice their response 5.6 times before sending.  The manager then either prompts the learner to do it again or grades the response and enters the results into their Personalized Learning Portal.

  • Manager/Coach pushes a video objection to the salesperson/learner
  • Learner receives the “push” learning exercise and begins recording their response on their laptop or smartphone
  • Learner records their response, reviews it and decides whether it is good enough to send “average learner discards approximately five practice tries before sending best effort)
  • Manager/Coach reviews video response and decides whether to: Prompt for new response and Grade conversation
  • Manager/Coach grades response and posts to Personalized Learning Portal
The sample images above are a product of Rehearsal VRP
The sample images above are a product of Rehearsal VRP.

6. Stimulating

Content is everything and Millennials want to understand the “why” and connect training exercises to real-world application. Therefore, you must stress the real-world benefits of each learning experience. Let them know what they can expect to take away from their time investment, such as the skills they will develop, and how it applies to real-world challenges.

7. Social

Given the popularity of social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, etc., it’s safe to say that millennial learners thrive in social environments. They are comfortable collaborating with one another and have no problem sharing personal experiences with their peers.  They place a high value on social currency (i.e., “Likes”), which is a different kind of motivational force than money.  As such, leaders who make a point to single out someone’s practice video (see No. 5) and share it on a company “Knowledge Web” will not only help other employees learn from their peers, but also motivate the employee who created the practice video to continue their good work.

While embracing the needs of the Millennial generation may seem complex, we believe that the maxim “progressive improvement is better than postponed perfection” applies. There are two types of companies we see competing in the war for talent:

  1. Those who complain about it
  2. Those who are doing something about it

At Butler Street, we specialize in developing comprehensive learning curriculum for your sales, recruiting and customer service organizations leveraging a wide variety of formats and incorporating into a best-in-class Learning Management System (LMS). It starts with our Comprehensive Learning Assessment. Click CONTACT to learn more.

Click here to read PI Blogger Bill Farquharson’s recent blog post on Millennial Sales Speak

Your Best Marketing Investment: Recent Grads

My longtime colleague Jon Roska used to say, “If the army can trust a 23-year-old to drive a $5 million tank, surely we can trust them to write a marketing plan.”

My longtime colleague Jon Roska used to say, “If the army can trust a 23-year-old to drive a $5 million tank, surely we can trust them to write a marketing plan.”

Throughout my career as a marketer, mentor and teacher, I have learned that recent college grads are capable of creating remarkable work if given the chance. “Millennials on Marketing” in the Jan/Feb issue of Target Marketing features four young people who created a plan for increasing referrals for DirecTV that won the Gold ECHO in the Collegiate ECHO Competition. You can hear them tell the story of their winning campaign in this video. One of the comments from the DirecTV team: Cohesive strategy that fit real-world application from assessment, strategic planning, defining objectives, execution, reading results and optimizations.

Of course, the army doesn’t hand the keys to an M1 Abrams tank to just any 23-year-old, particularly without adequate training. Nor should we let just any 23-year-old write a marketing plan without adequate training. Jon Roska was relentless in his quest to prepare recent graduates for success, and those who worked at our agency are making meaningful contributions at the best agencies in New York and Philadelphia, as well as client-side at companies like Ticketmaster and Google.

There’s a lot of talent out there that’s ripe for the picking, and with the proper nurturing, you can reap big benefits from it. Here are five things I learned about nurturing young marketing talent by working alongside Jon Roska:

  • Choose Carefully. Pick those who are both busy and successful in school. Good grades are important, but not enough. You want people who achieve results while juggling several balls at once – involvement in student organizations, sports, internships and employment ensure that you’re getting someone who is dedicated. Screen for desire – it’s the most important component of success.
  • Empower Them. Make them fully responsible for something right away. Start with something small, like creating a weekly report. Raise the stakes quickly as they deliver. Make them accountable.
  • Support Them. Give them access to the resources they need to figure it out for themselves – books, webinars, face time with senior people, etc. Quiz them on their understanding and redirect them, as-needed. Share best-example models of the assignments you give to show them what good looks like. Take them to important meetings to observe and have them summarize their notes to gauge their understanding of the key issues. Most importantly, invest your time in them. You may think you’re too busy, but ultimately, they will lighten your load.
  • Let Them Fail. I don’t mean you should allow them to blow up a major project or an important client. Rather, foster an environment where it’s OK to be wrong. You’ve empowered them, and you can’t expect them to be right all the time. But we learn more from our failures than we learn from our successes. Frequently ask, “What did you learn from this?”
  • Maintain High Expectations. If you don’t expect much, that’s what you’re going to get. The converse is true, as well.

If Your Brand’s Future Is in the Hands of Millennials, You Should Be Worried

As marketers, we spend an inordinate amount of time developing strategies and executing campaigns to increase leads into the sales funnel, nurture leads, upsell, cross-sell and retain customers. But as any experienced marketer also knows, a monthly churn rate can often outstrip the acquisition rate — effectively losing customers faster than you’re gaining them. Want to know why?

Group using mobile phonesAs marketers, we spend an inordinate amount of time developing strategies and executing campaigns to increase leads into the sales funnel, nurture leads, upsell, cross-sell and retain customers through elaborate loyalty programs. But as any experienced marketer also knows, a monthly churn rate can often outstrip the acquisition rate — effectively losing customers faster than you’re gaining them.

Want to know why?

Forget the ridiculous phone research surveys (those alone make me want to leave my new automobile manufacturer). Or the online survey interrupters that pop up in the middle of searching for that beautiful little, black dress (“We’d love your feedback!” — um … stop bugging me while I’m still shopping, for starters…).

Nope. I’m here to tell you the problem is what’s going on at the retail level. And, if my colleague’s recent experience at a Comcast/XFINITY store is any indication of our future generation of customer service reps, then all brands are in trouble.

If your brand’s future is in the hands of millennials, you should be worried.

It seems that most customers are in a store on their way home from work because when she entered at 5:30 pm, she was not surprised that there were 20 people ahead of her. So why was there only ONE person servicing the floor?

Every so often she’d see someone (yes, a millennial) come out from the “back,” take a look around at the hoard of customers waiting, and scurry back from whence they came.

When she boldly inquired why the rep was working alone, she was told there were 5 – 6 others working in the back counting cash (… um, can you say “hold up?” Apparently this gal missed the training module ‘What not to say to a customer’).

After my colleague got home and the brand new remote she just picked up didn’t pair with the brand new XFINITY box (that’s a customer service/retention story for another day), she had to return to the store the next day — and wait with the rest of the unwashed masses that were being serviced by one cashier.

No wonder DIRECTV is gaining market share.

And then there’s my local Safeway — another example of how not to let the kids run the asylum.

After spending nearly 45 minutes strolling the aisles and loading $200 worth of groceries in my cart, you’d think the cashier and bagger would do everything in their power to ensure a pleasant check-out experience so that I’d come back again. The cashier (a little older, wiser and a lot more savvy) was trying to get me through the line efficiently, but the millennial bagger found his cell phone far more fascinating than my groceries piling up at the end of the runway.

I finally caught the cashier’s eye and murmured “tell him to put his phone away.” Her response was barely a whisper: “YOU tell him to put it away. No one listens to me.”

So I did.

And he did.

And I filled out the survey at the website at the bottom of my receipt, suggesting it be a store-wide policy that workers leave their cell phones in their lockers. Shouldn’t that be an obvious “rule” in 2016?

When I repeat this story to others, I hear equally challenging experiences from clothing boutiques to shoe stores, cafés to bookstores. Young, entry-level workers choosing to keep their heads down, eyes focused on a tiny screen instead of looking at customers and offering help.

Retail stores, while declining in total traffic as compared to websites, are still the brand face for many businesses. So instead of pouring millions into automating back-end, online, shopping tools and sending me daily emails with specials, invest in some in-store customer service training. My experience with your brand is in their hands. And for the folks at Comcast/XFINITY and Safeway, that should be a scary thought.

