Thursday, October 28, 2010


How to write a marketing plan with a single, three-tabbed spreadsheet

If your company is deep in planning mode for 2011 (or soon will be, or should be), and you’re in charge of acquisition marketing, consider dumping the PowerPoint slides and lengthy Word documents this year in lieu of a single, simple spreadsheet.

It will save you time.  It will guide your work for months to come.  Your CFO will love you. 

Think of it this way:

The first tab is the most important, as it represents a roll-up of how leads generated convert to sales opportunities and closed business each month or quarter.  If you already know what your lead-to-opportunity and opportunity-to-close conversion rates are, you should be able to plug in the expected sales figures each month or quarter, and the formulas will work back to 1) the required size of sales pipeline at the beginning of the month/quarter, and 2) the required number of leads to achieve that pipeline.  Relatively simple napkin math.

The second tab breaks down, by month and by channel, where those leads are coming from.  It demonstrates explicitly which marketing channels you will lean on, and with what expected lead volume, to contribute to the required overall figure to fuel the sales model on tab one.

The third tab demonstrates how you are able to achieve certain lead volume by month and channel.  For example, if you’re counting on email marketing, it will demonstrate how many emails need to be sent in a given month, with what expected response and conversion rate, to hit that number of leads.  Same for required search impressions and click rates, same for expected event or Webinar registration and/or attendance, etc.

You can make all of this more complicated, of course, by factoring in cost per lead and cost per sale (a really important thing to know) as well as variations in quality & conversion rates by lead channel.  And the specifics of how this overall spreadsheet should look will differ depending on how you’re selling, the channels you count on to close business, etc.

But for marketers who ultimately are responsible for helping a sales team and an organization close business and exceed new sales expectations, it all comes down to the numbers.  So how important is the PowerPoint or Word doc if it all needs to be metrics-driven anyway?  Why not go straight to the numbers?

Worth thinking about anyway.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Using content to improve SEO, attract customers & capture leads

I was asked yesterday how best to use an existing set of content to drive more natural search traffic and, ultimately, lead capture. Here’s an edited version of the advice I gave.

For maximum SEO value, the content needs to be hosted on your domain. It needs to be organized in a clear, discoverable way (there are some basic SEO best practices for how to do this based on site architecture, mega tag work, keywords in the URL, etc.).

Many companies worry about how discoverable this content is from the home page. Navigation discoverability from the home page actually isn't as relevant for SEO as making sure Google can see the pages clearly. If Google can see them, they'll send traffic directly to those subpages no matter how buried they are on the site. If you have Google Analytics or CoreMetrics or some other good tracking tool on your site, you can probably get a good indication of which content is already driving natural search traffic today.

Once you have the traffic, you need to think about what you'd want that person to do next. If the content represents a prospective customer farther back in the decision process (i.e. just educating themselves, learning about the factors at play in what later will become an active decision, etc.), then the call to action might be to subscribe to an email newsletter. Something "light" that gets the prospect registered & doesn't require high commitment, but gives you direct access to communicate with them moving forward, profile them down the road for more active offers, etc.

However, if the content they're seeking is clearly closer to the decision point, you can more directly upsell with calls to action directly into your lead gen engine with better results. To drive even greater discoverability of your content, use a network of social media and content discovery tools (StumbleUpon, Digg, etc.) to help make the content easier to find.

I'd also consider building a content network directly with partners, bloggers and anyone else who speaks to your target audience. Give them co-branded pages on the site featuring the same content, so that they share those links with their own networks. The more inbound links you have to the site, the better your SEO value and the more natural traffic Google will give you in addition to those links.

As far as overall content triage and creation, you want to map that both to your understanding of the buyer timeline (way back, before they're actively looking) as well as what relevant topics and keywords are already being used by searchers on Google. You need to map content to search volume, and ensure there's a certain keyword density of those terms in the article itself.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Four tips for approaching a cold prospect list

A good friend recently won a copy of the local Business Journal's "Book of Lists" at a networking event.  For the uninitiated, books like this basically rank the top 25-50 companies in a particular metro market based on industry, fastest-growing firms, public vs. private, etc.  These lists often come with names & contact information for key executives at these companies as well.

For my friend, this book represents a potentially lucrative list of customers.  But what do you do now?  When you are handed, come across, or research and otherwise acquire a "cold" list of potential customers, how do you engage?

The specific answer to this question will be different for each business, but here are four considerations that can help you quickly create & start executing a strategy that works.

