|Posted on December 22, 2016 at 11:00 AM||comments ()|
Ha-ha, made you look! When my kids were little they would sometimes taunt me with that phrase. It was intended as a playful insult because they tricked me into looking at something that didn’t really exist. With my marketing teams, that phrase is not said in jest. Its code for marketing content and messaging that forms a favorable impression; it catches our target audiences’ attention and piques their interest. Marketers want attention. They want their audience to engage with their social profiles. In order to boost my social media presence and fine-tune my engagement I focus on three key areas:
As you can see, many of the profiles I engaged not only followed me back, but they also “Listed” me. There are worse things in life than to be listed under “Inbound Stars” or “Inbound16 Rockstars!” This feedback had the added benefit of letting me know that my profile and content made a favorable impression.
Yes, this is marketing automation gone awry. This type of twitter stream is not engaging and does not provide relevant content. It’s pure noise.
This tweet not only calls out a few of those recognized but also has a customized video (also below) that makes the effort even more attention grabbing.
Did the individuals recognized appreciate the video content and the mention? As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
|Posted on November 15, 2016 at 12:47 PM||comments ()|
“On the Beach.” In the consulting world that expression means you are not involved in activity that is billable. In other words, you are not directly creating revenue for your company. And that is always a dangerous place to be if you want to stay employed. An early mentor of mine told me to “never get removed from the real revenue stream.” For several years I lived by that advice through a career in sales, but I knew there were also important positions within an organization that by design, were not directly revenue producing. Yes, we’re talking about the staff that supports the revenue generators. The accounting term often used is “overhead.” Overhead expenses may apply to a variety of operational categories, including marketing for some organizations. Most marketers though, including me now, hate the thought of being labeled overhead. You are simply not going to find us On the Beach. That’s why marketing ROI metrics are always top-of-mind. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we spend more time trying to figure out how to measure the results of our activity than actually creating campaigns. The continuous struggle to cost justify every marketing move is often a major reason for the gap that exists between sales and marketing.
I’ve spent a significant amount of time in both disciplines so I’m going to offer five key points that have helped me “bridge the gap” with my sales counterpart. Keep in mind that my point-of-view is coming from the B2B world and may not apply to all of you.
1. Listen to and show some empathy for the people who carry the quota. I’m fortunate that my background makes this first point easy. I have both inside and field-based sales experience as well as direct and indirect channel experience. I’ve covered a territory as both an individual contributor as well as a sales manager and I know what it feels like to be directly in front of the customer and responsible for the quota. That experience creates immediate credibility that is priceless with my sales counterpart. I listen to and am empathetic with the sales organization, and they know my feelings are sincere.
2. I don’t tell sales how to do their job. A sales person who can cover their quota year after year is worth their weight in gold. The last thing you need to do is to suggest that you (marketing) understand the customer or the sales environment they’re dealing with better than they do. In other words, I don’t walk around acting like the company know-it-all.
3. Keep your sales force informed. When I was covering a territory it used to irritate me when HQ would send content (email blasts, direct mail, etc.) into my territory without telling me. In fact, on one occasion it created a problem because I had a proposal ready to close and I didn’t want any more messaging to confuse the decision maker.
4. Lead generation and lead nurturing are music to their ears. Yes, we joke about leads being “qualified and ready-to-buy right now.” But in the B2B solution selling space where sales cycles are long and deal values are high they are not realistically expecting that type of lead. They want help keeping the brand top-of-mind and an increase in “footprint influence” throughout their accounts.
5. I lead from the front and teach by example. Social networking for sales results is important in today’s business environment because social media has the potential to influence the customer experience when employees are able to initiate conversations on social platforms and begin building trust-based relationships throughout the customer lifecycle. For that reason I’m very active on social media demonstrating by example how the right content distributed consistently through the various social platforms builds credibility, trust and conversations that start sales motions.
How do you build your bridges?
|Posted on August 15, 2016 at 2:56 PM||comments ()|
To: Sales Manager
Ref: No Network Connection
I am writing in response to your request for additional information. In my sales pipeline report, I put “no network connection,” as the cause for my sales pipeline miss. In your email to me, you said that I should explain more fully.