3 Things You Must Know Before Hiring a LinkedIn Trainer

Good LinkedIn sales trainers help sellers produce measurable increases in sales—not better proficiency at using the tool. Are you considering investing in a LinkedIn trainer or LinkedIn training for your reps? Ineffective training will cost you dearly. Here’s a quick guide to hiring a LinkedIn trainer that will help sellers set more appointments, faster.

Good LinkedIn sales trainers help sellers produce measurable increases in sales—not better proficiency at using the tool. Are you considering investing in a LinkedIn trainer or LinkedIn training for your reps? Ineffective training will cost you dearly. Here’s a quick guide to hiring a LinkedIn trainer that will help sellers set more appointments, faster.

Avoid failure by:

  1. Considering if you really need LinkedIn training;
  2. Evaluating trainers with criteria that produce behavioral change, not learning;
  3. Measuring results of your training in hard numbers.

A sales rep’s success on LinkedIn has little to do with mastering LinkedIn. It has everything to do with presenting prospects with messages they cannot resist acting on.

Do You Need a LinkedIn Trainer—Really?
Do you need what you think you need? Maybe you’ve decided, “I need a LinkedIn trainer.” However, what do you want more? A sales prospecting coach—or a LinkedIn trainer? Do you want to increase leads or proficiency with a social platform?

Assuming you value leads more, be sure your trainer shows reps how to create an urge in potential buyers. Because a rep’s success is based on their ability to create dialogue with prospects. That’s more important than knowing how to use LinkedIn’s system.

A B2B sales rep’s goal is to create an urge in the potential customer to talk. If you don’t create that urge, you don’t get to talk with the prospect. Period. Mastery of LinkedIn’s platform is secondary to your reps learning an effective, copy-able process to get more appointments, faster.

This requires learning a way to help prospects get curious about how a sales rep can help them.

The idea is to help customers wonder, “How can this person help me solve a problem?” Or, how can the rep relieve a pain, help the client avoid a risk, or fast-track a goal?

A sales rep’s success on LinkedIn has less to do with mastering LinkedIn. It has everything to do with presenting prospects with messages they cannot resist acting on. And marketing cannot always be relied upon to do that!

Evaluate: Choose Trainers Based on What They Create, not Teach
After short-listing a handful of potential trainers put them into two buckets:

  1. LinkedIn trainers (who teach how to use LinkedIn)
  2. Sales trainers (who teach how to generate response and appointments using LinkedIn)

If your goal is to learn LinkedIn hire an expert. There are literally hundreds of trainers who are self-appointed “LinkedIn experts.” Their qualifications: They’ve used LinkedIn more than you.

However, this does not make a good LinkedIn trainer for sales reps, in most cases. In fact, it can be disastrous.

“I recently encountered a couple of people in LinkedIn groups claiming to be LinkedIn experts and LinkedIn trainers, who were giving out poor advice and clearly breaching the terms of the LinkedIn User Agreement,” says Gary Sharpe of Blue Dog Scientific.

Gary says any trainer who does not teach clients how to play by LinkedIn’s rules is not doing a very good job. In fact, many LinkedIn trainers are, themselves, often unaware or knowingly breaking the User Agreement.

Avoid all of this. Make the primary criteria for evaluating your LinkedIn sales trainer:

  1. If they teach a practical, repeatable communications approach that produces leads and
  2. Results that approach is creating for clients. (or lack thereof)

Measure: Good Trainers Measure ROI in Measurable Leads
This is an investment. Your investment. Good sales trainers help sellers produce measurable increases in sales-not better proficiency at using tools. From a management point-of-view, your LinkedIn trainer should create better proficiency with LinkedIn. However, they must also help reps:

  • Develop prospecting lists—faster
  • Target & qualify potential clients—faster
  • Earn demos/appointments with leads—faster

It is not enough to measure how many sales reps or distributors attended the training—or how deeply they engaged with the LinkedIn training. Nor is it enough to measure how many reps refreshed their LinkedIn profiles.

