Wednesday, September 30, 2009


People are talking behind your back (and that's good)

Guest Contributor: Scott Neilson, CEO/Founder of FundBunch

This is the second in a two-part series from Scott on word-of-mouth marketing. Read part one here.

By now, you’ve given people something so interesting about your organization and easy to articulate that people want to talk. It will happen naturally, but there are things you can do to speed up the process.

Find the Talkers
Certain individuals love to talk. Many are often well connected. In Malcolm Gladwell’s amazing book, Tipping Point, he describes them as Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. Find these people and give them the white glove treatment.

Send them product samples. Give them advance copies or previews of your product. Surprise and Delight them. Thank them for their business. Trust me. They will talk. You will most likely know who these people are. If you need help here are some tricks.

Are you part of a social network, like Facebook or LinkedIn? These are the folks that have twice as many ‘friends’ or ‘contacts’ as you. Their wallet is stuffed with business cards and they are always handing out theirs. You have now found the talkers.

Make it easy for people to talk
On your website, place a ‘Refer a Friend’ link and a newsletter sign up prominently. These are two of the easiest ways to let the talkers do their work.

Send out an eNewsletter to your customers (but only if they have opted in). In the newsletter, invite them to forward it to colleagues who may be interested. Better yet, include a nice story or joke within the newsletter so it will be forwarded.

When you mail anything to your customers, include not one, but multiple business cards or brochures. I’ve even gone so far as to include two offers in a single Direct Marketing piece. The additional offer typically ends up in the hands of a friend or family member.

Lastly, include your web address in the signature of your email. Do you know how often your emails get forwarded and to whom? Now they know about your organization and how to find you!

Join in the conversation
Don’t sit on the sideline and be passive in letting Word of Mouth to happen. Engage in it. People are probably already talking about you online. It’s easy to find out.

Just setup a Google Alert or check Technorati for the latest blog posts. If people are saying nice things, thank them. It only reinforces for everyone to see the great things they heard. If someone is less than flattering, you have the opportunity to publicly fix the problem and show the world you are proactive in addressing customer issues.

Don’t be afraid to blog or use social networks as well. Keep conversations open and involved. But remember, you are an organization that treats customers with respect. So when engaging in online conversation, always be open about who you are and who you represent. The Web Community is very savvy. If you are spoofing people, they will find out and the results won’t be pretty.

You now have a great foundation to engage in Word of Mouth marketing. It’s time to put together a plan, make it easy for the conversations to take place, and get them started!

For additional resources, I encourage you to visit:

Read: Word of Mouth Marketing, by Andy Sernowitz. (AKA the Bible of Word of Mouth)

Scott Neilson is the CEO/Founder of FundBunch, which provides tools and services to allow individuals and organizations to be more effective in their online fundraising efforts. You can reach him at or visit his site at

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Social lead generation

Let’s face it, the term “social media” doesn’t mean much.  It’s passive, and speaks more to the channel vs. the intent or objective of what’s actually happening there.

Your customers are talking to each other.  They always have.  Only now, they have tools to do it faster, in real-time, and in front of everybody else.  That’s social media.

But social media, as we know it now, is really the new PR.  It’s your best channel to reach prospective customers in their current environment.  You have less control than you used to, sure, but make no mistake – social media is at the top of your sales funnel.

So let’s stop calling it social media, and start calling it social lead generation.  At least amongst ourselves.

Today’s buyers are presenting themselves to you like never before.   They’re sharing their interests, their needs, their feelings, their pain.  They’re telling you, in front of everybody else (including your competitors), exactly what they want.

It’s a perfect opportunity to meet them, engage them, earn their trust and respect, and give them exactly what they’re asking for.

That’s social lead generation.

Don’t treat it like lead generation.  That runs the risk of ruining its authenticity.  But as a core component of building credibility, attention and respect for your products and services, know that – in the end – what you do with this opportunity is measured by its value in engaging and creating new customers.


