Tom Levers

Build ROI to Create “Urgency”

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING, Sales by Tom Levers on May 28, 2010

ROI Creates Urgency

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” – Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943

At some point IBM learned Computers delivered ROI. Even when you can show convincing functional data about the magnitude of a business problem, it is not enough. The good CEO, consultant, sales person,  product manager also lights a fire, figuratively,  to move on the issue…. of ROI urgency.

This is why a product is “Hot”.

If your sales efforts are in question, take a critical look at your value proposition, presentation proposal, the demonstration… where is the ROI? If it’s pro feature-centric, generic and functional only (with regard to value delivery), it rarely lights a fire.

Prospects today are sitting on their scarce cash reserves and won’t pry open their checkbooks unless they recognize the following:

  1. their customer has a real business problem;
  2. this problem is one of their  top 3 concerns;
  3. you absolutely understand this problem;
  4. you possess a solution that will solve the problem; and,
  5. you can deliver the promised ROI

According to Forrester Vice President Ray Wang, who specializes in software ROI, a new investment in software makes sense if it does one of the following:

  1. Provides efficiency gains that reduce overhead or allow you to do more without adding resources;
  2. Puts you in compliance with legal or contractual requirements, decreases security risk or makes your technology compatible with that of your clients or customers;
  3. Supports a new strategic initiative (such as a customer loyalty program);
  4. Provides increased capacity or functionality to allow your business to grow.

Ask yourself… does your business prospect indicate that they “like” or “need” your product or service?

Many of the projects that get green-lighted are those that solve break/fix matters. Discretionary (aka nice to have) projects are the opportunities that never move or don’t get back to you, they are the ones that get deferred or shot down altogether.

Sometimes all a good service or software firm has to do is better understand the prospect and review the materiality or “heat” of the project .

The more your proposed project is seen as a break/fix necessity, the more likely it will get approved.

To learn how to create more ROI around your service or software product, send me an email. tlevers@comcast.net

Low Friction Sales… the way Customers Buy

Posted in BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING by Tom Levers on April 4, 2010

Sell the Way Customers Want to Buy

Smart companies are providing their prospects with much of the information they need to make a purchase decision when they need it… but true frictionless sales allows the customer to slide into using the product before they make a major investment. When we talk to businesses people they want to be communicated with, but on their own “just in time” terms. In general the business purchase process expects that a product need can be illustrated quickly, with no strings attached, and delivered through whatever best fits the least resistance for acquisition.

Low resistance can be free for now… but does not mean free forever!!!
The more you adapt and satisfy the way your customer wants to buy, the easier it is to close. The easier it is to close a sale, the easier to scale and the faster and more efficiently you can grow.

There are various grades and limitations of friction in different selling models… but there is always more than one methodology for success. So have you honestly evaluated if you are using the most efficient approach?

Don’t know? Well take a look internally. Are you insisting on touching the customer through the A to  Z steps. This often makes you over compensate with high upfront prices because you feel only a person can communicate value, like in the old non-internet methods of sales and marketing? Business selects products that are easy to learn about, easy to use, easy to evaluate… easy to sell. How does a heavy handed sales process make things easy?

The highest friction sale is very expensive upfront, and means you need to spend lots of money on marketing, trade shows, etc and large direct sales force of expensive reps pounding the pavement for months trying to close a large deal with an enterprise customer. Follow that with a 3 month implementation process to get the customer happy.

Here’s a better way to look down the frictionless funnel. Look at how others seemed to make sales frictionless.

No Barriers to Revenue
Remember… some of the largest telecommunications customers on earth, are prolific distributors of subsidized or free handsets, but they sell the services. And free or very inexpensive doesn’t mean no revenue, it means no barriers to revenue. Or how about Microsoft, selling Enterprise Licenses in the data center with an  “All You Can Eat” method of product availability. Need 500 new servers… no problem “we have an Enterprise Agreement ” , no barriers to revenue !

Limiting “Friction” can be applied throughout the selling process… just look at how your custmer buys, not how you learned to sell! This will reduce the pain for customers to adopt and use a product and consequently reduce the cost of sales and marketing to get a customer to generate revenue… then all is needed is to  leverage the product and your new found marketshare.

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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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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.

The New Marketing Revolution of Demand Generation

Posted in MARKETING by Tom Levers on December 30, 2008

Marketing has changed more in the past 3 years than over the past 30

Just think about the reaction you would have received three years ago if you heard that Sun Microsystems was going to encourage employees to blog and set up a contest for its employees, asking them to make the best YouTube video to advertise Sun products. 