Training must be measured in terms of how many leads your team is producing now—versus before your training investment.

Yes, it makes sense to measure your reps’ mastery of how to use the LinkedIn or Sales Navigator search function… when prospecting for new customers. Research is an important piece of prospecting and LinkedIn is a new, unfamiliar tool. But ultimately their success relies more on mastering the ability to earn a conversation with prospects.

Your LinkedIn trainer or training program should be structured to teach both “how to navigate” LinkedIn and a communications methodology that creates appointments, demos or meetings, faster.

Questions? Let me know in comments. I also welcome your criticisms of what I’ve presented here.

B-to-B Marketing Is Falling Down on the Job

I heard a horror story the other day—a consumer packaged goods executive ranting about a meeting with a vendor. “I gave the guy an appointment, and he spent the whole time presenting his product,” she said. “Never asked me a thing about my situation, and what I needed.” Another exec chimed in, “Yeah, when I hear about an interesting new solution, what I need most is to sell it internally. I’m not getting the help I need from the vendors these days.” I am cringing. What is going wrong here?

I heard a horror story the other day—a consumer packaged goods executive ranting about a meeting with a vendor. “I gave the guy an appointment, and he spent the whole time presenting his product,” she said. “Never asked me a thing about my situation, and what I needed.” Another exec chimed in, “Yeah, when I hear about an interesting new solution, what I need most is to sell it internally. I’m not getting the help I need from the vendors these days.” I am cringing. What is going wrong here?

Of course, my first thought was sales training. Clearly the reps in these situations need a training refresher—and stronger management, and possibly an improved incentive compensation plan—to handle the engagement more effectively.

But I also cringed at the marketing failure. We marketers should be helping with these sales opportunities, to increase their chance of success.

So, herewith, I set down a list of oft-forgotten B-to-B marketing imperatives.

  1. Marketing’s Role Is to Provide Sales Support
    Unlike consumer-facing companies (where marketing owns the P&L and sales is one of its levers) in B-to-B, sales typically owns revenue responsibility. Our job in marketing is to make sales more productive. It’s a mindset that doesn’t come naturally to marketers. And some would debate this interpretation of marketing’s role. But when a sales rep goes in to a meeting without the tools needed to close, it’s marketing’s failure as much as anyone’s.
  2. Provide Sales With the Tools They Need
    This means presentations that can be easily tailored to target industries, and particular target accounts. It means pre-call preparation documents—company history, personnel backgrounders, installed technology analyses. And a library of content assets the sales rep can choose from, filled with white papers, research reports, case studies, infographics, videos and e-books.
  3. Prove the ROI on Your Solution
    Marketing must gather the data—and the stories—to prove the value of the product or service to the prospect. This might mean independent third-party research. It also means case studies, ROI calculators—whatever points can help the internal advocate represent the project inside the firm.
  4. Resist the Plea From Sales to Pass Unqualified Leads
    I’ve made this point before. But it bears repeating. Some sales people will claim that everything going on in their territory is their business, and there’s logic to that. But if you let them know that a mere inquiry came in from an account in their territory, and they pounce, only to find it unworkable, you know darn well what you’ll hear from sales: “The leads marketing gives me are useless.” A legitimate complaint. But the even more important consequence here: Marketing has failed to enhance sales productivity.
  5. Be Careful How You Promote Marketing Success
    If marketing is heard in meetings to claim responsibility for a certain level of revenue, watch out. Sales is making the same claim. So you might want to couch it in ice hockey terms, like an “assist.” And take full responsibility for interim metrics like cost per lead, and lead-to-sales conversion rates, which are more in the direct control of marketing.

I hope readers will comment on other imperatives for successful B-to-B marketing today.

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

Picking the Right Social Selling Training: A Cheat Sheet

Social selling training is on the agenda for B-to-B sellers in 2014. Sales reps and dealers are under increasing pressure to speed-up prospecting using LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter and more. But how can you choose the best social selling training or trainer for your organization?

