Tom Levers

Twitter and Sales

Posted in DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, Sales by Tom Levers on April 10, 2011

Twitter allows an easy way to sell and promote without a fancy marketing department.

We’ll…. look at how Dell does it! Dell sells computers via a dedicated Twitter feed. Dell employees don’t “tweet” what they had for breakfast or where they are going – they tweet the latest deals. Since Dell’s target audience is online – and they’re already using Twitter. So all they had to do was set up a Twitter account , and spread the word that if you wanted great bargains , follow them at Twitter. The result is Dell sales people are selling more computers using Twitter.

So I ask you, “Can you make Twitter work to help you sell more?” It can obviously do so. The real question is “HOW ?”, most of us do not work for this type of company. Of COURSE we CAN make Twitter “work” to sell , or communicate about anything – computers, cars, real-estate, and even my business of enterprise software . However, it’s more than just a question of “how do I use Twitter?” Instead, it needs to be a question of “How do I COMMUNICATE with existing and prospective clients?”

Let’s take the case of the local software person who wants to use social media tools – Twitter in this case – to educate their clients about the newest features of their product. The first step in crafting a social media sales strategy with Twitter would begin by building a foundation of Twitter followers – put twitter at the bottom of every email. So the first “key” is to be sure to build a Twitter following of the “right” people. Just as in direct email – the “magic is in the list”. In Twitter, the magic in using Twitter for attracting the “right” followers. Once again – it’s better to have 100 Twitter followers who respond than 10,000 who are not responsive.

Create a Twitter profile which explains what followers can expect and you will see your follows organically grow over time. The uses of Twitter are truly exciting.

You can tweet about:

special pricing

new products

training courses or documentation

services,

white papers,

success stories.

The list of possibilities goes on and on… so when it comes to using Twitter to communicate you value, the real “root” question is:

How are we already CONNECTING and COMMUNICATING with our prospective customers/clients?

Twitter gets frustrating as a sales tool when you don’t have a clear audience (or too many different audiences) and more than 1 clear message. Then again – that is when all sales gets frustrating for businesses of ALL sizes. The same message that “works” via other media will probably also “work” well with Twitter.

In Conclusion

This is why real professionals get jazzed about Twitter. Instead of going to the time and expense of creating a marketing mailing, Twitter allows a quick, easy and personal way to promote your products and services instantly.

Best regards,

Tom Levers

www.BridgeWays.ca

Click to follow on Twitter

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Generating business with newsletters… easier than it looks!

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING by Tom Levers on January 30, 2011

                                                                                                                                                    Email newsletters are a great way to get people to think of you first. But only if you do it right!

  • How do you ensure your e-newsletter is the one people look forward too?

  • How do you ensure your e-newsletter carries impact and influence?  

Many marketers want to do a newsletter but often it is an overwhelming task. I recently tackled this project with a release of my first company newsletter to the Microsoft Global Field Organization and our System Center Partners and potential Alliance Partners.

 See Click Here To Read BridgeWays Newsletter

 When designing and writing this newsletter I continually referenced these guidelines:

 1.      Avoid overly ambitious newsletter programs – requiring many people, more time, and money than the marketing budget can comfortably invest. Disappointment is certain to result when you bite off more than you can chew.

2.      Keep your audience in mind, always know your topic and know your audience and make an effort to learn and write about what is relevant and important to them!

 3.      Choose a distinctive, benefit-oriented title – newsletter success begins with the nameplate, the stylized treatment of your newsletter’s title that appears on the front page of each issue. Your newsletter’s title should serve as an icon, or visual symbol, signaling the content of your newsletter. A title consisting of a few short words is better than one containing several long words. Short titles and words permit the use of a large type size. Instead of a long title, consider breaking the title of your newsletter into two parts; a short, key word set in a large type size supported by a longer subtitle set in a smaller type size which amplifies its meaning.

 4.      Choose the right margins and column layout – white space is the least-expensive ways you can make your newsletters more attractive and easier to read… or use stock photos to add a finish professional look. White space begins with generous margins. Always provide sufficient “breathing room” at the tops and bottoms of your pages. If you are using a three-column layout, omit text from the first column and devote it to photos, pull-quotes and short topics. If you plan to include a lot of photographs in your newsletter, include a scholar’s margin, a narrow column along the outside edge of each page. This builds white space into each page and provides space for a variety of different-sized photographs. Small photographs can fit entirely within the scholar’s margin; other photographs can extend into it from the adjacent text columns.

 5.      Be consistent – Choose a single typeface for all of your headlines and limit headlines to two sizes. Use one size for headlines of primary importance; another, smaller, size for headlines of lesser importance. This adds visual variety to your page and helps readers quickly identify the most important topics, yet avoids a disorganized image. Make your headlines stand out by choosing a typeface that forms a strong visual contrast with adjacent body copy. For example, use sans serif headlines (i.e. Helvetica) to introduce body copy set in a serif typeface (like Times Roman).

 6.      Insert frequent subheads – subheads add visual interest to your articles and make them easier to read by breaking long expanses of text into manageable, bite-sized chunks. Each subhead provides readers with a convenient entry point into your article. Readers are likely to skim your subheads and begin reading when they encounter something that attracts their interest. Often the best result is from setting subheads in the same typeface used in the headlines, only smaller. Using the same typeface for headlines and subheads simplifies and unifies your document. Place more space above subheads than below them. This emphasizes the break between the previous topic and the next topic.

 7.      Make body copy as easy to read as possible – body copy should be as transparent as possible. In most cases, this is achieved by using a typeface, one that doesn’t draw undue attention to itself. This allows the message to emerge. Whenever possible, choose a familiar serif typeface. Numerous studies have shown that serif typefaces (like Garamond, Palatino, and Times Roman) are easier to read than sans serif typefaces (like Helvetica). This is because the serifs guide the reader’s eyes along from letter to letter. Consider setting body copy text flush-left/ragged-right. Flush-left alignment is characterized by equal word spacing and lines of unequal line length. This creates interesting pools of white space at the end of each line which further opens-up each line. The equal word spacing of flush-left/ragged-right type allows readers to establish a rhythm, making their job easier. Always hyphenated flush-left/ragged-right text, however, to avoid extremely short lines followed by very long lines or lines that form diagonals or other shapes along the right margin.