Monday, September 28, 2009


Stop selling (and help customers to buy)

Want to help your sales team successfully and quickly migrate to a customer-centric sales approach?

Eliminate the term “sales process” from your vernacular.  It doesn’t exist as you once knew it anyway.

What we have today is a buying process.

As sales and marketing professionals, we may still define sales stages, generate leads, cold call, and work prospects through our pipelines and processes.  But make no mistake, the buyer is in charge. 

They’ve always been in charge of how and when they buy, but in a 2.0 world with unprecedented access to other buyers, peer reviews, competitive information and more, your sales process needs to be completely buyer-centric.

The right prospects for your product or service want to buy what you’re selling.  They need it.  The easier you make it for them to discover, learn, research and decide on their own, the more buyers you’ll win to your side.

You’re not selling.  You’re helping customers to buy. 



The Case for Cold Calling

Guest post by Steve Richard, co-founder, Vorsight

Salespeople grease the wheels of the economy.  Having a person to person conversation dramatically improves the likelihood of a business transaction.  Cold calling matters because you cannot possibly know all of your potential clients.  You need the ability to reach out and connect with more prospects that don’t yet know they want to be talking to you.  Add value with each interaction.  Marketing leads begin the process in many cases, but you still need a quasi-cold or warm call to advance the sales process.

Most people hate the idea of cold calling, not the actual activity.  Salespeople tend to be a gregarious bunch by nature.  They love meeting new people, telling stories, socializing – so long as it’s done face to face.  What’s so different about making these introductions and building these relationships via the phone?  It’s really not different at all when you stop and think about it.  Cold calling, quasi-cold calling, and warm calling are all essentially the same thing: approaching someone who doesn’t currently know you and saying hello.  Once you get good at it, you have a fantastic new channel to find potential buyers.

So if that’s the case why do so many people still struggle with it?  Simple – because they were never given the right tools and shown how.  If you are a plumber trying to fix a sink you need wrenches, right?  Most organizations teach their salespeople everything about their products and services and tell them to get on the phones.  But what about the sales skills training, the tools, tips, tricks, tactics, and techniques?  It’s like trying to fix a sink without a wrench.  

Bottom line = cold calling matters for your business.

Steve is the Co-Founder and Head of Training at Vorsight.  Over the past 2 years he has provided sales training workshops to over 1,000 attendees.



Two minutes or less? Do it now

When I think about procrastination, I think first of bigger projects.  I have a column to write, a proposal to finish, a report to publish. 

The real time-suckers are the much smaller projects.  If you read an email and don’t take action right away, you’re procrastinating.  If you see an interesting article or blog post and don’t do something with it right away, you’re delaying action – and you’re procrastinating.

I fight this type of mini-procrastination all the time.  It doesn’t mean I have to actually do everything right then and there.  It just means I need to decide what to do, and move on. 

But if the task takes two minutes or less (respond to an email, set up a meeting, quickly scan an article), I try to do it right away.  With such a short time period required for action, delaying that activity (and reviewing the request or task again later) is pure wasted time.  Add that time up across a day of emails, blog posts, phone calls, etc.  and it’s a ton of wasted time.

Simply acting on those two-minutes-or-less tasks right away will work wonders to clear your inbox, get things done, and keep you moving more productively throughout the day.



Sunday, September 27, 2009


What happens after the lead

Leads alone mean nothing. 

Leads don’t equal revenue.  By definition, leads are just prospective buyers who haven’t yet bought a thing.

Marketers get upset when their executives think of them, and their budgets, as a cost center.  But those same marketers often focus on generating leads, and that’s it.  They don’t hold themselves accountable for the sale.

What happens after the lead is what’s really important.  So you have someone who qualifies as a prospective buyer.  Maybe that prospect has even shown interest, shared a pain that you can ease.

They still need to buy.  They will still have objections.  Some may buy on their own, but most need to be walked through the sale.