Social selling training is on the agenda for B-to-B sellers in 2014. Sales reps and dealers are under increasing pressure to speed-up prospecting using LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter and more. But how can you choose the best social selling training or trainer for your organization?

Here’s where to start. Follow these steps to make the best decision. Plus, I’ll show you a way to make sure you, personally, benefit in the eyes of your boss.

7 Point Social Selling Checklist

  1. Create selection criteria and request for proposal email.
  2. “Short-list” candidates and solicit proposals.
  3. Review proposals.
  4. Interview best candidates & check references.
  5. Negotiate, review and sign contract.
  6. Assess your team.
  7. Start the training and report effectiveness.

Want to get started on this process? Print-off this Social Selling Training Cheat Sheet PDF. (No registration needed)

Selection Criteria
Will your sellers learn social selling tactics or will they start doing? Only consider training that:

  • teaches a practical, repeatable system based in traditional copywriting skills,
  • helps sellers take “first steps” to apply the system,
  • promises outcomes like more appointments & more response for sellers, in less time.

The more you stick with the above criteria the more you’ll be able to measure the performance of your training investment.

When considering what social selling trainer is best for you consider the instructional design. Only invest in training that:

  • includes worksheets that get sellers DO-ing, (not just learning)
  • is directly relevant to current challenges, goals and ambitions of your sellers,
  • focuses on a balance of platform (eg. LinkedIn) and prospecting tactics and

Beware of social selling training promising outcomes other than measurable increases in response to—and appointments with—your reps and dealers. Hire a trainer who measures his/her own success based on sellers taking action. (not merely repeating what they learned)

Place all of your criteria in a short, focused request for proposal (RFP) email. You’ll put this list of requirements to work in the next step.

Cost and Delivery of Training
Overall quality of the trainer, skills the training will develop and delivery of the training. These factors drive cost.

If your team is geographically disbursed an online training will be most cost effective. Are your sellers ambitious do-ers? Will they actually make time for the training? If so, a self-paced, “home study” program may work.

If your sellers will be reluctant to take the training, mandate attendance from your sales leader. Also, choose to deliver training using a live Webinar format. Make the training assignable to a date on their calendar.

Short-List Candidates
Using Google and LinkedIn search, scan the horizon for training candidates. Identify a short-list of potential social selling training trainers.

Use your selection criteria to solicit proposals from trainers. If you don’t wish to mail out a formal RFP, no problem. Use your selection criteria as a guide to identify the most capable vendors.

Review Proposals: The 3 ‘Must Have’ Components
Effective social selling training must result in sellers getting better response from prospects, faster. Make sure training you invest in focuses on a process that creates:

  • attention from a targeted group of potential buyers,
  • engagement that is provocative enough to spark
  • response—conversation that generates a lead or sale.

Choose a social selling trainer that basis his/her training in direct response copywriting that helps get more attention, engagement and appointments.

Assess: Make Sure You Succeed
Make your social selling training relevant and effective. Start with an assessment. Discover your team’s strengths, weaknesses and challenges—right now.

Require your social selling trainer to perform a low-cost assessment to guarantee your success and avoid disaster.

Make sure the assessment:

  • justifies your investment,
  • identifies and sets performance metrics,
  • uncovers current attitudes & experiences with tools like LinkedIn,
  • identifies both resistance to social selling and early adopters.

Identifying early adopters will insure success in the eyes of your boss. By finding reps and dealers eager to sharpen their skills you can focus the training on increasing their success (and reporting back to the boss on it).

You can stack the deck in your favor!

How to Avoid Failure
One of the most common reasons social selling and/or LinkedIn training fails is lack of focus on how to get response. Make sure your training provides more than how-to lessons on managing LinkedIn’s privacy settings and controls.

The primary goal of your training should be earning more appointments by increasing response.

When interviewing final candidates ask them for references who can tell you how their sellers are generating more response after the training.