 8.      Choose the right punctuation and spacing – prospective clients will gauge your professionalism and ability to satisfy their needs by the way you handle subtle details like punctuation and spacing. Avoid hitting the space bar twice after periods at the ends of sentences, as this creates distracting gaps—especially noticeable with justified text. Likewise, avoid hitting the Enter or Return key twice after paragraphs, as this creates distracting horizontal bands of white space between paragraphs. Instead, use your Paragraph formatting command to add Space After equal to one and one-half lines of text.

 9.      Align visuals with column boundaries – avoid photographs that columns into adjacent columns. This creates text wraps, narrow columns characterized by awkward word spacing and excessive hyphenation. Aligning photographs with column boundaries emphasizes the structure of your newsletter and makes it easier to read.

 10.   Use color with restraint – exercise restraint when adding a second color. Concentrate color in a few key locations, such as the background of your nameplate or your firm’s logo. Color often works best as a background element, rather than as a foreground element (i.e. text.) Avoid using a different color for each issue. This often confuses readers, (destroying issue-to-issue unity and familiarity), makes your job harder and increases printing costs. The different text and visuals on the front cover of each issue should be enough to differentiate each issue.

 11.   Detail your newsletter – detail your newsletter by going through it (use someone else to proof if you’re the creator), line by line, making 🙂 sure that simple errors haven’t crept in.

 12.   Simplify your design – strive for simplicity. Eliminate unnecessary boxes, borders and rules. Use a single headline typeface and type size throughout your headline and avoid the temptation to use too much bold or italics within your body copy. Clutter detracts from your message. Every change in typography, color or layout detracts from your reader’s ability to concentrate on your message.

 13.   Look for reader feedback, always – talk with a new sampling of readers after each issue. Do a formal readership survey on a regular basis. Track what’s happening. Why work on the newsletter if it is NOT achieving the objective.

 14.   Remember that your list is everything so cherish and respect it – make sure you know exactly whom you’re sending your email newsletter too. You can divide the target audience into categories (segmentation), and decide on what approach to take with regard to each of these categories.

 Conclusion – You can improve your newsletter’s ability to generate new business by establishing realistic goals and working as efficiently as possible. Newsletters demonstrate value that solves the day-to-day problems of readers, helps them stay on top of industry trends, and saves time by distilling practical information such as real-world best practices and industry advances from many sources. Newsletters can very easily become customers’ and partners trusted information source on specific business problems. Trust helps you to position your company as a credible source, which in turn retains your customers, and alliances.

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Mobile Apps and the Contrariness of a Serial Software Company Guy

Some contrarian takeaways…

  • Only 28% of the most successful public software companies reached $50 million in annual sales in 6 years or less.
  • 50% of these companies took 9 or more years to reach $50m in revenue.
  • Microsoft took 8 years to reach $50 million in sales; Oracle took 10.
  • “Traditional consumer PC software is dead.” Apparently, the only question mark is how long it will take for customers and vendors to realize.
  • Mobile phone applications “will be as big if not bigger than Cloud Applications”

Consider the still burgeoning world of mobile apps.

One reason there is even more Mobile App growth potential is it can be a Marketing Tactic. You could compare Mobile App development more to Website development  with new Social Networks like Twitter or Facebook rather  than Application Development. There is the front-end (Gui with Marketing Objective) and the back-end ( functionality with Value Proposition).

How to build and distribute an app for marketing is very different than simply asserting that an app is a good idea. Brand building is first and very different than traditional App development. Developing a strategy for executing app distribution around the right demographic breakdown of smartphone users IE. iPhone (Consumer), Droid (???), Blackberry (B2B) does not happen by accident.

When to use a mobile Web microsite vs an app is important. Knowing when a more easily produced and developmentally sound hybrid app is the best approach to achieve marketing objectives requires an understanding of how the process works, not just that the process is important.

Here are the essential tactics that the right mobile strategy/tactics can help guide marketers through:
  •  
    • Basic marketing experience in Consumer (Advertising, Premiums, POS)  or B2B  (Thought Leadership, ROI positioning, Trial/Demo Best Practices)
    • Segmentation and message targeting – and knowing the software that is best as it moves across mobile tactics .
    • SMS – bi-directional, targeting and personalization principles must be applied here in full force.
    • Mobile Web trends, its accessibility, and its universality. Also, tricks like software that recognizes the device accessing the mobile Web page, then renders to the device.
    • Development of apps, hybrid apps, and when apps are – and when they are not – the right approach.
    • The role of video on a mobile device.

Tactically companies should be agnostic. Of course there are many other important tactical and strategic bits of understanding that will grow and change as technology and Smartphone users grow. Of course I would be remiss not to promote the manygreat Mobile Apps for Word Press see  http://en.support.wordpress.com/apps/

So the innovative marketer is already asking themselves “Is their an application that will enhance my products and my brand ?”

Methods of Understanding in Sales

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, PUBLIC RELATIONS by Tom Levers on December 17, 2009

Selling is one of the classic and obvious domains where changing minds is a core skill.

The skills that are part of every rainmaker can be applied by the novice if they internalize methods of understanding…  where determining motivations and distinguishing the buying behaviours of individuals who hold the keys to selling services or product can facilitate building relationships and creating partnerships to become the vehicle for providing mutual value.

Techniques that are not genuine to your personality yet imply you must follow, like mirroring and matching techniques, body language, etc were considered progressive for connecting with prospects and customers twenty years ago. Now each person when using methods of understanding can be themselves, while improving the sales process with a new power to better understand the factors in your customers making a decision.

