How to Use Inbound Sales to Boost Your Revenue

Inbound sales is about providing customers with warm sales calls with relevant insights that are driven by their needs.

Sales and marketing have traditionally been quite separate departments.  That separation was preventing them from numerous revenue generating opportunities. In order to take advantage of inbound sales you need to combine your sales and marketing teams.  As HubSpot said in their video on Smarketing, “companies with strong sales and marketing alignment get 20% annual revenue growth.” This proves that a strong relationship between these two teams can yield tremendous results.

Sales and marketing should be able to understand each other.  Its key that they are both able to communicate there metric results and work together towards achieving the overall goal of increased revenue.  As Carole Mahoney from Mahoney Internet Marketing put it, “marketing is the matchmaker, but sales needs to do the dating.”  Here is visual on how the marketing sales funnel works and shows the dependency that sales has on marketing:

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Marketing does the majority of the information gathering while sales leverages that information to land a new customer.  It is the marketing teams job to hook potential customers and engaging with them with the end goal of converting them into new leads.

The perfect sales ready lead is one that is a great fit and has a high interest.  These leads could be individuals who downloaded an eBook, started a free trial, or submitted some personal contact information.  Even though they interacted with you, that does not necessarily mean they are a quality lead.  To ensure that no ones efforts are wasted it is important that the marketing team determines whether or not the lead is qualified, before sending them on to sales. As mentioned by New Breed Marketing in their eBook on inbound sales, “the first moments after a lead converts are critical in maintaining a relationship with that prospect and encouraging his or her excitement about your company.” So get them while their are fresh!

To ensure that the marketing and sales teams are on the same page throughout the closing stage of inbound marketing, you should implement a closed loop feedback system.  This allows the marketing team to maintain up to date contact info and learn which marketing programs are working and which should be discontinued.  The feedback also has sales team benefits such as preventing them from de-duplicating leads, helps them prioritize leads, and make more educated sales calls.

To maximize the quality of the customers experience during the sales call you need to first do some research.  Before making the sales call you should already know a lot about the lead you are calling.  This is just like when you are researching to prepare for a job interview.  You need to do your company research so that you can align your skills with what the company is looking for in a candidate.  This is important because during the call you need to be able to personalize the experience and break down the typical sales call barriers. Unlike traditional sales calls, the Inbound sales experience is focused around meeting the customer or leads needs and involves a more tailored phone conversation.  All of this connects back with when I was talking about inbound marketing.  Your job is to listen to your prospect’s and gain a clear understanding of your prospect’s interests and challenges.  If you are able to prove that you are reaching out to provide resources and assistance versus just calling to score another deal, you better your chances of developing a lasting customer relationship.

Relating back to what I said back in my inbound marketing post, inbound success comes from a solid context regarding who your key prospects are. This can be down researching their LinkedIn or following their social media sites and engagements.  A solid understanding on each of your leads or prospects interests and pain points will help support a deeper and more productive sales call.

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Email is still popular…trust me!

If you are able to connect with your audience via email, you have a much stronger influence on them. Email lets you be highly personal by taking the conversation out of the public environment. It provides a direct line of communication. According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing has around a 4,300% ROI! Email is much more alive than you might have thought. As a millennial, I used to look at email as something that only older professionals would engage with and that it was quite dry and mundane. Some investigation on my part has served to refresh my perception. The accessibility, ease of use and familiarity/trust of the electronic form of communication, for a huge segment of our population/market targets, underscores emails value and viability as a connector.

Using email, you can attract new visitors by creating great shareable content that one person will forward on to another, possibly sparking an interest and driving a new visit. As HubSpot noted, people like to share content they find to be interesting, funny, insightful, or shocking, potentially solve a problem, provide new data or a needed answer. And the value of a personal reference or recommendation – a shared interest or issue from someone you know is huge, the relationship of give and take. It serves the sender for their thoughtfulness or concern and it warms the recipient’s sensibility of being considered and care for and can set in motion a spiraling chain of connections.

Before you start sending emails, you need to figure out who your audience is and what they may be looking for. The more you know and understand your audience, the better your chances are in building a striking chord and making a strong connection.