Define what success looks like (for you and for them).  Of course you want new business from the list.  But what does that look like?  What does success look like when you're working with and/or helping these new customers?  Perhaps more importantly, what does success look like for them when and after working with you?  What could you enable for their business?  What among their current needs and objectives are you most likely to address?  Understanding these fundamental needs gives you a starting point for creating value from the first point of contact (vs. looking like just another company trying to sell something).

What's in it for them, right now?  Answer this question more tactically now, beyond the broader definition of success for your prospective customers.  Why should they listen to you?  What do you have to offer them right now that can help them?  What's worth 5-10 minutes of their time right now that both gives you a crack in the door, and delivers immediate value to their job and/or business?  Most businesses, in a first approach with a new prospect, focus on themselves.  They figure it's more important to introduce who they are and what they do.  And while this is indeed important, it's how everyone else leads their first call or pitch.  If you want to be different and stand out, know the prospect well enough to offer them something contextually relevant and valuable.  They'll figure out what you do soon enough.

Think long-term.  These prospects are cold.  They don't know you yet.  Unless you represent a potential impulse buy, don't expect miracles and one-call closes right off the bat.  In fact, delivering something of value (instead of making a sales pitch) as recommended above assumes that you're in for a multi-touch relationship-building and sales process.  Cold calls rarely convert into immediate sales.  Effectively-done cold calls earn you the next call, where you have the right to go a little deeper, start to talk more about what you do, and position that as a benefit to the prospect. 

Test first.  Before you prepare a massive direct mail campaign or give the entire prospect list to your sales rep, pick a handful of names and make the call.  Test your message and value-added offer.  Script the short voicemail and first few seconds of the live call (if they answer) so you know whether the research and thoughtfulness you put into the approach and offer is working.  This isn't going to give you quantitative, definitive results, but should help you determine if your approach is directionally valuable to both the prospect as well as your effort to convert a cold prospect list into warm relationships and, eventually, closed business.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Isolating and overcoming final sales objections

The deals you're likely going to close before the end of the month (or any selling cycle) are already leaning your way.  If they're going to close this late in the game (let's say there's just a couple days left in the month or quarter), they've pretty much already made up their mind…except for that one last objection or two.

Do you know what those objections are?  Do you know specifically what's keeping them from making a positive step forward? 

Is it lack of clarity on the value and ROI of the purchase?  If so, have you left the issue of value translation in the prospect's hands, or have you proactively addressed, defined and calculated the positive future of going with your product or service?

Is it getting that last decision-maker on board?  If so, how well do you already know that decision-maker, what he/she cares about, and how best to either translate value for them, or isolate and address their specific objections (which may be different from that of your direct buyer)?

Is it a budget issue?  If so, without making a concession on price, how do you make it easier for them to buy now?  Can you get creative with your own finance team to improve the terms of the deal without making it cheaper?  Can you define a specific ROI for whomever holds the purse-strings to make it a win for their objectives as well?

If the opportunities in your sales pipeline with a month-end or quarter-end close haven't yet decided if they need what you're selling, closing them in the next couple days (especially for a complex or considered sale/purchase) might not be realistic.  But if you know they already want it, that they already need it and see the value to their business, it's your job to create and execute a specific objection-handling effort that strategically and specifically eliminates the last barrier to success, for both you and your customer.



The difference between reading, scanning & processing

Reading is one of the best professional development, business development and networking tool I can think of. By choosing and leveraging the right mix of blogs, newsletters, magazines, books, newspapers and more, I have a steady stream of content that, if used well, can make me smarter, help me do my job better, plus provide countless opportunities and excuses to reach out to prospects, customers and partners alike.

But if you’re like me, you don’t have nearly the time you wish you had to read – to really read, digest and take action on what’s in front of you.

This is why I’ve started dividing my time between reading and processing. There are certain sources of information I read – meaning I take the time to actually read from front to back, occasionally take notes on what I’m reading, and think carefully about what it means for my life, my career and my business.

Far more often these days, I’m scanning and processing. Because I know I don’t have time to truly read & digest everything, I resort to scanning content and asking myself the following questions:

  • Would this content be valuable to someone in my network?
  • Is this something I should share with my network (via Twitter, etc.)?
  • Is this something I should follow-up on, i.e. with a prospect or partner?
  • Is this something I should write about myself with a unique position or opinion?

What I end up with by doing this is a stack of articles torn out of magazines and newspapers, as well as links to online stories I can forward, share, leverage, etc. I may not have had time to read the full article, but I realized quickly enough the value it could have to others, and therefore myself as well.