Methods of understanding…. is a collection  of tools for thinking.

In my previous article I covered that we all instinctively lean toward some approaches rather than others, but the key to applying the principles is to internalize the different constructs, so everyone can appreciate the influences on better communication. The first four types were:

  • Attribution – we need to attribute cause, that supports our ego.
  • Constructivism – we use constructs as perceptual categories.
  • Framing – mental combinations that affect perception.
  • Schema – structure to organize and interpret the world.

Now lets finish with the final four:

  • Personal Constructs – constructs represent understanding.
  • Symbolic Interaction  – we derive meaning around symbols.
  • Objectification –  we simplify complex things into concrete images.
  • Story Models – most marketers instinctively piece together complex situations into stories to build understanding.

 

Personal Constructs

People develop internal models of reality, called constructs in order to understand and explain the world around them in the same way that scientists develop theories. Like scientists, they develop these constructs based on observation and experimentation. Constructs thus start as unstable conjecture, changing and stabilizing as more experience and proof is gained.

Constructs are often defined by words, but can also be non-verbal and hard to explain, such as the feeling you get when your football team just won the championship.

When constructs are challenged or incomplete the result is emotional states such as anxiety, confusion, anger and fear.

Constructs are often polar in that they have opposites (and are hence dichotomous). Thus the construct of good implies another of bad. Polar constructs create one another: thus ‘good’ cannot exist without ‘bad’.

Although we share the idea of constructs through words (ie Good and Bad), the detail of constructs are particular to the individual and hence are called personal constructs.

Constructs that are important to the person are core constructs, while others are called peripheral constructs.

Constructs may be expanded to accommodate new ideas or constricted to become more. An example would be ownership of an idea. I look at how the executive talks about a business division that they originally came from and consider him more focused on improving that group. All of these are constructs that I have created or learned in order to explain the behaviour of those I have met.

Using it

Listen to people. Hear the constructs they use. They will be amazed at how much you understand them. You can also lead them in building new constructs.

Defending

When you are building new ideas, consider where these have come from. Was there a conversation with an influential other person involved?

 

Symbolic Interaction  

People act based on symbolic meanings they find within any given situation. Thus interact with the symbols, forming relationships around them. The goals of our interactions with one another are to create shared meaning.

Language, math, selling methodologies are itself a symbolic form, which is used to anchor meanings to the symbols.

Key aspects are:

  • We act toward others based on the meaning that those other people have for us.
  • Meaning is created in the interactions we have with other people in sharing our interpretations of symbols.
  • Meanings are modified through an interpretive process whereby we first internally create meaning, then check it externally and with other people.
  • We develop our self-concepts through interaction with others.
  • We are influenced by culture and social processes, such as social norms.
  • Our social structures are worked out through the social interactions with others.

Using it

Pay attention to the symbols within the persuasive context and utilize them. You can place the symbols there. How people interpret them includes how you interpret them. 

Defending

Pay attention to the symbols within the persuasive context and notice how they are affecting what happens.

 

Objectification

Complex ideas are, almost by definition, difficult to understand. To help us make sense of them, we turn them into concrete images. There are three processes by which objectification is done:

  • Ontologizing gives an idea physical properties, for example by using close metaphors like the ‘mind as a computer’.
  • Figuration turns the ideas into pictures or images, for example traffic ‘jams’.
  • Personification turns the idea into a person. For example, a genius as Einstein.

The term ‘objectification’ or depersonification is also used to describe the way we treat other people as objects, in particular the way men can treat women as sex ‘objects’. By reducing other people to things, it permits us to treat them with less care and human concern, bypassing our values around this subject.

This car is like a thoroughbred race-horse. Just imagine thundering up the roads, with trees and houses flying by. People will think you are Michael Schumacher.

In war, effort is often put into depersonifying the other side, thus legitimizing and even encouraging killing them.

Using it

Explain your ideas through analogous or metaphorical things, pictures or people.

Defending

Just because the other person can explain their ideas clearly, it does not mean they are good ideas.

Story Models

One way in which we explain the world around us is to create stories about it. In particular when we are face with complex situations, we will pick out what seems to be key elements and then turn these into a story.  

For example people were shown a movie of a trial. They found that in order to make sense of the wealth of detail, the participants constructed stories about what happened. 

In another experiment, they found that when evidence was given in an order which made the story easy to construct, the participants were more likely to construct the same story. When the evidence was in story order, 78% of participants found the defendant guilty. Yet when the evidence was out of order, only 31% voted for the guilty verdict.

A common technique for remembering a complex list of unrelated information is to weave them together into a story.

Using it

Help the other person understand your case by presenting it as a logical story, pausing to emphasize and repeat the key points you want them to remember and include in their remembered interpretation. 

Defending

Just because the other person presents a nice story, it does not mean it is true.

Conclusion

The trained sales person learns the process of selling from their training courses in Relationship or Consultive Selling, Strategic Selling, Customer Centered Selling, Spin Selling, Platform Selling, and Scientific Selling… but none will better educate you on understanding people, how they think, and their motivations.

These techniques, when internalized will allow you to objectively recognize a “No Decision” earlier in the selling process, as well as, allow you to better understand yourself and how you “make or react to decisions” in your every day business and personal life.

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Sales and Methods of Understanding

LightBulb“Methods of Understanding” will get what you need done in your business.

No matter if it is working to build a “Company Culture”, or becoming a sales “Rain Maker”, or “Marketing Positioner” of the next Widget… you will get further if you apply the toolkit of how individuals use “Methods to Understand”.

You may know Sales Methodologies, but the “Rain Maker” applies Systems of Understanding. Most natural “Rain Makers” unknowingly identify how others are using these various types of Understanding Methods, they just identify these throughout all aspects of their lives… without even knowing they are using them. By identifying what individuals use when they try to understand can enlighten the situation. 