Not getting good open or click through rates? You may be boring your audience or not personalizing the content enough. First off, you should be developing your emails so that your audience or prospects eagerly anticipate their arrival. If people are anticipating your email they will already know what to look for in their inboxes when it arrives. In order to achieve this kind of reaction from your audience, your emails need to contain useful content that can be trusted by including resources for further study if they wanted to. Maybe even provide a regular reward for reading weekly email. Oregon Public Broadcasting used to do this really well in their newsletter to their Cornerstone Members (financial contributors). At the end of their newsletter they would provide a “reward” or as stated in the newsletter “Your click of Zen, a bonus for reading all the way down” which was often a fascinating video of something that many readers would most likely never find on their own but left them with an afterthought. This reward encouraged the readers to scroll down after looking at all the newsletter’s content.

As copyblogger states in their article on email marketing 101 “Good email content deepens your relationship with your audience through effective subject line writing (to catch their attention) and delivering quality, niche specific content your prospect needs and shares with others.” In my last post I explained the importance of headlines (subject lines) for landing pages. They are equally important for emails. The subject line of an email is your second opportunity to capture your prospect’s interest after the sender information. The quality of the subject line has a significant impact as to whether someone opens your email or not. You subject should be both useful and specific as well as display a sense of worth. You want to make your subject communicate there is content worth reading. Get straight to the point and show that you have something valuable to offer. You also have to be aware of the words you use in your subject line. Spam filters are prevalent and will prevent your emails from being seen when they are triggered by certain words like: As seen on, $$$, Accept Credit Cards, Lower interest rate or click below.

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So do not give up on email!  Email is a great tool to help you build more personal relationships with your audience. People still use it so throw out any myth that anyone has said to you that it is dead.  They are wrong.  Direct mail may be getting old but email is in it’s third life.   POWER to email!

All about Landing Pages Plus a FREE OFFER!

Landing pages are another marketing tool for you to grow brand awareness and provide value to your audience.  A landing page is a website page that is specifically designed for converting visitors into leads.  Just to be clear a landing page is NOT your homepage.  The ultimate goal of a landing page is to make viewers click.

CLICK! CLICK! CLICK!  A Call to action button will encourage visitor engagement on your landing page.  Whether it is a free report or an e-book, the call to action provides incentive to visitors to provide their information in exchange for that free download.  They will act only if they see a significant benefit provided by your offer.  But be sure your landing page is only asking for one and only one specific action from your visitors. Call to action buttons

As people are searching the internet, they are looking for content or information to meet a need or solve a problem. The offer on your landing page should educate and provide potential solutions your visitors problems.  For your landing page to be effective you need to attract the right visitors.  It is important that the content on your landing page is consistent and relevant to your buyer persona.

A successful landing page requires a little finesse and includes all of these critical elements:

  • A clear, concise and compelling headline
  • Remove the main navigation
  • A easy to read description of the offer that clearly explains the value
  • An appropriate number of form fields to capture visitors’ information

The headline is one of the most important pieces of your landing page. You want to make sure your headline refers directly to the place where your visitor come from and match the language.  You have about 8 seconds to grab a visitors attention and as Brian Clark of Copyblogger wrote in there e-book Landing Pages, “landing pages live or die by the quality of the headline.” So make it good! Like headlines for blogs or central websites, the headline for a landing page needs to provide just the right amount of information to spark a visitors interest, so they will read on.  This is where you get highlight the value of your offer.  Once they have made it to the landing page, you want to keep them there until they fill out the form and submit some of their information.  To keep them on the page you want to ensure there is not an easy exit.  You want to remove any navigation links that could pull the visitor away.  Next, you want to be sure your landing page has a short description of the offer and what benefits it will provide your visitors if they download.  You want to be able to answer visitors questions such as:

  • What can I get here?
  • How is this page unique or better than the other websites I have seen?

You need to be able to quickly communicate why you are better, different and special. This can be done by keeping your important points short and even presenting the information in bullet form for those visitors who just skim through the page.

The last of the critical elements is to present only the fields of information that are absolutely necessary and no more than that.  Nothing is more of a turn off for a visitor than having to work through a lengthy form.  Remember, your visitors are short on time and if you can accommodate this fact by providing a simple form requesting a few bits of information your conversion rate with increase.  Now this does not mean you cannot have longer forms.  If you require more information you will have to present an offer that is valuable enough to the visitor for them to put in more time.