Do you have more questions about investing in social selling training? Let me know in comments or send me an email. I’ll be glad to help! Or print-off this Social Selling Training Cheat Sheet PDF. (No registration needed)

Mobile Isn’t Just About Marketing

When we talk about mobile, it’s often about how we can leverage it to market offers that connect with our customers and drive engagement or sales. … You need to determine what you’re trying to accomplish and then see if mobile could help you achieve that goal. Mobile may not always be the answer. Yes, the mobile guy just said that mobile will not always be the answer.

When we talk about mobile, it’s often about how we can leverage it to market offers that connect with our customers and drive engagement or sales.

The other day, I had someone call me for advice and he was interested in leveraging mobile in his business-to-business-focused company that optimized shipping/boxing for small- to medium-sized companies.

He was unclear on how to use mobile to market to other businesses that might be interested in his company’s services and was sort of skeptical that mobile really could even work for B-to-B companies.

I asked him a simple question: “What problem are you trying to solve or are you using mobile for mobile’s sake?”

He was sort of confused for a second and asked if I could clarify. I explained that he gave off the impression that he didn’t really know why he was interested in using mobile in his business other than that people are talking about it.

You see, just like this gentleman, you need to determine what you’re trying to accomplish and then see if mobile could help you achieve that goal. Mobile may not always be the answer. Yes, the mobile guy just said that mobile will not always be the answer.

The most unique aspect of mobile is its utility. When it comes down to it, mobile can do, and be, a lot for your business that doesn’t involve marketing. You just have to approach it strategically and not tactically to start to see it this way.

Don’t jump to tactics. Trust me, you won’t find success that way.

The most successful uses of mobile are ones that are so seamless that your customers even forget they are using a mobile device.

Because mobile threads through all of our daily experiences, you should look to use mobile to help solve a business problem or eliminate inefficiencies.

I wanted to share three ways mobile can impact your business that aren’t directly tied to a marketing initiative.

Solve an Operational Problem

Not too long ago, I interviewed the head of mobile for Yamaha. We chatted about how they’ve slowly integrated mobile into their operations over the last two to five years. Yamaha originally thought it’d leverage mobile to connect with customers. But, little to their surprise, their dealers and dealer staff began leveraging the tablet application to sell on the floor.

Boats are expensive … As a dealer, you can’t afford to have every single model with every single feature on the showroom floor. So, Yamaha’s sales teams used the app to show customers what a specific product may look like or cost by using their consumer-facing tablet application.

Yamaha realized this was creating a more efficient system to deliver the latest and greatest content to the dealers and make sure everyone was showcasing the most up-to-date materials.

Shortly thereafter, they eliminated delivering printed materials for dealers and equipped them all with tablets and can now deliver the latest product information on the fly.

At the end of the day, the dealers were able to engage with customers and showcase products that would never have to be on the floor to help close deals and give the best customer experience. Oh, and they even saved money from their continual printing costs.

So, if you have a sales or business development team, think about leveraging mobile to enable them to do their job better, more efficiently and always be equipped with the knowledge they need out in the field.

Your Product or Service Can Be Mobile

Have you ever used the app Hotel Tonight or Uber? If you haven’t, you should check them out as both of these businesses rely on the mobile device to deliver amazing customer experiences. Their apps drive their business by delivering a utility to their customer.

Hotel Tonight lets you find last-minute specials on hotel rooms in the city you’re in. When you open the app, the latest room rates will display around midday and you can book for that evening.

They don’t let you book hotels in advance … only that day and that day alone.

Uber is an application that lets you request a private driver based on your location. You can order a taxi, a black car or even a nice SUV. When you need a ride, you open the app and you can see all the vehicles in your proximity. When you request a driver, the app notifies all drivers in the near proximity that you’d like a ride.

Shortly thereafter, you see which driver is coming to pick you up and the time it will take for them to get to your pick up destination. The whole business is powered via this app. Your credit card is on file, so you never even exchange any cash. The tip is included and you pay a slight premium for the service, but it’s amazing.