WARNING! This is not for everyone. Some people are so locked into their individual method that if you are a “hammer” everything looks like a “nail”! The “Rain Maker”, the “Corporate Motivator”, and the  “Customer Requirement Aggregator” ” all must identify which “Methods of Understanding” is being used and how to adapt to it. 

We all instinctively lean toward some of these approaches rather than others, but the key to applying these principles  is to internalize the different constructs so we can better communicate. The different types are:

  • Attribution – we need to attribute cause, that supports our ego.
  • Constructivism – we use constructs as perceptual categories.
  • Framing – mental combinations that affect perception.
  • Schema – structure to organize and interpret the world.
  • Personal Constructs – constructs represent understanding.
  • Symbolic Interaction  – we derive meaning around symbols.
  • Objectification –  we simplify complex things into concrete images.
  • Story Models – We piece together complex situations into stories to build understanding.

Lets first cover the first four in this article and try to identify after reading how you and others are using them in your professional and personal life.

 

Attribution

We all have a need to explain the world, both to ourselves and to other people, attributing cause to the events around us. This gives us a greater sense of control. When explaining behaviour, it can affect the standing of people within a group (especially ourselves).

FaceWhen another person has erred, we will often use internal attribution, saying it is due to internal factors. When we have erred, we will more likely use external attribution, attributing causes to situational factors rather than blaming ourselves. We will take credit, due to the good business skills that were applied. And vice versa. We will attribute the successes of competitive rivals to external ‘advantages’. 

When a football team wins, supporters say ‘we won’. But when the team loses, the supporters say ‘they lost’. Our attributions are also significantly driven by our emotional and motivational drives. Blaming other people and avoiding personal recrimination is a very real self-serving attributions. We will also make attributions to defend what we perceive as attacks. We will point to injustice in an unfair world. 

In practice, we often tend to go through a two-step process, where we start with an automatic internal attribution, followed by a slower consideration of whether an external attribution is more appropriate. Key to this is, if we are hurrying or are distracted, we may not get to this second step. This makes internal attribution more likely than external attribution.
Example of Use: I have no support and no budget there for I cannot do a good job.

Using it: Beware of being a complainer (i.e. making internal attributions about the situation). Also beware of making excuses (external attributions) that lead you to repeat mistakes and leads to Cognitive Dissonance in others when they are making internal attributions about you.

Defending: Watch out for people making untrue attributions.

Constructivism

We try to make sense of the world by making use of constructs, which are perceptual categories that we use when evaluating things.

People who have many different and abstract constructs have greater flexibility in understanding the world and are cognitively complex, whilst others are cognitively simple. Cognitively complex people are better able to accept both complex and inconsistent messages. They also have a greater need to understand things and will question deeply anything that is new to them. However, once persuaded, they stay persuaded and are less likely to change their minds as their new constructs will support the argument.

Example: Some people have a construct about being fat that says fat people are lazy and greedy. Others may perceive it as a medical condition. 

Using it: Help cognitively complex people to build new constructs that support your argument. Do not bother with this detail for the cognitively simple.

Defending: Do not let others take charge when building new constructs.

Framing

A frame is the combination of beliefs, values, attitudes, mental models, and so on which we use to perceive a situation. We effectively look through this frame in the way we would look through tinted spectacles. The frame significantly effects how we infer meaning and hence understand the situation.

Example: I see a holiday in the hills as an opportunity for outdoor exercise. My friend sees is as a chance for a quiet read. My son sees it as a long period of boredom.

Using it: Change elements of a person’s frame (reframing) and hence how they view the world). This is a powerful persuasive technique. 

Being able to see things through many frames yourself gives you a broader perspective and able to understand more of how others think.

Defending: When people ask you to look at something from another viewpoint, be aware that there are many viewpoints, many of which are valid and legitimate. 

ShoesSchema

A schema is a mental structure

Schemas are also self-sustaining, and will persist even in the face of disconfirming evidence. This is because if something does not match the schema, such as evidence against it, it is ignored. Some schema are easier to change than others, and some people are more open about changing any of their schemas than other people. Schemas are also known as mental models, concepts, mental representations and knowledge structures(although definitions are different–for example some define mental models as modeling cause-effect only).

Schemas affect what we notice, how we interpret things and how we make decisions and act. They act like filters, accentuating and downplaying various elements. We use them to classify things, such as when we ‘pigeon-hole’ people. They also help us forecast, predicting what will happen. We even remember and recall things via schemas, using them to ‘encode’ memories.

Schemas have inferences and appear very often in the attribution of cause. The multiple necessary cause schema is one where we require at least two causes before a ‘fit’ to the schema is declared. Schemas are often shared within cultures, allowing short-cut communications. Every word is, in effect, a schema, as when you read it you receive a package of additional inferred information.

We tend to have favourite schema which we use often. When interpreting the world, we will try to use these first, going on to others if they do not sufficiently fit. 

Example: Some people dislike police because they have a schema of police as people who perceive everyone as guilty until proven innocent. Other people feel safe around police as their schemas are more about police as brave protectors. 

Using it: Find people’s schemas around the area of interest, then either create trust by utilizing their schema or reframe to change their schema.

Defending: Become more self-aware, knowing your own schemas and why there are useful for you. When people try to change them, you can then more rationally understand whether your or their schemas are better.

This is a lot to absorbs,  so look for these in your every day business or personal life and check back for the second part of this Article after I try this myself!

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Blogs – the DoDo Bird of SEO

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, Partner alliances, PUBLIC RELATIONS, SEM by Tom Levers on September 30, 2009
The DoDo Bird of SEO

The DoDo Bird of SEO

Have you started a blog only to lose interest, or stop contributing  because no one is reading it?  What should you do differently?

There’s all sorts of  blogs and yet so many have content that is never read.  In fact, there are a tremendous number of business blogs that are not realizing much of their potential. Take this blog as an example.