Unquestionably a marketing revolution has been unleashed and we see all sorts of marketing organizations talking about new brand experiences. The focus is on customer engagement, in particular trying to reengage consumers who find a lot of the tried-and-true marketing techniques of the past–direct mail (including e-mail), telemarketing, advertischange4ing, not generating the results they once did. By utilizing the old with the new, content is now the key building block of how companies want to engage their customers. The new approaches, technologies and channels, have raised the expectations of the online prospect. Customers want relevant information on their terms and bi-directional communication. Moreover, businesses realize that reaching their customers without simultaneously alienating them is becoming more difficult. Two-way communication gives them a chance to talk to their prospect, instead of at their prospect. 

Measures are everything

With 2009 marketing budgets that are generally flat or decreasing, marketing professionals are under increasing pressure to show a return on marketing spending. The chief marketing officer needs to show relevance to the business, and do more with less, resulting in increased budget scrutiny and the challenge to deliver measurable return on investment (ROI). With the demands for more creativity and accountability, marketing organizations need to be part artist and part scientist.  So instead, marketing organizations need to produce structures to keep the creative…creative. This means fostering breakthrough brand experiences and simultaneously establishing better marketing discipline through processes, controls and metrics. 

Process practice… makes perfect

When you talk abtypewriter1out any process there is a basic lifecycle. In marketing conference rooms you often see documents to map out the process. The diagrams often represent the lifecycle stages from concept to content creation and through to delivery, metrics and feedback. 

 

The next step is to provide an underlying marketing infrastructure to orchestrate and execute on the process. To bring these marketing process diagrams to life, the global brands use a common technology platform. This is so people can seamlessly work with the content, through the process approvals, plan or budget activities, to deliver marketing messages to multiple channels: print, web, mobile and by geographic markets.

 

Solution: Integrated Demand Generation 

To drive marketing performance to new levels, marketers have begun to embrace and implement integrated demand-generation. Unlike delivering marketing as separate tactics, we must synchronize the entire spectrum of offline and online marketing to include speaking panels, word of mouth buzz, email, direct mail, interactive and traditional advertising, SEO, call center, tradeshows, partners programs, and the sales force.  There is an integrated marketing tool box that drives the metrics, methods and processes for the new customer experiences:

Creative –> For users to create compelling content. Platforms to reduce creative bottlenecks, streamlining access to content and creative functions like user experience designers,  so that you don’t make a 1990’s mistake of creating websites from brochures. Delivery –> Web interaction, mobile, video, social networks and integrated communications provide pull to your brand… not just push, but bi-directional and highly dynamic communications. Innovative examples include an XML-based publishing system for multi-channel make a publishing and the ability to participate, capture and report on user generated content, such as blogs and product rankings. Interface –> New interactive experiences are being driven by new Web-based applications and interfaces, including interfaces written and maintained expressive web applications that deploy consistently on all major browsers, desktops, and operating systems. Less clicks, more interaction and the ability to create information context are the goals of better interfaces to drive customer experiences. Innovation examples include facet search, intelligent guides and Flash-based applications. SEM and Analytics –> The Long-Tail and other segmentation models have driven a need to better map message content and segments. The market sees a lot of innovation around how analytics, user-generated content and reporting with campaigns is integrated. Manage your SEO, SEM and Google Analytics (okay, it was Urchin 3 years ago!) Brand Management –> Managing digital brand assets so you can search, access, modify, and repurpose rich media, including photographs, design graphics, interactive media, video, and flash animations. Central repository, intelligent content hanging and workflows helps ensure the right assets are used with the right campaigns. Interactive Communications –> Deliver highly personalized and dynamic content through multi-tactical publishing of thought leadership. Promote bi-directional communications with Web 2.0. Web content management, dynamic XML delivery and publishing workflows help ensure the right message is delivered to the right audience. Marketing Resource Management –> Campaign plans, calendars and budgets, including integration into MRM applications. Reporting and dashboard functions help ensure campaigns are executed on time within budget. Relationship Marketing –> The sales funnel depends on a progression: inquiry to lead to qualified lead to opportunity to sale. Yet, too few companies have a documented and agreed-upon demand-creation and management process between their sales and marketing organizations. According to research conducted by CSO Insights, these companies pudemand-generation2t themselves at a significant disadvantage. Companies with mature, defined lead-generation and management practices have a 9.3 percent higher sales-quota achievement rate than companies that do not, a 16.5 percent higher conversion rate of leads to first calls, and a 7.0 percent higher sales-win rate. The statistics strongly suggest that the impact of documented marketing processes at the top of the funnel is felt deep into the sales pipeline. Leverage relationship management. These processes help ensure that you execute segmented campaigns and turn leads into sales. For organizations with longer sales cycles and higher price-point solutions, process alignment is critical to sales performance. Often the opportunity size between deals that were the target of marketing campaigns while in the sales pipeline versus those opportunities that sales team shielded from further marketing campaigns resulted in the delta in average selling price of several hundred thousand dollars was striking, suggesting that marketing can dramatically increase deal size when it is properly aligned with sales.

 

 

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