I was just in San Francisco for five days and used it frequently to get around. I never had to flag a cab on the corner—I just pulled out my phone and, in minutes, I was on my way.

You see, both Uber and Hotel Tonight generate business by offering their customers an easy-to-use tool right on their phones to accomplish tasks that were once a pain to complete.

These are two great examples of leveraging mobility AS your business.

Mobile Can Be a Training or Education Tool

I follow two online marketers and business owners who recently launched their own apps as a part of their overall business. Now, they didn’t just go and repurpose their content from their site and put it in an app.

They wanted to deliver tremendous value that helped their customers.

Ramit Sethi, a blogger and best-selling author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” teaches people how to earn money on the side and get their dream jobs.

Over the last few years of studies and research he was able to give his students word-for-word scripts to help them get a raise, get a job, work from home and much more.

He knows a lot of the situations he trains his students for don’t happen at home … they happen while they are out and about nowhere near a computer to refer to these resources.

So what did Ramit do?

He built an app called Negotiate It that includes scripts to help you negotiate just about anything. You can open the app and find scripts to use to lower your credit rate, lower your credit bill, get a raise at your job and a ton of other common situations. He even charged about $4 and turned it into a revenue-generating product that was solving a super-specific need for his students.

Then there is Grant Cardone. He is an amazing salesman and businessperson. He frequently trains people about how to better sell and sell “the right” way that can actually impact your business.

He decided to create a mobile app called CloseTheSale, which offered scripts of closing techniques for just about every single scenario you can think of. They all have clever names and you can refer to the app whenever you’re preparing for a big sales meeting or you want a quick selling strategy to learn.

Both of these guys realized that creating an app would allow them to put so many valuable lessons in the palm of their customers’ hands to help them reach their own goals. Very specific use cases, but both demonstrate how mobile can be a training or educating tool for your customers.

As you can see, mobile doesn’t have to be a marketing tool. In some ways, these three examples indirectly affect your marketing. But their main purpose stems from something entirely different …

So, I challenge you to first ask yourself if you’re just doing mobile for mobile’s sake. If you are, you need to re-evaluate your “why” immediately.

If you’re about to get started using mobile in your business, be sure to have a problem you’re trying to solve, a process you’re trying to optimize or a product or service that could best be used by a consumer’s mobile device.

What are some non-marketing use cases you’ve seen with mobile?

Successfully Bring Your SEO Copywriting In-House

The marketing manager of a large e-commerce site recently filled me in on a challenge she was having. She knew her content needed an SEO copywriting intervention—but she didn’t have the budget for a keyphrase editing or rewrite campaign.

The marketing manager of a large e-commerce site recently filled me in on a challenge she was having. She knew her content needed an SEO copywriting intervention—but she didn’t have the budget for a keyphrase editing or rewrite campaign.

So I asked her, “Have you ever thought of bringing your SEO copywriting in-house?”

And I could almost hear the light bulb flickering on above her head.

The reality is, SEO copywriting is one task that can often be brought in-house. With the right people and a little training, your existing team members can produce your content—and your company will save money on your search marketing campaign.

If this is the direction you want your company to go, here are some things to consider:

Decide who does the writing. This may seem like a no-brainer, as it’s easy to think, “Well, we have five people in our marketing department, plus all of our sales staff. They can all write copy.” However, some folks are more qualified to write than others—and choosing the best writers will help make your campaign much more successful.

Try to pinpoint possible in-house SEO copywriters by:

  1. Experience: Print/online copywriters and journalists are the easiest to train.
  2. Being realistic: Just because someone is an awesome salesperson doesn’t mean he knows how to write. Review a person’s past writing and be very, very honest about his capabilities. You can train a good writer in SEO copywriting. But you can’t train a naturally bad writer to write better copy—at least, not without putting in some major effort.
  3. Interest: Some folks don’t like to write. Period. They’ll do it when they’re forced to, but the results are less than stellar. Giving writing tasks to these folks won’t help you a bit.