I was prospecting alone on a new account. During my visit, I discovered I had competition, and lacked access to the decision maker. Rather than research potential networking connections that might provide an introduction to the decision maker, I decided to dazzle my contact with the feature functionality of our solution. I presented our company and product information talking slowly to make sure my contact was clear concerning our value proposition.
Due to my surprise of their lack of interest, I lost my presence of mind and recommended we move forward with a demonstration. Needless to say, the meeting came to a rapid end and I was escorted out. On the way out, I met our competition coming in. Not taking this lightly, I broke into a rapid dialogue reiterating our product functionality, not stopping until our competitor had passed.
Fortunately, at this point I regained my presence of mind and was able to suggest a special deal hoping to skip right to a proposal. At approximately the same time, however, we reached the lobby. Without access to the decision maker I was on my own and time was running out. As you might imagine, I began a rather rapid dialogue concerning after-sales support fearing my opportunity was slipping away.
In the vicinity of the front door, I met a well-connected consultant walking side-by-side with the decision maker. This encounter with the consultant and decision maker slowed me enough to realize I needed help. I’m happy to report, as I walked across the parking lot, unable to continue my sales call, watching the consultant walk off with the decision maker; I had the presence of mind to make a networking request with the consultant. Once I develop a joint value proposition with the consultant I should be back on track.
I hope I have furnished the information you required as to how my sales cycle stalled because, “I’ve been trying to sell alone.”
|Posted on August 10, 2016 at 11:10 AM||comments ()|
I completed my MBA in the 1980’s. While searching for my first postgraduate position I noticed that most interviewers at that time loved to hear that you could work under pressure and that you welcomed the opportunity to step up and make major decisions.
Hell yes, just put me in the game and I won’t be afraid to take the final shot at the buzzer. Win or lose, I’m a leader who is willing to take full responsibility for my decisions.
Not anymore. Today most HR interviewers are horrified if you don’t mention teamwork and collaboration as your trade-mark management styles. In today’s business climate collaboration is the gold standard. Decisions ranging from who should be hired to new product lines cannot go forward unless they have been thoroughly vetted by everyone who may be remotely connected to the situation. I recently spoke with an executive who was “brought in” by a company to “interview with a few members of the staff.” It was no less than 10 different people. And it was obvious to my source that only a couple members of the staff had any training whatsoever in the art of interviewing. In other words, most were totally unprepared and probably offered little useful insight to the actual hiring executive.
Has “collaboration” gone too far? Is it really necessary to interrupt the schedule of 10 different individuals for their input and advice?
When you consider that several of the top candidates were all “brought in,” you begin to see how much time was really given up for this single scenario. In addition, how many other projects is this team collaborating on? A recent HBR article presented researched that suggests that many employees spend up to 80% of their time in meetings, on the phone and responding to emails. That doesn’t leave much time to get their individually assigned work done.
Let me be clear. I’m not bashing teamwork and collaboration. We all know that input and insight from several knowledgeable sources can add value to the organization. But are executives confusing the concept of collaboration with consensus? Or worse, perhaps they are using this popular management style as a way to hedge responsibility should something go wrong. As in, “Hey, it’s not my problem! We all signed-off thinking she would make a great hire.” Or, “Hey, it’s not my fault! Everyone agreed that the new product would sell like hotcakes!”
At the risk of being labeled a non-collaborator, I believe the pendulum needs to swing back to the middle. Yes, your team would like to think of you as open, transparent and all inclusive. But that doesn’t mean you should turn every decision into a general election popularity vote. Even if your team considers it a “major decision” that doesn’t mean you should start blocking off time slots across the board.