Why? Because it is not optimized…. so focused on content creation that even though I know what to do… I do not use my own knowledge.

This is very much the same scenario that occurred with web sites  pre-and post tech bubble. I worked with lots of computer industry partners and I mean Lots of them. But afterthe largest management consulting sites got their site up and running, the traffic didn’t come by itself. So we optimized for search engines and that was the start of my SEO experience. Blogs can generate traffic without search engines, but WITH search engines it can be even better.

With blogs, there exist as many or more optimization opportunities to optimize as with a web site. The thing about internet marketing is that there is no “one right way” to solve a single problem. So much of the advice and commentary about content optimization for search engines at conferences and on blogs is tactical. While most blog software is more search engine friendly out of the box than many web sites, the opportunities for blog optimization are readily available. There is a long list of blog optimization tactics to employ.Why optimize your blog?

  • Increase rankings of the blog on BOTH regular search engines as well as blog/RSS search engines
  • Increase traffic to the blog from multiple sources such as social search and social bookmarking sites (del.icio.us, Digg, Furl or Blogmarks)

A blog is just a website that uses a content management system, so most standard SEO tactics apply. There are also optimization tactics specific to blogs.

Consider keywords when writing your blog post titles. Some blog software allows plugins that can suggest keywords. Otherwise, you can use Google Suggest or one of these free keyword suggestion tools: Digital Point, SEO Book or Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Keywords should NOT determine your content (unless it’s an AdSense blog).
Optimize the template. Make sure post titles appear in the title tag and append the title tag (hard code) with the most important phrase for your blog.

Neanderthal SEO for Blogs

Neanderthal SEO for Blogs

Also use the blog post title as the permalink. If you’re using keywords in the blog post title, then they will occur as anchor text in the permanent post link. While you’re at it, just make the post title a permalink.

Make it easy for your blog readers to subscribe and include RSS feed subscription buttons or “chicklets” in a side bar or on a dedicated Subscription Info page. Here’s a handy RSS Feed Button creation tool.

Optimize Categories. When you create categories for your blog, be sure to consider keywords in the titles. When you post, be sure to default to a general category that is relevant no matter what the post is about. Choose multiple categories on each post when appropriate.

Social bookmarking sites can be excellent sources of traffic to your blog, so be sure to make it easy for readers to bookmark your blog posts. You can do this by adding some code to your blog template for each of the major social bookmarking sites. Here’s a tool for social bookmarking links. Submit your blog to RSS and Blog directories. Also submit the blog to regular directories such as (DMOZ, JoeAnt, GoGuides, MSN Business Central, etc) that have categories for blogs.

There are many benefits to publishing a business blog and improved search engine visibility is one of the most popular.  It’s pretty common advice to hear: start a blog and the fresh content will attract links, improving your search results.  Such tactical advice can be very effective.

Unfortunately, the advice gets filtered and distorted, not unlike what happens in the game “telephone” kids play. Pretty soon one or more blogs are implemented for the sole purpose and expectation of improving search engine visibility and nothing else. At least nothing else that’s accountable.

What’s wrong with this picture?   Blogs started solely for SEO objectives will inevitably fail.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. Lack of planning and oversight – After the honeymoon of starting a blog wears off, those tasked with writing content often get distracted by their other responsibilities. Bit by bit, posts look less and less like keyword optimized web pages and sink back to the familiar writing styles common to public relations and corporate marketing. Gone are the keywords that consumers are searching on. Gone is the traffic that used to come from search engines.

If SEO efforts persist, they can get sloppy without ongoing oversight either by an outsite SEO consultant or an internal blog champion (more about that in our next post). Keyword usage in blog posts can become disparate or worse, evolve into a keyword stuffing exercise.

2. No passion for the topic – With over 100 million blogs indexed by Technorati, it’s a wonder what happened to the 90% or more than have been abandoned or that don’t post more often than every 4 months. It takes commitment, thought out ideas and a sincere interest in a topic to be able to blog about it on an ongoing basis over the long term.

Can you imagine watching a 30 minute TV show or 2 hour movie you’re not interested in? How long does that last? How about a job you’re not interested in? Do you really excel at it? Do you do the best job possible and and do you stick with it? No, no and no.

As a result, bloggers who are not personally interested in a topic will encounter blogger’s block quickly and with a shallow level of knowledge on what’s being blogged about, readers lose interest quickly and do not return, subscribe or link to RSS and Blog directories. Also submit to the regular directories such as  (DMOZ, JoeAnt, GoGuides, MSN Business Central)  

 

Blog Extinction

Blog Extinction

Ping the major RSS feed and Blog search engines each time you post. This can be configured with blog software such as Movable Type or WordPress to work automatically. If you’re using Blogger.com, then you can do this manually with Pingomatic or Pingoat.

Comments and Trackbacks – Be sure your blog software is configured to send a trackback ping to blogs that you cite within your posts. Pay attention to press releases distributed by PRWeb. If you cite a release, and ping the trackback link, the press release will in turn link to your blog. This is better for driving traffic than for link popularity.

Make useful comments on other blogs. Your name will be linked to the blog url that you enter. Do NOT make comments that offer no value to the blog post. Do NOT use keywords in the field for your name, use your name or blog name.

Offer RSS to Email. Almost 30% of blog traffic comes from readers that perfer to read blog posts via email. There are several free services available for this including: FeedBlitz , Squeet, Zookoda (this one is more for using blog posts as a weekly newsletter), RMail and Bloglet.

No matter how many optimization tactics you employ on a blog, there is no substitute for quality content. Blog optimization is only as effective as the quality and usefulness of the content you’re optimizing.

Here are some simple steps for managing blog content, long term:  Create a keyword glossary, much like you would for a website SEO project. Identify an editorial guide as well as post types and key topics. Assign a blog champion, someone that “owns” the success/failure of the blog. The blog champion will provide content and editorial oversight as well as recruit other contributors.