You may decide that you have to hire someone on a full or part-time basis to handle some of the writing. That’s OK. Better to hire someone with experience to fill in the gaps, then transform people into writers who, well, really shouldn’t be the ones writing content for your brand.

Make sure your writers have time to write. SEO copywriting is not an “other duties as assigned” gig. I’ve seen the best campaigns go bad because the SEO copywriters had other tasks to complete—and those duties took precedence over creating content. If you want your SEO copywriters to churn out premium content, that means they need the time to write. And that means good, uninterrupted time-free from meetings, phone calls and e-mail. If you honestly can’t give your writers space to write, you may see better (and faster) results from outsourcing.

Get the right training for your team. This step is crucial. Yes, it is possible to train your writers in SEO copywriting best practices. Yes, you can train folks to write benefit-rich copy that converts like crazy. But the operable word is training. I’ve seen too many companies send their writers to a conference with the task of “learning everything they can about SEO copywriting.” Guess what? I’m usually speaking at those conferences, and the information panelists can provide in 60 minutes or less is basic at best—and it’s certainly not customized for a company’s unique situation.

The right training depends on how much copywriting knowledge your writing team already has. If they are experienced online writers and strategists who just need to understand the SEO copywriting nuances, reading some books and taking a course like my SEO Copywriting Certification training should get them up to speed. If your company currently doesn’t have an in-house SEO copywriting strategy and your writers aren’t experienced online writers, a customized training that discusses copywriting theory as well as SEO copywriting is probably your best bet.

Whatever your company chooses, remember that it’s not fair to push someone into SEO copywriting who has no experience and no training. Not only will it be frustrating for your writer, it’s bad for your business—who wants Web pages written by someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing?

Determine your content marketing opportunities. It’s one thing to task people with handling your online content. It’s another to tell them exactly what they should be writing. I’ve trained a lot of in-house copywriters, and the key to success (other than training) is having a clear action plan. What initially seems easy, “We’ll just send out some tweets, create a Facebook page and start editing pages,” is actually much more complex. Questions to ask are:

  1. What are our analytics telling us about our current content? What keyphrases are working?
  2. Do we need additional keyphrase research?
  3. What do we expect to gain from (insert content marketing strategy here)? For instance, if Twitter is part of your strategy, make sure you know how you’ll actually measure success.
  4. What pages can be edited for keyphrases (some folks call this “on-site optimization”)? Which pages should be completely rewritten?
  5. Is the tone, feel and benefit statement focus still appropriate for today’s marketplace?

If your company doesn’t have a content marketing strategy in place, I would highly recommend hiring a content strategist who can help you determine your content marketing opportunities and figure out next steps. This person doesn’t have to be a permanent member of your team; bringing on an outsourced vendor is fine. But as I mentioned in a previous post on my business blog, these folks will “see” opportunities that a technical SEO person won’t (which makes sense—technical SEO folks focus on code, not marketing.) Yes, this will cost some money, but much, much less than outsourcing your content. Plus, you’ll have a step-by-step plan for how to proceed.

Create an editorial calendar. The best-laid plans mean nothing without implementation. It’s one thing to know what to do. It’s another to actually do it. Determine who is writing what and the deadlines, then work with IT to figure out when new/edited content will be uploaded. A monthly editorial calendar is a great way to stay on track—plus, having everything written down makes everyone accountable.

Keep the momentum going. I know how hard it is to keep the content marketing momentum going when business is booming and everyone is swamped. Even if you have more business than you can handle right now, I encourage you to stay the course and keep cranking out quality content—even a few pages a month is good. And if your business is going through a natural slow time, using that time to build content is a powerful way to prepare for the upswing. Think about it: There is a high probability you’re getting the business you are because of your content marketing strategy. If you start to pull back and push content to the back burner, you’ll lose momentum—and possibly allow a competitor to “catch up” with you. Just remember the formula Momentum = Money, and you’ll be fine.