Leadership is often about making tough calls and directing focus. In short, your organization needs, and wants a leader who will step up and make a decision. Knowing when and how you need to involve others in a decision is the sign of a leader worth following.
|Posted on March 21, 2016 at 8:31 AM||comments ()|
Have you ever removed a connection on LinkedIn? Unfriended someone on Facebook? Blocked a Twitter profile? It’s a rare event, but on occasion I do severe relationships. I don’t do it lightly because it’s hurtful. Yes, it’s true that social rejection activates the same part of the brain that physical pain does. It hurts most of us to be rejected. In fact, I also feel bad when the role is reversed making me the rejector. That means I don’t like to do it if I don’t have to. But recently I received a direct message from - what I’ll call - a “weak ties” LinkedIn connection that resulted in my terminating the relationship. It read as follows:
If you haven’t already, please review my profile page and utilize my service as a resource. Also, in an effort to improve my ranking I would ask for your endorsement in several key areas of my services:
1. Endorsement Area Request
2. Endorsement Area Request
3. Endorsement Area Request
4. Endorsement Area Request
5. Endorsement Area Request
6. Endorsement Area Request
7. Endorsement Area Request
Thank you again,
Name of removed connection
As you can see, I removed the particulars to protect the identity of the sender. I’d like to believe they were only being temporarily self-centered at the time. But the message felt like they were giving me a direct order for purposes of taking advantage of my social capital, and I just didn’t feel compelled to give them a second chance.
In fact, it makes me sad that I even accepted their original invitation. For me, it’s a lesson learned concerning connection requests that come from total strangers who are also outside of your field of interest. No matter how well you try to vet these weak tie types of invitations it’s a situation that’s going to present a degree of risk. For those of you who are LION’s, your willingness to accept social networking risk at these highest levels escapes me.
I was in direct sales long before I became a marketer, so my tolerance for risky, assertive and even aggressive type personalities is very high. But the nature of the request above is simply no way to win friends or influence people on social media platforms.
I know there is plenty of research out there that states “if you want to be retweeted, just ask!” In short, that research suggests that it is OK to impose a direct order for assistance from your social audience. So, by all means, ask for the demo meeting immediately, just make your demands known by telling your social capital exactly what you want them to do. Join the conversation and “like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter, and read our blogs!” For our social media ROI sake please heed our “call to action” so we can justify our jobs!
I suppose five years ago, before anyone with one or two social media profiles and a hundred followers could become a “social media expert” that research seemed reasonable. Social audiences were smaller then, and still trying to figure out how communication and engagement should work on those platforms. But I believe most people have figured out that if you wouldn’t make that type of request directly to their face then you shouldn’t express it through a social media message. Now, not all bad behavior results in unfollowing or dropping the connection. Sometimes you just ignore the request, hit the delete button and go on with your social engagement strategy. But I’ll admit there is a part of me that now wants to stop rewarding bad behavior by totally disconnecting the relationship without feeling guilty.
OK, I’ll get off my high horse. Perhaps I need to develop an even thicker skin. Or perhaps I’m not pushing my own social networking strategy to the degree that I should? How would you have reacted to the request above given the limited amount of background information I presented?
|Posted on February 22, 2016 at 3:45 PM||comments ()|
The executive team gathered around the conference table and the webcam flashed green as the First-Half 2016 sales forecast began. The CMO remembered a time when these meetings were in person and required full business attire, there was no PowerPoint, and there were no smart phones or facilitated hashtagged social conversations with the audience. The business world had changed though, and he loved it. He can tweet and blog with the best of them. Social media and mobile devices were changing the business landscape, and he was determined to help his company meet the transformation challenge. The prior year had involved several one-on-one meetings with his counterparts. They were productive, but at times he could still feel a little tension and some apprehension.
Information Technology - The Chief Information Officer
The prior year included several meetings with the Chief Information Officer. In late 2012 Gartner analyst Laura McLellan had published a report that contained the statement “by 2017, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO.” Of course a sound bite like that raised some eyebrows in both marketing and IT. 2017 is now less than one year away and it was time to check their facts and see if that prediction could be supported with their own data. The CMO and CIO had already been working closely together over the past couple of years as a result of the organizations ongoing social media and mobile marketing initiatives. And what did they discover?
That technology was indeed the second largest part of the marketing budget. But for their company, the associated dollar value was not more than the IT budget or likely to overtake it. What was actually becoming of greater concern was the number of applications, programs and platforms the small marketing team was being tasked to learn and manage. In fact, across all the marketing functions, the number currently stood at well over two dozen.