Friday, October 22, 2010


The importance of origination at work

How much of your day is spent responding?  Reacting?  Doing something based on what someone else has already done, asked for or started?

A certain level of reactive work is required for what most of us do.  We can’t originate and own everything, and often our job is specifically to comment, respond to or participate in something that started somewhere else.

But this is also a slippery slope to false productivity and wasted time.  We can easily fill our days with responses to other people’s emails, fire drills and priorities.  It’s easy to be really busy, but not with things that are important to what we need to actually get done.

The best way to avoid being reactive all day is to have a plan.  Be proactive in advance about what you need to get done, what your objectives are.  Be proactive and disciplined about carving out time to originate ideas, projects, work product.  The definition and format of that original work is different for each of us, but it’s likely the most important work you’ll do today.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


What 14 experts think the sales & marketing funnel looks like

What happens when you ask 14 sales & marketing experts to explain their version of an effective B2B sales & marketing funnel? This happens.

I was proud to be asked to participate (see page 11), but it was far more valuable to see how our peers view the same problem from a different perspective. I guarantee you’ll find some value in this download for your business.

You’ll notice in many of these interpretations the inherent idea that what we’re managing may no longer be a funnel. I particularly like Mike Damphousse’s diagram of the “Demand Gen Cloud,” which both figuratively and literally means our prospects come to us from all sides, on their timeline, and not necessarily in an organized, step-by-step, funnel manner.

I was also proud to see so many funnels continue after the first sale. In most of our businesses, the biggest sales opportunity happens after the sale – with repeat purchases, renewals, referrals and more.

Special thanks to Craig Rosenberg, Sarah Miller and the Focus team for getting this published. Get your copy here.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Success By Ten: Why George Russell prioritized values as the key to success

Guest post by Michael Sheldon, principal at XMedia Communications and co-author of Success by Ten.

George Russell is best known today as an innovator. People tend to associate him with the Russell 2000 Index, which flashes across the stock ticker about every 30 seconds on the business news programs. But George’s real claim to fame is the fact that he pioneered so many of the techniques that professional investors use to manage risk. Basic things - things we take for granted today - like the growth and value style of investing, international diversification, and even a fair and reliable method for measuring a fund’s return on investment. All of these were major breakthroughs when George introduced them.

Of course, these innovations didn’t automatically take off in the market. George had to sell them. As a businessperson, sales was probably his core expertise. He proudly describes himself as a peddler. And if you look at Frank Russell Company’s history, you’ll see that George spent 11 years building a mutual fund sales organization before he came up with the “big idea” that enabled him to grow his modest Tacoma, Washington-based firm into a global financial services powerhouse.

Now what makes George interesting as a salesperson - and this is the real subject of these blog entries - is the way he prioritized having a strong, clearly articulated set of core values as the key to success. That is why, when George decided to write his story in Success By Ten, he structured the book around the ten core values that he had established as the guidelines for the corporate culture at Frank Russell Company.

While nine of the ten get pretty much equal emphasis, the first value, non-negotiable integrity, stands head and shoulders above the rest. Integrity was central to George’s personal ethics. His grandfather, Frank, who founded the original company, was an upright man, who was known and respected in the community. For George, Frank’s way was the way you did business; there was no room for compromise.

Integrity is particularly important in the financial services industry. People’s life savings are at stake, so trust is a fundamental requirement. George also recognized that there is enterprise risk - the risk of total failure - when an organization lacks integrity. It’s possible to recover from a poor decision or two, as long as they are honest mistakes. But lying and cheating can destroy a firm - even a centuries-old institution like Barings Bank, or a high-flying outfit with “the smartest guys in the room,” like Enron.

The question is: How do you go about establishing your own and your firm’s reputation for integrity? You can’t go around thumping your chest and crowing, “We have integrity.” You have to show it, not tell it. Again, George’s approach is instructive:
  1. Recruit people who have compatible values. As part of the research for writing Success By Ten I had access to interviews with more than 80 people who had played key roles in the Russell organization. Many of them told the story of how George had hired them. It was striking how often people reported how, in introducing himself and describing the company, George would begin by talking about his grandfather. In other words, values, and particularly integrity, was the first thing he talked about in the recruiting and hiring process. That’s prioritizing integrity by example, and building the organization with key people who share your values.
  2. Talk about the culture and enforce it when necessary. As the company grew, George made it a point to talk about core values in Frank Russell Company’s internal communications. He emphasized that integrity was non-negotiable. If you made an honest mistake, you received a correction and that was the end of it. But if you fell short on integrity, you’d be fired on the spot. No excuses or second chances. Non-negotiable. George says he only had to enforce this rule a couple of times. “Word gets around,” he says, “and people understand what’s expected of them.”
  3. Show your clients you are serious about values. You can’t say to clients or prospects, “I’m honest.” It’s about as effective as “I am not a crook.” But you can put in the work to write a well-thought-out mission statement, supported by your list of key values. Such statements can be part of your proposal, and you can also place them on your website and in printed materials. It probably shouldn’t be conspicuous. And you probably shouldn’t go out of your way to direct people’s attention to it. But when clients and prospects notice, it becomes a part of your brand. They recognize that you’ve taken the time to think about what you stand for, and that you communicate your values throughout the organization. If your values resonate with your prospect, then you are laying the foundation for a great long-term relationship.