The blog champion performs another important function, feedback to the contributors. This goes beyond a simple “thank you” but may also include reporting on the number of comments on posts contributed, inbound links, increases in RSS subscribers and mentions of the blog post on other blogs. Providing individual as well as overall feedback to contributors helps them see what impact their efforts are making.

Socialize.Blogs are a big part of what makes up social media, so it’s important that bloggers are social for a successful blogging effort. A few of the ways blogs can be social include:

Wrap up For a successful business blogging effort that leverages search engine optimization, it’s important that the blog serves a functional purpose intented to help the business reach a particular goal. SEO is involved in order to extend the reach and “discoverability” of the blog.

Blog optimization is both a one time event with the templates but is also an ongoing process involving keyword glossaries that help determine post level keyword usage, internal anchor text and off site anchor text.  Running out of ideas and people to contribute to the blog can mean certain death, so be creative with content sourcing and formats. Listen to what blog readers respond to and give feedback on to guide editorial.

Blog software offers many social features. Use them! Grow a network that leverages the blog as resource and as a way to recognize contributors.  Monitor real time content opportunities as well as blog analytics so you can offer the kind of feedback that motivates continued contributions both from the C-Suite in the form of funding and from the B-Suite in the form of content and comments.

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The ROI Calculator and Your Web Site

Posted in DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, PUBLIC RELATIONS by Tom Levers on September 23, 2009

Sales / Marketing Tools
Sales / Marketing Tools

 

Often the goal in a business to business sales process is to sell using a method of defining return on investment or using a configurator to cost justify so that you can educate and take a leadership role.

Often the key question is… can we determine a  metrics path that will yield an ROI? 

One approach is to use  a  form or spread sheet process that must be completed in order to self guide the understanding of value.

The one key caveat is to capture leads prior to completion of the  ROI process. Note that the call to action must be at the top of any web page.

Typically the length to protect against abandoment must be limited. So actions that make assumptions like Seven reasons to choose XYZ  will help reduce the complexity by building in more common assumption. 

Treatment

The best approach is for the form to have  more steps, but the steps are greatly simplified.

The treatment can make the ROI the main focus of the landing page and include an email capture at the beginning to facilitate the recovery process.

Conclusions

The main goal is to acquired more ROI completed unique visitors. So almost everyone that started the ROI process finished.

This  implys that reducing friction was the main reason for completion. This is accomplished by:

  • Limiting the number of questions and making all questions easily answered with drop-down boxes reduced friction dramatically.
  • Submitting your metrics and getting a comparison based on other replys.

What Next?

Also, consider that not every valid prospect is sales-ready at the same time.  Some people who are in the initial stages of researching before they buy and may not be aware of an ROI education process.  Consider ROI calls-to-action that provide information to early stage buyers without requiring them to go through different complex ROI processes.

Transferable Principles:

Whether your market is B2B, B2C, or both, the following principles can guide the testing phase of your ROI optimization cycle:

  • Use a specific goal or hypothesis – the improvement you want and how you hope to achieve it. Identifying whatyou need begins with knowing what you want to achieve.
  • Predict as many secondary metrics as you can imagine.  For example, consider how adding images may affect page load time, a prospect’s perception of value and eye-path.
  • Check and recheck to make sure you are using the correct metric for your goals.  After performing a test, consider if there is another way to measure results.  For instance, decide whether measuring user engagement is best done by looking at time-on-page, clickthrough, or by tracking return visitors, or using heat maps.
  • Take the time to  follow-up metrics. They will help you evaluate if your optimization translates into long-term gains.
  • Be discriminating with your metrics and analytics. Focus on relevance and insights rather than data overload.  Prioritize the data relevant to your immediate optimization goal.

Summary:

Focus on the before-and-after of your ROI process.  The following points will help you identifythe pitfalls to avoid and protect the integrity of the ROI development process.

  • Recognize whether the barriers to your ROI lead optimization process are internal or external.
  • Cast yourself as a customer advocate and walk through your own ROI lead conversion.
  • Avoid interruptions in the conversion path—elements that stop the momentum. 
  • Beware of factors like bias, impatience, and extrapolation in your interpretations of ROI data.
  • Strive for environmental stability.

Partner channels are conduits of communications

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, Partner alliances by Tom Levers on September 15, 2009

BRAND PARTNERS
BRAND PARTNERS

By Tom Levers

Remember Hierarcial Marketing – where product design, price and promotion determine demand? This traditional model places communications alongside the other variables of the marketing mix.

With the Internet as a primary communication tactic and the Partner Alliance as a multiplyer of the direct sales organization, you may want to use a more Counter-Intuitive Marketing Model !

 

Business to business organizations have gotten creatively lazy to the idea of  tactical integration of communications messages. To rapidly deploy new products in the future they will have to embrace the idea of the strategy of vertical integration to take advantage of the new marketing methods for communications – ie. speaking with one voice from the CEO’s office right down to the sales and tech people is key to rapid product demand.

Because of the increased importance of company-wide brand values in providing competitive advantage, marketing is becoming a way of delivering a communications strategy, rather than the other way round. 

In the “Traditional” model, communications starts with the company, and marketing becomes part of the ‘delivery mechanism’ for the communications strategy. It does not consider various conditional factors that determine primary and secondary forms of communications.

What are the implications of this vision of vertically-integrated marketing communications? Lets first understand the definition of Vertical Integration in general business… it is when a company expands its business into areas that are at different points of the same production path, ie the  Operating System Software company decides to make Software Utilities that it would normally need or the Auto company decides to go into the tire business.

An obvious marketing translation is the importance of integrating internal and external marketing communications. ie  All the employees are highly credible ambassadors to its external public – both in what they say to their communities and the service they provide to their customers. Both word of mouth and performance can be enhanced to the benefit of the organisation by sustained  internal marketing.