After you have developed your stellar landing page you are still not done.  There is more.  Successful businesses have between 10-15 different landing pages that provide a range of unique benefits to their visitors.  Having more than just one landing page will allow you to meet a greater variety of needs and potentially solve more of your visitors problems. In addition, you also need to evolve and alter your landing pages as market demand changes.  All while testing which landing pages have proven to be effective and which have not, and then making the necessary modifications.

Assume nothing. Test Everything.

Now for the FREE OFFER!!!

FREE TO FOLLOW: If you follow my blog you will be provided with great marketing content.  Trust me.

There Is More to Social Media Than Meets The Eye

This post will introduce various elements of social media that can help you manage your own social media more effectively.  Your social media strategy should lead most of your online activity.

Having a social media strategy helps social media strategists figure out where they are, where they want to be and how to get there efficiently.  When creating your social media strategy you first want to have a good understanding of your core business objectives and then set your social media objectives.

Developing an audience persona can help you understand where your audience are online and what kind of content will impact them the most. Also, get to know your competitors brand by researching the industry and competition.  Take some time to go out and figure out what social networks your competitors are using and how effective they to drive that brands business.  If you discover specific networks that are working better for that company, take advantage of that knowledge and apply a similar approach to your own company.  These strategy will allow you to recognize what opportunities your competition is not taking advantage of and jump on them.  In addition, you also want to gain insight as to how the industry influencers are managing their social media presence.

The next part in developing you social media strategy is creating a content strategy that attracts an audience.  Hootsuite can assist you in this process.  But first, you need to figure out where your audience likes to engage on the internet.  Whether it be Instagram or YouTube you will need to create specific content that is most relevant for that channel.  Although this can be a laborious process, do not panic, because there are other ways to help you win your audience’s attention.

Instead of always creating brand new content, why not take advantage of the tools available online?  Tools like trendspottr or Nexalogy can help you understand what type of brand relevant content is trending online.  Hootsuite has a system that searches for content that is relevant to you and suggests items you can post to your networks.  This has worked for me because I often run out of new and creative ways to entertain and encourage audience engagement.  After social media strategy development you are ready to grow your community.

While social media strategy is important, you also need to know how to grow a community that will listen. When seeking to grow an online community around your brand you must first establish a guiding philosophy. This philosophy creates a base for all of your social media content and engagement. With an established philosophy it allows the brand to develop a relatable personality that makes it easier for the community to converse and engage with you. You want to keep in mind that in order to build a successful online community you will want to incorporate elements of your brands shared values, ideas and topics, instead of simply promoting your products or services. An online brand presence is more than just having audience members come to your social media site and engage. It also requires that you actively seek out relatable online groups and blogs and engage with them to display a commitment to your brands true values.

Professional networks such as LinkedIn offer countless benefits you may not know exist. LinkedIn is all about business. This social media site allows you to leverage your personal experiences and professional experiences to promote your personal and business brand.

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One of the most important aspects of LinkedIn is the area of networking and building connections. This is a practice that requires a great deal of attention. You may have hear from others is that you need to “network, network, network.” Now that does not mean you should go out and try to connect with everyone you know or want to get to know. That is not a good idea. As Koka Sexton mentioned in his presentation on LinkedIn “you need to be very aware of your connection philosophy.” Instead you want to reach out and connect with anyone who can you can add to or get value from. Additionally, you really only want to connect to individuals who you have already met before. When you follow this approach you will have more success with making more connections rather than being ignored.

If there is an individual who you have not met before but would like to network and build a connection with them you are not out of luck. This is where you can leverage you existing connects to help branch out to new professionals and get to know new people.

LinkedIn is more than just a place to build connections and further expand your network, it also provides a space where you can engage with other likeminded business professionals about articles, events and topics that you are both interested in.

After you have developed a solid base in social media then its time to manage all of these activities effectively. The presentation on effective social media management on Hootsuite, provides excellent tips on how to manage your social media more efficiently. Because social media has active users 24/7 it is easy to get caught up in the chaos.  If it is completely controlling your life, you might want to assess you current social media management strategy and decide if this is the most effective approach.