CMO/CIO Collaboration: Marketing departments are often responsible for several technical applications. They can include aspects of CRM, marketing automation, email marketing, website analytics, data analytics, marketing research, creative applications, webinar-meeting, and more. This doesn’t even begin to touch on all the new social media and mobile marketing related platforms and applications that are now part of the strategic marketing plan. The CMO and CIO need to focus more on matching talent and headcount to the applications that are actually being used and bringing value than worrying about who has the bigger budget.
Sales – The Chief Sales Officer
Like many CMO’s he had started his career in sales. He had carried a quota and covered a territory just like the CSO. That background brought great credibility and helped them agree on many strategies; but they could still have their moments when it came to lead generation. Of course sales would like “qualified, ready-to-buy right now” leads. But they both know in complex solution selling environments that’s not a realistic expectation. Marketing was providing support through the entire sales cycle, but their main focus – including the budget – was on the front end. Creating awareness, generating interest and building greater industry credibility had been important to helping them engage with prospects and customers. And the fact that over 60% of their marketing budget was dedicated to lead generation activity supported that point-of-view.
CMO/CSO Collaboration: There will always be some degree of tension between sales and marketing when it comes to lead generation activity. And that’s OK, the key is not to let it spiral out of control. One area the CMO and CSO agreed needed more focus was on helping the sales teams understand and make better use of social media, particularly LinkedIn. Many sales people still view social media as child’s play. They are not leveraging social platforms as business development tools. Subject matter experts from the marketing team need to spend more time training the sales teams, one-on-one if necessary, in order to make improvements in this area.
Legal – Chief Legal Counsel
A few years ago the CMO and Chief Legal Counsel had a difficult relationship. At one point the CMO had actually said “I’d rather go to the dentist than have a meeting with our legal department.” The reason is that Legal and HR had formed an alliance to band all corporate social media activity. Employees were not allowed to access LinkedIn during the early social media years and later on blogging, Facebook and Twitter went through similar review processes. That was now in the past, the legal department was onboard.
CMO/Legal Collaboration: Legal understands the value of social media and recognizes the fact that there will always be some degree of risk associated with those media channels that cannot be totally mitigated. However, that doesn’t mean marketing gets a free pass. The marketing department will work to make sure all “Social Media Policies and Procedures” documentation is always up-to-date and communicated throughout the organization. This will be very important because “Social Employee Advocacy” software applications are likely to expand how marketing leverages social media throughout the company in order to help employees feel comfortable in the role of brand advocates.
Human Resources – Chief Human Resources Officer
Like legal, HR has been fully engaged with marketing as it related to the new social media channels. Sure, in the beginning they worried about employee productivity and whether or not social media was even relevant to their functional area. At times they still wonder about the productivity, but they definitely see the recruitment value.
CMO/HR Collaboration: There are two important areas the CMO would like to see addressed as it relates to HR and how their current processes impact the corporate brand. Both projects will also involve IT.
First, current HR applications and processes offer prospective employees the ability to connect their LinkedIn profiles and or upload their current resumes. Either way, the process still requires them to enter the same employment and education history that can be found in those sources. This duplication of effort is time consuming, frustrating and leaves a bad first impression of the corporate brand.
Second, automated boilerplate rejection letters are killing brand value. Take a close look at the message projected in a typical automated HR letter:
What type of messages are we sending? Here are just a few to consider:
1. Applicants don’t appear to rate a human response. Sorry the “HR Department” doesn’t count. By the way, how do you feel when you get an email concerning a subject that you’d naturally like to respond to, but can’t?
2. The subject line “Thank You for Your Interest” feels like a Western Union Death Notice.
3. The applicant response is not personalized. Sorry, just because you used their first name in the opening doesn’t make it personal. Most standard rejection letters have the exact same wording. It appears that all HR departments are using the same group of lawyers for this task. Sorry, just kidding. But really, how original.
4. Your high-level feedback, “credentials and experience are valuable” is too general in nature and is not helpful to the applicant or the process they are going through.
5. The same form letter is sent to nearly every applicant. Sure, the three or four you interview and the one person who gets the job doesn’t receive this particular letter. But think of the hundreds of individuals, some who might be potential customers and have a high degree of social influence, who are now very disappointed and perhaps quite insulted by the rejection.
6. The response was sent late. They applied for that position three months ago. The fact that you were busy is not an excuse. Simply terrible.
In my opinion the hiring manager (even if the position is reporting directly to the CEO) needs to send the letter. A form rejection letter sent from HR months after the application was submitted only confirms that they were never seriously considered. We’ve figured out how to do one-to-one marketing with our customers and prospects; it’s time to bring that same care to our HR process or we’ll find ourselves losing ground fast in the social economy.
CMO / CEO Collaboration:
The Chief Executive Officer came up through finance and is pretty much a numbers person. And, as you might suspect, the CEO takes special interest in things that increase revenue, decrease costs, or mitigates risk. In short, that means the question “What’s the ROI?” is never going to be far from the surface. The CEO is speaking now so let’s listen…
“What is currently impossible to do that if it were possible would change everything.”
That’s an interesting question to open the meeting…
“Well, use the hashtag #ItsPossible for today’s meeting because we’ve got big news!”
OK, the CEO is more than just a numbers person! The CEO understands the importance of leading by example and is not afraid to leverage the new social platforms. Perhaps I’ll take some time to enjoy my seat at the executive table this year.
|Posted on January 4, 2016 at 7:54 AM||comments ()|
I grew up in Iowa which is generally considered a pretty low key state. However, this February Iowa will be the keynote when the first step in the United States Presidential nomination process for both the Democrats and the Republicans begin with the Iowa Caucuses. The Iowa caucus is generally defined as a “gathering of neighbors,” as many Iowans will be meeting in local schools, churches and public libraries to publicly stand up for their presidential preference.
Neighbors gathering to discuss who should be in, as well as who should be out. Does that sound a little like a social network in action? Believe it, these caucuses will be followed closely by the rest of the nation, and can be an important factor in determining who will remain in the race and who will drop out. Iowa may represent only one percent of the U.S. population; however, since 1972 when Iowa began to hold the country’s first caucuses, the eventual nominee of each party has been among the top three finishers in Iowa.
Can one percent be that influential? It’s something to think about as you kick-off your 2015 social networking strategy. Happy New Year!
|Posted on June 30, 2015 at 1:39 PM||comments ()|
For your entertainment; a short knock-off skit based on the Drew Carey TV series “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
The Host: Welcome to “Whose Content Is It Anyway?” Where the quota is made up and the revenue doesn’t matter. Our first skit is called, “Your marketing content sucks.” Mr. Sales VP, you’re very nervous; you’ve just examined your sales pipeline and discovered your team will not meet its sales objectives.
Ms. Marketing Rep, you are a super confident business development person from a marketing technology company ready to save the day.
Ready? … Action!!
Sales VP: Oh my! No wonder we don’t have a #salespipeline. We don’t have the support we need to nurture our leads and move them through the #salesfunnel.
Marketing Rep: I know #whatkeepsyouupatnight. You have a #contentmarketing problem! Our #robust #scalable #cloudbased #revolutionary #unique #endtoend solution helps business #engage with their prospects so that they can #buildprofitableloyalrelationships and #closedealsfaster!
Sales VP: I’m glad you called! I’m so lucky you just happen to come across my #LinkedIn profile and decided to reach out! Our #marketingcontent is terrible. Is there any hope??
Marketing Rep: Never fear! Although your pipeline is practically nonexistent, we can help. We can quickly implement our solution and you’ll be #fillingyourfunnel in no time!
Sales VP: Oh thank you!! I’ll sign the #orderrightnow!
Content is the Totality
Can you relate to the skit above? Of course not, your quota may feel like it was just made up, but you know revenue always matters! OK, on a more serious note; did you notice that marketing was thrown under the bus? The “what keeps you up at night” situation was described as a “marketing content problem.” But what if the social profiles of the sales force is the real content problem? Content is the total picture. And that means you’re always both the messenger and the message. Your message may contain great content concerning your product and your company, but the receiver is still going to check your personal credentials. Yes, they are going to look you up on LinkedIn and will probably Google your name. The question is; are they going to find someone they believe is capable of adding value to their day, and allow you the opportunity to develop their trust?
Making a Good First Impression
There is no room for error here. Does your profile brand you as a professional?
Social platforms, particularly LinkedIn, are ideal for business development. If used properly they can be a map of all your business contacts, and create a route to important prospects you don’t know yet. Just remember, you are both the messenger and the message.
|Posted on May 27, 2015 at 11:57 AM||comments ()|
What does “transparency” in business actually mean? A lot of material has been written on that topic over the last few years in relation to social media marketing. Most of articles deal with transparency at the corporate branding level although some authors provide commentary around personal branding. I’ll admit that a few of my own blog posts touch on transparency; yes, in many cases authenticity, relevance and trust are also mentioned. One business dictionary defines transparency as a “lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.”
If we go with that definition, what might a transparent exchange sound like?
Of course transparency doesn’t imply being rude or cutting people short. In the example above both individuals are showing a type of transparency. The executive is asking very direct “what and why” questions. Yes, the example may feel a bit abrupt, but according to G. Richard Shell’s bookBargaining for Advantage “you often get more by finding out what the other person wants than you do by clever arguments supporting what you need.” On the other hand, the sales rep is not making any attempt to find out what motivates or might inspire the executive to move forward with a meeting. He is circling around what would be a good outcome for him.
Information about what people want is power. Are you using transparency to gather information? Or does your transparency represent a threat to your prospects because it’s obvious you are only considering your own needs and perceptions?
|Posted on April 16, 2015 at 10:42 AM||comments ()|
In 2002 Nicholas Boothman penned a book titled “How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less.” Pinterest wasn’t around in 2002, so yes, I mean he is the author. It was a spin-off from a book he released in 2000 titled “How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less.” In his books Boothman states that research has shown that we have approximately 90 seconds to make a favorable impression when we first meet someone.
“If meeting is the physical coming together of two or more people, then communicating is what we do from the moment we are fully aware of another’s presence. And between these two events - meeting and communicating - lies the 90-second land of rapport that links them together.”
How quickly can you build rapport with others? Without rapport, you will not get what you want, but when you have it a lot of opportunities appear. Obviously Boothman’s works are focused on face-to-face situations because they were written before social media came on the scene. But I believe many of the suggestions he offered can be applied to the social media world.
1. Rule Number One: When you meet someone, look them in the eye and smile. Online this means make sure your profile picture is business class. When you follow someone, or are following back a new connection the first thing they are looking at is your picture. I don’t want to see a picture of your company logo pasted into the spot where your face belongs. Also, you might be a fun loving adventurist mountain climber in great shape. But your end goal is to try and schedule a business meeting with me. So, is that really the picture you want to use to create my initial impression? Remember, I’m making a decision in just a couple of seconds on whether or not to take you seriously and at this point of our relationship I don’t care about your personal life. I care about people who can add value to my day.
2. Rule Number Two: When you want them to feel like they already know you, be a chameleon. What does a chameleon do? They instinctively know how to fit in. Online this means you need to fit into your target markets world and not force them to feel like they need to follow your world. Here is a suggestion on how to quickly connect with your audience and improve your social graces:
Before: “I hope you enjoy my tweets.”
After: “I’m looking forward to reading your tweets.”
See the difference? A chameleon makes it about their environment and synchronizes appropriately. When you adapt to their world they will feel more comfortable and be more inclined to like you.
3. Rule Number Three: Capture the imagination, and you capture the heart. Online this means your content needs to build trust and fire the imagination. What does your content look like? Do your blog posts tell a story? Or are they guaranteed to induce sleepiness? Is your Twitter stream engaging, or nothing but “Thank You for Following” messages post after post?
Coercion is about getting people to do what you want them to; persuasion is about getting them to want to do what you want them to do. Persuasion takes more time. It requires understanding your target markets needs and desires. You need to develop trust by building rapport and credibility, and minimizing their risk. If you’re not getting what you want from your online networking behavior it’s time to change your strategy.