 A second implication of the strategic vertical marketing integration is the importance of developing partner channels as conduits of information, as well as , products and services.

Marketing frequently differentiates between ‘push’ and ‘pull’ strategies. ‘Push’ strategies ( direct selling) offer incentives to channels , pushing them towards the end user. ‘Pull’ strategies, on the other hand, use directed techniques ( advertising ) to stimulate demand in order to pull the product, or service, through the channels.pepsi_besser_lf29jun59

‘’Pull-“to find a need and satisfying it”, but Push -“create the awareness that a need exists”… metaphor rankles the old school traditionalist . 

Although Start-Up ventures have no product category established… no awareness of need, so if they have a need,  Vertically Integrated Marketing-“what is the fastest methods to get attention”  is the key driving communications tactics !

Push and pull strategies are not mutually exclusive. For example, a Trade Event directed solely at the end user will be seen by alliance partners, analysts, even competitors who validate and bolster their confidence in the category of product or service concerned.

While it is necessary to operationalise marketing communications strategy by combining a number of different disciplines and tactics, customers experience brands in their own terms. In order to communicate in a customer-centred way, organisations need to consider how their brand messages are received. 

The customer-centered communications methods can be broken down into ten (10) sources, but clearly there are infinate ways of a prospect hearing, seeing, or experiencing your brand. Public relations, word of mouth/tech, events, forms of media advertising,  sales promotion activity, internet searches, text messages, direct marketing, your direct sales, and finally alliance partners that can be extensive,  and only partially controllable.

The uncertainty of partners alliances makes it all the more important to think through brand contact points thoroughly, in order to gauge their potential implications. The key is to maintain that an organisation can improve its management of this process by a careful consideration of the different ways in which customers come into contact with the brand – offering a standardised  framework for action planning.

The traditional distinctions between push, pull and profile strategies  are giving way to ways of analysing and planning marketing communications which recognise the complexity of how customers receive messages.

Finding out how customers access marketing communications reveals their preferences in receiving information. As active recipients of brand messages, they can screen out the irrelevant and the inconvenient. Observing their preferences in this regard can be a source of genuine competitive advantage.

A way of improving your marketing is by improveing the singularity of your brand communications strategy…  from the point of view of the customer it will look as if your Brand is everywhere.
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Evaluating Partner Alliance Opportunity

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING by Tom Levers on March 19, 2009
Partner Marketing

Partner Marketing

Recently a major management consulting firm delivered the final engagement  “Evaluating Partner Relationships”,these are some of the general conclusions.

Partners deliver new sources of revenue, and are the genesis of efficiency, speed and market share. Often large organizations have too many and the small have none.

The complexity of variables to facilitate relationships is daunting, but partnerships can validate a new  product or service. It is the “Divergent ” components of partners that influence the  “business natural selection” process.

There are  Six Indicators or factors that significantly impact the  success and failure of a Partnership outcome. These are:

New Partner Attractors – Sometimes partners get together because of hot topics (ie environmentalism), some because of market buzz (company success), others have “hot” technology (technical advantages), more have functional ability, and for some it is the quality of people.  The true attractor is if the Partnership delivers a  “new value” to the customer.

Technical Domain Competency – The more similar the area of domain the less divergent, the less dependent and the more an organization can rely on in-house expertise rather than the partner.  Because an organization has a strong internal technical resource the emphasis shouldn’t necessarily measure technical competency, but more important it is the experience of doing (i.e. the number of successful implementations completed or product sold), and how complex or amount of time the domain discipline requires, is really how domain competency is measured.

Professionalism – The more strategic a solution or the larger the account, the more likely the final customer will expect a high level of “Competency” and “Professionalism”. It is the combination of “Competency” and “Professionalism” or “Service Quality” that creates the reliability of the  product and ultimate service solution.

Other key values are localization, demand generation, and sales capabilities that allow their team to drive new “up-sell” and “cross-sell” opportunities. These new capabilities provide a reasons to engage with existing clients, and a new way to introduce yourself (a foot in the door) with a new client. This can be supported by:

Localization – Thinking locally, looking local, behaving like a local, while acting globally is the key. It provides client connectedness, capability relevance, and local resilience.

Demand Generation – Hot markets can create leads from the brand and be easily integrated into the existing corporate marketing, such as Webinares, Events, Case Studies, Thought Leadership, SEM (see SEM Channel Partner Methods ) and more. If a Partner Demand Generation capability is a Pull-through only relationship often a “Technology Alliance” (i.e.”Intel Inside”) exists.  So often when competitive products or services enter the market the functional differences may not retain as much value (ie. AMD shows up and the only customer difference is “No Sticker” on the PC). The Partner successes use this to strengthen divergence by delivering partner marketing programs and tactics that both Push and Pull interest.

The Sales Cycle – Partners will likely add “speed to market” and “new market opportunity ” when selling  a complete partner solution. Some brands have a huge opportunity leveraging existing sales organizations that utilize their partner sales stakeholders. By having a partner sales force that supports the different vertical disciplines and complete product solution throughout the end-user customer buying process, rapid growth can flourish. Establishing the combined partner sales process for different products and services across different kinds of markets improves touch points, cycle speed and probability.

Divergence defines a stronger Partner

This is why ideally the best outcome for a Partner Program is “all of the listed factors of divergence”. Understanding these principals ievaluating-alliance-partner-relationships2s key to creating a strong Partner / Brand. By putting together a business relationship that generates long-term Partner Alliances, the use of divergence outreach can differentiate when direct competition creates market confusion. When multiple vendors and sub brands start to appear, creating similar functional value. Building the right Partner organization can deliver the additional momentum and breadth to support confidence and expertise that sustains market leadership.

A non-proprietary summary of the final delivery of a “Partner Marketing ” Engagement, from a major Global Management Consulting Firm for their client.
*Over 50 partner interviews were conducted for this engagement. Applying Organizational Science principals of Divergence has been used to predict outcome by defining the qualitative metric  of “New” ability over the alliance “Interdependence” (N/I)  delivered. The quantitative component is composed of organizational “Quality” as a multiplier of the “Functional” execution that uses a fraction of “Market” size and forecast market potential (Q x F)/M. This is then built into an Input /Output engine to quantify the “Opportunity” potential of a Partner relationship.->

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Improving Your Website… a “Call To Action”

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, DEMAND GENERATION, MARKETING, PUBLIC RELATIONS by Tom Levers on January 21, 2009

directionHow are you measuring your prospect activities when directed to your site?

From hits to clicks and page views to time-on-site, all of these issues are sorrounded by a myriad of ways to measure a website. But remember abandonment rates, they can measure both your efficiency and your effectiveness of the sites “Call To Action” (CTA) objectives.

There are many best practices used for improving the metrics of a site, but your real objective is to fill the sales funnel by getting a registration, requesting a white paper, running a  “cost justification wizard”,  downloading a trial… or any of the many other call to action tactics that increase the probability of the sale. It is imperative to measure each step or action, because its a prime indicator of where or what the Visitor has touched, and it might possibly be the reason they left your site.

Where an action is requested and not taken, we need to build baselines for improvement. No one in the B-to-B organization would accept not tracking and improving the sales processes (by measuring where and why the sales process stalled), you may want to consider the same importance to tracking and improving the abandonment of a “Call To Action”. Here site analytics software is key to improving your Demand Funnel, just as relationship management software is key to improving the Sales Funnel.

By monitoring Web Analytics Dashboards to measure the Demand Funnel you can identify and improve the  “Call to Action Metrics” by developing indicatwebsite-metricsors or KPIs of how to minimize the drop offs. The solution can typically be to modify the registration information required or remodel the page flow or navigation, but first you need to identify the areas to improve.

There are 2 ways to calculate Drop off rate:

The first calculation to take Drop off/Abandonment rate = (Visits of the current CTA Step-Visits of the previous CTA Step)/Visits of the First Conversion Step. This calculation takes into account the Homepage every time we calculate the drop off rate at every step. So in the Funnel, we notice 7000 visits are measured on the Products View (Step 2) and only 2000 Continue to registration which means that the calculation based on the formula would be (2000-7000)/10000 which would be -50% as it is loss.

The second calculation to calculate Drop off/Abandonment rate = (Visits of the current CTA Step-Visits of the previous CTA Step)/Visits of the Previous conversion Step. This calculation takes into account the previous “Call To Action” Step and the current “Call To Action”Step. As an Example In the Funnel, we notice 7000 visits are measured on the Products View  and only 2000 Continue to “Call to Action” which means that the calculation based on the formula would be (2000-7000)/7000 which would be -71%.

Using AB tests on the “Call To Action”  pages can immediately increase the amount of prospects you generate.

AB Testing is a way to test 2 variations of a page in order to determine which page is more successful in terms of pulling people towards a website goal. We split traffic on each page based on a defined proportion (50/50, 90/10). Usually the first step where there are most chances of convincing a user to buy something is the homepage as this is the page that defines a website in terms of visual appeal, product listing, ease of navigation, color scheme and even text. These things go a long way in generating a sense of trust in the users. For e.g. we have a website whose business model is selling books and there are 2 AB Test pages with the first page being the Control (original) having a discount offer banner on the top and the second page doesn’t have any discount offer banner but a slideshow listing the top selling books. We will then put tracking codes on both these pages and identify each page with a unique identifier in order to measure each page’s success. This success is usually measured in terms of the Conversion ratio which can be measured as: Visitors on the Conversion page/Visitors on the Test/Home Page. Some tools that can help you achieve AB Testing are Google Website Optimizer, Verster, SiteSpect and SplitAnalyzer.


Multivariate Testing is the second and the most efficient method to optimize your page. In this method, you don’t use multiple pages to determine a higher conversion rate but you do test the same page by changing the elements around. For example you can test headlines, colors, buttons and images on the same page by correlating each element with each other to find the best possible combination/element. The method used to achieve this is known as the Taguchi Method.This method takes into consideration the sample size and how long a test should run in order to have a clear winner. Google Website Optimizer uses this method to measure a multivariate test. This tool lets you view the various combinations and elements separately and then based on the Taguchi method decides the winner. All you need to do is add a tracking code on to your page and Google Website Optimizer will then split the traffic equally on each element separately.  Some other tools that can help you achieve multivariate Testing are Google Website Optimizer, Optimost, Memetrics, Verster,clouds Maxymiser and Omniture Test & Target.

After using the Taguchi method of page testing and based on the above formulas the result is counter intuitive. It may look like the first method generated a  better rate of abandonment. However, the second funnel is only considered in the respective CTA steps  and not Step 1 (Homepage) because Step 1 is entirely a separate user experience. As a result, the drop off rate should be calculated based on the 2nd CTA Step, as they are independent of the user experience on the other pages of a Funnel. These 2 pages alone can determine how to  improve the conversion rate at each step, as these are not based on the Homepage experience. As example. The Registration form design and involvement is totally different than what it is on the Homepage.

How Do You Measure Success?

Whether your site received 2 visitors or 2 million, that figure is pretty meaningless unless it’s improvement correlates with an increase in enquiries or sales. It’s simple, the yardstick for how the website is measured has changed as analytics scramble to reflect how actionable activities are generated.  Total minutes on a site has its own caveats and is more an awareness thought leadership metric, not a call to action measure. The reliance of marketers on their website becomes increasingly obvious. But with increased spending comes increased expectations; tracking results through basic measures such as click-through and PPC related areas won’t be sufficient. This is why focusing on measuring the various stages of the Demand Funnel and “Call to Action” is the true approach to improving the efficiency and quality of your website performance.