Susan Murphy had few steps that can help. The first step is to have a plan. This is a plan based on the goals you seek to achieve for your brand. It is best not to go into social media looking to get the most “likes” or “favorites”. That approach will not help drive your company. Once you have defined your goals you then need to establish your strategy and tactics. Before now I never even though to develop a plan for my social media interactions.  I would create a social media account with the goals of getting the most engagement an attention. With my social media goals as my only focus, I limited my ability to effectively manage my accounts.  The next recommendation is to take advantage of the available online tools. There are many sites like Hootsuite that offer assistance with social media management. These sites allow you to schedule posts so that you can deliver content during times where you cannot be physically present. It also serves the purpose of aligning posts with the times of relevant events or activities. If you are able to schedule them ahead you can guarantee that the content will be released when needed. Her last step is to break up you social media activities throughout the day. Writing and engaging in short blocks of time during the day can help spread out the intensity.

The world of social media is ever changing and growing at a tremendous rate.  Stay active and engaged and go get yourself known.

“SOCIAL MEDIA”…READ ALL ABOUT IT!!!!

If you have not created a social media presence already you must hop on the social media train because your customers are already on board (online) searching for solutions.  Go where they go.  Be their next “stop”.

Customer-is-King-Careers

First, social media should not be the initial marketing strategy for your company.  The most effective use of social media comes after you have established a brand.  Social media should be used to build further credibility as well as to promote and strengthen everything your brand is about.  If you think your customer relationships are strong in the transactional environment, try online, you will be surprised.

Customer relationships are essential to successful social media marketing. Social media helps generate relationships.  Not only does social media assist in the generation of new relationship but it also allows businesses to reinforce your existing customer relationships.

Social media is a great tool for customers to gleen insight into your brand and offer real-time feedback.  This information is invaluable as it can significantly reduce future customer service costs in addition to providing valuable ideas for further business and product development.  It provides companies with immediate customer input that can be implemented ASAP.  It is more than just listening to your customer.  Actually engaging with them takes your strategy to the next level.

Engagement is the reason social media is worth a business’s time.  It serves as a driving force for social media strategy.  You can think of it as the “engine” of a car.  Without the engine the car is simply a hunk of metal that provides limited benefits.  I know you could argue some other uses for an engineless car but…don’t. Without community engagement in your social media outlets they serve no further purpose then a news bulletin.  If no one cares to follow or engage you are pretty much a decoupled caboose.

Dilbert Twitter Cominc

Social media provides consumers with the ability to share and spread your content.  Whether it’s via word-of-mouth, over the internet socially or commenting and starting a discussion these customer activities can lead to amazing returns on your social media investment.  Never underestimate the ability of your community members to promote!

MOZ stated in its eBook Beginners Guide to Social Media “An advocate standing up for a brand is far more powerful than a brand standing up for itself.” At some points in time your loyal customers have more marketing power than you do. For example, on twitter this kind of activity is prevalent.  In my experience I observed the community engagement with POPSTAR @Ladygaga. She had over 43 million community members that care about her latest activity.  In addition, to her account she had thousands of subordinate Lady Gaga aficionados like @MarcMonster (many of whom have personally engaged with Lady Gaga in casual conversation as well as face to face) who had a sizable following of their own. MarcMonster even says in his bio “I have far too many people living vicariously through me to give up now.”  If you did not know already the personal engagement of this subordinates with Lady Gaga are the fuel to the obsession fans have with “Gaga”.  The people who have personally engaged with their favorite celebrity confers them with sizable influence authority over a large portion of Lady Gaga’s marketing activities.  Funny thing is, most probably have no idea this is really happening.  These highly valued aficionados are priceless accessories to Lady Gaga’s marketing strategy.

In order to promote great customer engagement you need to provide engaging and relevant content for your customers and community members.  To keep them engaged you may have to change your tactics every single day.

And remember, just because you send out a tweet or a post, does not mean someone has seen/read it.  The half-life of a tweet is about eighteen minutes.  Know your audience, and figure out their social patterns.

…And that’s a wrap!

Be sure to make a Twitter or Facebook post about this blog.

Are You Having Relationship Trouble?