I’m going to conclude with an anecdote, which shows that it’s not always easy to be a peddler with integrity. This story dates from the early days of George’s consulting business. He had just secured his first pension fund client, JCPenney, who then referred him to senior officials at the Penn Central Railroad. This was in the late 1960s, and the firm was in bankruptcy proceedings. The problem was sorting out the exact values of assets in the Railroad’s pension fund, which, at the time, was not a routine task. The Railroad official asked George point blank, “What method do you use to measure investment performance?”

Without missing a beat, George replied, “We use the Dietz Method.”

In fact, George was going out on a limb with this statement. He had been reading about the Dietz Method and thinking about implementing it. But that’s as far as he’d progressed. So, when Penn Central Railroad hired Frank Russell Company to measure the performance in its pension fund, George had to produce.

He dropped everything. He managed to locate Peter Dietz at the University of Oregon and he drove down to Eugene to meet him in person. In the course of that encounter, he convinced Professor Dietz to work with him as a consultant on the Penn Central Railroad project. Problem solved. The client was happy, and Peter Dietz eventually joined the company on a full-time basis. Now that’s salesmanship.

George was proud of this story. He told it countless times, and it became a cornerstone of Frank Russell Company lore. But when we were preparing Success By Ten for publication, a family member raised the question: “What about George’s integrity when he said he used the Dietz method? Sure, he delivered on his promise, but didn’t he lie to get the assignment?”

That caused quite a discussion. The story had already appeared in print, and it was so well-known, we couldn’t see any reason to leave it out of the book. But we’d like to know what you think: Did George behave unethically—or was he acting proactively to solve a client’s problem?

Saturday, October 16, 2010


How to be instantly strategic in 15 seconds

It’s a really good thing to be tactical.  It’s important to have a bias for action, to focus on getting things done. 

Write the strategy, build a plan, sure.  But spend most of your time in execution mode to make things happen.

Of course, the down side is that it’s easy to be so focused on execution day to day, that we don’t step back and ask the strategic questions to make sure we’re on track, and make sure we’re not missing more significant opportunities to achieve and exceed our goals & expectations.

Stepping back from execution to be strategic is everybody’s job, and it doesn’t have to take longer than 15 seconds to give your work a gut-check.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself every once in awhile to make sure you’re on track:

Why are we doing this? 

What’s the objective?  What does success look like?

How will I know this is successful?  How will I measure it?

Has anything changed (at the company, in the market, with our customers) since we last decided this was worth doing?

Would our customers think this is a good idea?

If I started this project from scratch, is this still how I would do it?                  


Thursday, October 14, 2010


Should Twitter replace your Web site?

For your business or personal brand (or both), Twitter is your Web site.

Crazy? Maybe. But think about it. If you carefully consider and manage the content you publish on Twitter, it will represent:

Don't most Web sites attempt to answer these six questions? And aren't most of those Web sites not quite reflective of a company or individual's current position, thinking, brand strategy and/or value proposition to their customers?

Blogs can do this too. But Twitter can be faster, easier, more communicative, more real-time.

Hat tip to Pease for the spark on this.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


The most important productivity tip you'll ever receive

Write it down.

Get it out of your head and write it down.

Everything else flows from there.  I guarantee you’ll remember more things, keep track of and execute on more ideas, get more done – just by writing things down more often.

And it was David’s idea, not mine.




Sunday, October 10, 2010


The 4 C's of Marketing (according to John Jantsch)

The Referral Engine by John Jantsch is one of my favorite business book reads this year. Great advice, practical, easy to implement and proven to drive cost-effective, organic customer growth.

In the September issue of CRM Magazine, John gave an interview in which he highlighted his 4 C's of Marketing. I've included them here, but I also recommend a read of his full Q&A (as well as the book).

Content: Prospects expect lots of educational content and may not trust an organization that's not committed to creating a rich Web presence.

Context: With so much information out there, marketers need to get very good at filtering, aggregating and personalizing content.

Connection: Social technology has changed how individuals see companies, and marketers must meet the heightened expectations of an open and personalized organization.

Community: Social technology has made it much easier to create communities around shared ideas, so businesses must develop ways to create community both online and offline, with customers and staff.

Thursday, October 07, 2010


The Definitive Twitter Guide: A Conversation with Author Shannon Evans

Twitter may be easy to use (how long does it take to write 140 characters or less), but making it a productive, revenue-producing tool for your business is another story.

That's one reason why The Definitive Twitter Guide by Shannon Evans is such an important read for business owners and marketers alike. Throughout this easy-to-read book, Shannon shares a plethora of best practices and sage advice for turning one of today's most popular social media tools into a central part of your communications, networking and lead generation efforts.

I recently asked Shannon to share some of her ideas & perspective on Twitter with our readers. A transcript of our conversation is below.

How do you decide if Twitter is right for you in the first place? Is it for everyone?

Twitter is not for everyone. It really depends on where your 'people' hang out. If your target audience is 13-21 year olds, Twitter is probably not the right place. If it is businesses who produce goods/products/services for 30 somethings and over than Twitter is worth exploring!

It is for anyone who wants to listen to interesting conversation, learn about news and events as they unfold, and for crowd sourcing. Twitter is a terrific tool for businesses and organizations to:

The best or most powerful attribute of Twitter is that if done right it helps you promote, expand, and reinforce your credibility in the marketplace.

What kind of commitment do you need to have before you get started?

The start up with Twitter is minimal. Create a keyword rich profile, find good people to follow, and listen to others. The investment of time comes in figuring out what to say and who to say it to or who to cultivate as a follower and advocate for you and your product/goods/services, etc. Paying attention to what is being said and who is saying it can be time consuming. Fortunately there are wonderful tools to help with that.

Depending on your business model and what you deliver and what your goal is with Twitter than the time can be 10-15 minutes 2-3 times a day or a couple of hours a day. Most businesses will be the former rather than the latter!

What are your best practices for frequency, type of content, interacting with other Tweeters?

It depends on the purpose and intent of your account. Comcast uses it to listen to complaints about service, report outages, etc. Eric Rudolf uses it to promote his Small Company Blog and his article writing services. My friend Tamara Sellman uses it to promote her writing workshops and her writing genre. My Kids Heros uses it to raise awareness of wounded warriors returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan and to raise funds for various related charities. I use it to continue to collect case studies of businesses and non profits who use Twitter successfully for the second edition of this book.

Frequency is related to the needs of your audience, the commitment you are willing to make, and the useful information you might have to share. It could be posting something pertinent once a day, spending a few minutes early in the day and again late in the day responding to those who are sharing their experiences with your products or services or those of your competitors. It could just be that you saw something interesting that someone posted that was interesting and might be of interest to your following so you share it (retweet).

There are no hard rules about how to interact. There are merely some things related to etiquette that govern what is appropriate in your circle. So spamming, heavy sales, rude flaming comments, etc are just not done.

There are lots of services that will help you accelerate follower counts. Are those valuable?

NO! Would you hire a service to pick your friends and then send them to your 'house' to hang out? There are some tools that can help you better choose who to follow by keywords in profiles and tweets. THOSE are invaluable for finding like minded people to build your following one by one. But I stay away from bot followers.

There’s been quite a bit of debate about outsourcing social media work. How do you feel about that?

I think that is a loaded question. Would you hire someone who does not know your business or organization to pick up the phone or go out on the showroom floor and talk to your customers about your goods/services/products? It is a case by case basis.

Personally I believe you speak best for yourself. But perhaps that is not true in every case. I feel strongly about keeping it in house. But I am from the south and we are big on the personal touch. Social media is just So no matter how you use it you have to personalize it so it is right for your brand, your organization, and your audience.

Monday, October 04, 2010


Testimonial interviews? Write the answers first

What would you like your customers to say about you?  You know what that ideal testimonial looks like.  If you’re shooting a customer video, you know what you want them to say.

So why do so many marketers focus on writing the perfect questions?  Start with the answers.  Then write questions that help you get them.


Friday, October 01, 2010


Marketing isn't a real thing, is it?

Classic from Dilbert. Have a great weekend everyone!

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