Smart marketers know that leads are just the beginning.  They know that their job isn’t really done until leads buy.

Successful marketers go beyond setting a common definition for qualified leads with their sales counterparts.  They also work with sales to define stages of the sales process, and develop tools to help sales reps sell, and make it easier for buyers to buy.

The best B2B marketers think, work and execute like they’re in sales, not marketing.   Because your sales reps know that generating the lead is at the top of their funnel, not the bottom.



Add Twitter content and followers quickly (without writing a thing)

If you’ve decided to get started with a Twitter strategy, here are a few simple steps to start adding content and followers to your Twitter feed. These require a little work, but don’t require a single piece of new content. This isn’t a long-term plan. But if you want to get started and build a strong, relevant foundation for a longer-term Twitter execution, this is a great place to start.

Adding Content

  • Start doing searches by hashtag for keywords relative to your business, brand and/or industry; save these searches with TweetDeck, Tweetie or similar
  • Review these search results a couple times a day, retweet articles and links that are interesting related to your target keywords
  • This will start to associate the right keywords and content with your Twitter stream, and will start to accelerate organic followers of your Twitter account directly
  • By doing this, you’ll be publishing and associating yourself with relevant content without having to publish any of our own primary content (at least not yet)

Adding Followers

  • Easiest way is to start following others
  • Use the search results above to see who's writing about the same topics and keywords you care above (check their bio, etc.)
  • Add them to your followers; most will follow you back
  • There are automated tools that can seek even more Twitter users with either the right keywords in their bio, or in their streams

(Relatively) Easy Next Steps

  • Design a quick custom background as a JPG to reflect your logo and brand (see as an example)
  • Let your employees know you’re getting active, and ask them to follow the feed (they'll likely start retweeting stuff from your account, which will also increase followers)

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Give them something to talk about

Guest Matt on Marketing contributor Scott Neilson, CEO and founder of FundBunch, has a lot to say about word-of-mouth marketing. In the first of a two-part guest post, Scott briefly discusses internal, cultural and value-based requirements to make word-of-mouth successful for your organization.

Take it away, Scott...

Word of Mouth. It is the holy grail of marketing. It’s effective and inexpensive. Everyone dreams of achieving it, but few organizations are able to truly make it work. Most likely it’s because they are not ready for Word of Mouth.

Before you get started on this journey, it’s time for a look in the mirror and ask yourself a few questions. Answer them honestly because if you don’t answer Yes to these questions, you may need to address some internal challenges first.

Question #1 – Is there something unique or interesting about your company?
If you do not have anything interesting to say about your products or service, why would you expect others to talk about you? Find what is interesting about you. It could be a revolutionary product or technology, your extraordinary customer service, the culture of your company, a need in the community you are meeting, your amazing prices.

There has to be something. Even if it is a just a Joke of the Week at the bottom of your customer newsletter. If not, you need to figure out how you will differentiate yourself. Not only for Word of Mouth, but to survive in this competitive environment.

Question # 2 – Can you easily articulate your unique value?
I tell everyone that I love my Honda Odyssey. It is the most family friendly vehicle imaginable. Costco is my favorite place to shop. Not because of their prices, but because their return policy and customer service is second to none.

It’s easy for me to share why I love these products. I’m not going to tell people about something I can’t put my finger on or can’t explain.

Question # 3 – Do you treat your customers and employees with the highest level of respect?
For Word of Mouth to work, you have to focus on doing what is best for your customers (or donors in the non-profit world). Always. That is giving them the best products and the best service to go with them. If your customers don’t love you (or at least really, really like you), don’t expect them to talk about you. Unless you want the Word of Mouth we aren’t looking for.

The same level of respect and focus should be given to your employees. Odds are very good they will be one of the best sources for Word of Mouth. Value them and make them proud to be a part of the organization.

So you answered yes to the above? First of all congratulations – your business is doing a lot of things right. If not, work on getting to Yes.

In the next segment, I’ll look at how to accelerate Word of Mouth.

Scott Neilson is the CEO/Founder of FundBunch, which provides tools and services to allow individuals and organizations to be more effective in their online fundraising efforts.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Bias for Action

Should one of your company, department or individual core values be a bias for action? 

What does that mean?  It means you take action.  Get projects, products and campaigns to market quickly.  You test.  You spend more time executing, learning and improving.

You let the market help you make decisions vs. doing it in isolation.  You test quickly instead of debating via PowerPoint, email or endless meetings.

You’re OK with constructive failure, as long as you can learn, improve and avoid the same mistake twice.

You encourage, demand and/or require those around you (peers, direct reports and superiors) to think strategically, but act quickly.

Bias for action does not mean acting without forethought.  Execution without strategy is just guessing, and prone to high error and failure rates.

Instead, bias for action means having an idea or premise, and understanding quickly what that market thinks of it.  The faster you take action, the faster you execute, the more quickly you will deliver innovation, results and growth.

How important is a bias for action to you individually?  How about for your department and/or company?

More importantly, how do you put that into practice on a regular basis?


Monday, September 14, 2009


Helping your customers get buying approval

Most of the time when you're selling something, your buyer needs approval to move forward. If it's a big-enough consumer ticket item, that approval may need to come from a spouse, signifant other, or even a parent. In a B2B environment, it's often the buyer's boss.

So what are you doing to make it easier for your buyer's boss to say yes?

How are you arming your buyer with tools to help him/her sell the purchase upstream?

Check out these examples of some awesome ROI tools has created to help their customers justify a trip to this year's Dreamforce conference in November. Their package comes complete with an already-drafted ROI letter for "buyers" to send directly to their bosses.

Could your customers use a similar ROI letter? What would that look like?

Might be worth thinking about…

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Mom's right about your start-up too

A former colleague who worked with me at a couple different start-ups had this quote at the top of his white board at all times:

“Start-ups don’t starve, they drown.”

The point is simple – very few of our organizations have a lack of opportunity, or things to do.  One of our most important jobs is to choose the right things to do on a daily basis, and ensure our priorities are well thought-out and are kept in perspective, despite the daily fire drills and interruptions that fight for our time.

Author Om Malik recently wrote about the downsizing of Joost, and offered a similar, thoughtful perspective:

“Joost hired too many people, too quickly.  It never behaved like a start-up but instead felt like a grown-up company with too many bureaucratic layers.

“Remember what your mom used to say when you took too big of a bite?  If you’re not careful, you’re going to choke.  Start-ups are just like that.  Unless you focus, you’re going to choke.”


Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Four best practices for running successful sales meetings

Jonathan Farrington recently published an excellent set of best practices for running sales meetings. Below are four of his best suggestions:

Make sure that at least fifty per cent of the meeting is taken up with some kind of sales training. You can deliver this yourself or you might consider using specialists from outside of the company.

Insist on punctuality, for there is nothing which detracts from a meeting so much as people coming in late with lame excuses or returning late from a coffee break. Not only is this disruptive for the meeting but it is bad for group discipline as well and each time a manager allows this, they relinquish a little leadership capacity. Start the meeting on time to the minute. Do not wait for late arrivals and whatever you do, do not be late yourself.

Begin the meeting in the way you plan to carry on throughout - with a friendly smile and a dynamic greeting, do not commence in a flat uninspired monotone. Be informal, relax and encourage team members to do likewise. Do remember that a sales meeting is one of those few occasions where you can provide “collective motivation” so you need to be at your inspiring best.

Do not do all the talking yourself. Salespeople (and most other people) hate to be lectured at. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Ask for opinions, and always question the reason for a particular opinion. Do remember generally people comprehend:

11% of what they hear.
32% of what they see.
73% of what they see & hear.
90% of what they see, hear & discuss.

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