Its not easy being interesting.  Especially especially in today’s world where expectations are high and time is short.  If you are writing a blog or developing a website and are missing out on page views or engagement you were expecting, chances are that your content is not serving its purpose.  Managing your content marketing strategy is similar to the management of your personal brand to friends and colleagues.  Like with many aspects of marketing, if you fail to be relevant to your audience or peers, they will not make an effort to engage with you.  The solution to this conundrum is to change your approach.  You need to make yourself valuable to your peers, relevant to their needs or interests and maintain consistency over time.  Content is everything!  Well almost. Remember:

No Boring Content Allowed

As the Content Marketing Institute puts it, “content marketing is the process of creating and then distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience”.  It’s all about developing worthwhile content that draws an audience towards you.  Like, inbound marketing, content marketing is focused on a more natural form of customer attraction.  Instead of pushing your brand out, you provide reason to care about your brand and let the customer decide.  In order to be successful at this you need to ensure that the content that you create is useful as well as informative.  The steps to great content marketing include: planning, distribution and metrics for each of the stages of the buying process of multiple customers personas.

How is this all done you say? Keep on reading on.

Do not create content because you simply feel like you need more content.  Content Harmony explains that many company’s invest in content marketing just for the sake of creating more content. This alone will not help those companies excel or stand out. There has to be a reason or goal behind the content.  One of the core elements of developing great content is a well-defined goal that you wish to achieve with your customers.  These goals can be anything from increasing brand awareness and customer conversion to providing better customer service while building stronger customer loyalty.  Defining a clear goal is important because that goal is going to drive what your content will be about.  My goal for my blog is to develop awareness and build a loyal following.  After you have defined your goal you need to get familiar with your audience.  As I observe my audience I am able to find out what they want as well as what their expectations are.  Defining your audience is not just a onetime deal.  Instead, it is an ongoing task your should perform throughout the life of your brand.  Customers change all the time and develop new needs and wants.  An example of this maybe a change in the audiences attention span.  Many people people simply have come to you in search of an answer and then leave.  This is where agility comes in.  You need to be able to develop agile content that flexes with your audience while still keeping your goal in mind.  These are just a few of the key elements of great content marketing.  If you do your research and develop quality custom content, you should be alright.

Creating great content is not a natural born talent.  It requires practice and dedication.

If you made it this far, then I am doing something right :).

The Power Behind A/B Testing

Is your website perfectly optimized for your website visitors?  Probably not, let the consumers help you out with all the guesswork.  A/B testing helps explain how website visitors will respond to certain design elements, it does this by providing visitors with two versions of a landing page and letting them choose which one they like most.  It is that simple.  With that information you can optimize your website in the way site visitors want to see it. Most everything on your website that a visitor comes across can be A/B tested such as: links, call to action buttons, images, headlines, etc. You have full control over how a visitor interacts with your site.

Dilbert A-B Testing

There is however a right and wrong way to conduct A/B testing as well as some steps to follow.  First off, you want to make sure that you A/B test is consistent across the whole website.  Next you want to conduct multiple tests and then examine the results.  This is important because visitors may not have a specific preference on their first site visit.  You do not want want to let your gut instinct undervalue the test results. You may be surprised.

A/B Testing Example

In the example above they simply moved the sign up button higher up on the landing page.  That shift of position resulted in 45 more signups than before.  It is amazing how a minor adjustment on a landing page can significantly change the way that a visitor interacts with your website.  As a visitor of a website I find myself mainly caring about the organization and layout of the website, whether it is easy for me to get to where I want to go or find what I am looking for.

A beautiful design is not always better.  That is one thing I learned from Amelia Showalter and her team who did work for the Obama 2012 campaign.  They found through testing that an ugly design for an email or direct mail tended to raise more money then a colorful design.  Are people really attracted to ugly?  In this context yes, essentially ugly just does a good job standing out.  This idea completely contradicted my stereotypical understanding on what people are drawn to.  I would have thought that you would want to have the most eye-catching design.  Below is an example of an A/B test for the Obama re-election campaign where they changed the media and introduced a picture of Obama himself.

The version with Obama overlaid next to the sign up form provides a different visitor experience than the simple version with no picture at all.  Which version are you drawn to?

With the knowledge I learned from Amelia and her team businesses too might want to rethink the way that they are optimizing their sites and instead of designing a flashy color laden website, maybe try out its polar opposite and compare the results.  I foresee this testing being especially helpful in the digital world with businesses mobile sites and applications.  With users on their phones more than their computers, I think that mobile versions of websites still have a long road of improvements ahead of them.

To end this post I will leave you with an A/B test that you can do for my blog: