Online marketing and how it influences your sales pipeline

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To assist me in articulating to my clients how online marketing aligns with a typical sales process, I produced a diagram which shows the different stages in the marketing and sales process and how online marketing is used to drive leads, prospects and sales opportunites down the sales funnel.

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1. Awareness

Using a combination of your company website, search engine optimisation, search engine marketing, content marketing, your personal or company blog, social media marketing and smart phone and tablet apps, you create awareness and build credibility and encourage people to follow, connect, join your groups and subscribe to your blog and newsletter and interact with you.

2. Nurturing subscribers

People who have subscribed to your newsletter have given you permission to communicate with them on a regular basis. This is where you continue to build credibility and stay top of mind. Producing good content is crucial in order to retain subscribers and to encourage them to continue consuming your content and sharing your content with their respective communities.

3. Offline sales activity

This is where you make the transition from an online to an offline engagement and where the online channel can still play a part in building credibility. This is where you meet face-to-face with prospective clients, build relationships and present proposals.

4. Closing business

The is the last phase of the sales process and the start of an ongoing relationship with your new client. This is still an important element of your online marketing process because new and existing clients will (hopefully) provide favourable references online and can potentially allow you to publish case studies and testimonials on your website.

 

How do you know when your organisation has truly embraced digital?

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Companies around the world are still undergoing digital transition. Some believe they are there already whilst others still have their heads buried in the sand. Digital is a loose term and can encompass many things, so for the purpose of this article, I am talking specifically about the use of digital as an organisation’s “window to the world”. Here are five “digitally transformed organisation” indicators.

1. Digitally educated employees

You generally find pockets of expertise in companies, with groups of individuals managing the website, online advertising, search engine optimisation, the corporate blog, social media channels and direct marketing. Whilst this should still be the case in a digitally transformed organisation, every employee should know what the company does online, know where they can contribute, understand what content and interaction is managed and how the company, and individuals within the company, benefit.

2. The digital channel is always considered

In the digitally aware organisation, every individual will consider how they can use the digital channel in their day to day activities, when developing strategy or planning ahead for an event. Employees will ensure that they have an updated LinkedIn profile, those managing Twitter accounts will generate tweets on a regular basis, employees will take photos and post on the corporate Facebook page, all thought ware and opinion pieces will be blogged regularly and shared across relevant channels, activities and thought leaders will be video-ed and uploaded to the corporate YouTube account and employees will be responsive to online questions, queries and conversation.

3. Optimised paid, earned and owned media

Companies that are well and truly on the digital bandwagon will be reviewing their investments in the three main media buckets of earned, shared and paid (which each give opportunities to influence customers) and will be measuring their returns in order to set their investment at the right level. Owned media includes the website, mobile site, blog and social media accounts. Paid media includes display ads, paid search and sponsorships. Earned media is “word of mouth”, creating “buzz” and going viral. Digital companies optimise each of these to maximise the return on their digital investment.

4. Online channels are the digital extension of the company

The digital channel is described by some as cold, so the digitally astute company will use the the online channels they have at their disposal to humanise wherever possible. With proper use of words and images and video on the corporate blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and email, they give their online presence a personality to which their communities form an emotional attachment. Companies that get this right are the ones who build loyal online communities and produce content that is shared and hopefully goes viral.

5. Digitally transformed companies should have fun online

I left the most important point to last. Digital companies have fun when participating online and this is noticed by their online community. These companies post content, comments, blog posts, images and video that encapsulate the essence, spirit and personality of the company. When they are hosting and/or attending events, these are captured and shared. Client experiences are captured and shared (with their permission of course). When they are doing pro bono work at a local orphanage or school, they take photos and publish them. It is all these collective experiences, when captured and shared that humanises their online presence and encourages their communities to form real connections.

Do you agree or disagree with some of these points? Is there something I have left out? Do you have any comments? I would love to hear from you.

 

8 C’s to get the best bang for the buck from your B2B online marketing

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Based on my digital marketing efforts and experience to date, I have identified eight areas where you need to focus your efforts to optimise the effectiveness and return on investment from the business-to-business online marketing process within your organisation.

If you would like to continue this conversation in more detail, I welcome your comments at the end of the blog post or interact with me on LinkedIn and Twitter

1. Content

Adequate production of suitable thought ware across your relevant service lines and industries is an absolutely essential.  The content you create must “showcase” the products, solutions and services your organisation provides. The content you produce should be suited for the different channels you manage. For an email introducing an article, the article in question should be quite detailed, content for a blog post should be shorter and to the point. If you are using YouTube, arrange to have a short video clip produced where the thought leader discusses the specific content.    

2. Channels

Constantly review your processes to optimise the digital channels you are utilising. Remember that you are dependent on the channels your prospective clients choose to use. Monitor the market on a regular basis. Try new things. Poll your prospects and clients and ask them what they prefer. Marketers who anticipated Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube as future channels of choice for their prospects and clients will have benefitted from this foresight.

3. Change Management

You cannot manage B2B digital marketing in isolation. It has to be owned by the entire business.  Develop a change management strategy to educate the relevant persons within your business on the positive effects they will experience by utilising the digital channels effectively. Showing them how to create a Twitter account and how to tweet is not enough. Take them through the full process from cradle to grave and show some examples of business meetings being created, proposals being requested and business deals won.  Make B2B Digital marketing part of your organisation’s DNA!

4. Communities

The products, services and solutions you provide will determine how your market will prefer to interact with you. Figure this out and build your communities accordingly. Once you have acquired a Like, Follow, Connection, subscription, make sure you nurture this audience appropriately. If you are targeting a finite, known market, do the research and identify who you are connecting with and devise a strategy to develop an online relationship with the rest.  Don’t worry about quantities but rather on the quality of the conversations you are having. Identify social media influencers, relevant people in the media and brand advocates and look after them.

5. CVs

If you are using digital effectively, it is a good idea to create online resumes for all your thought leaders. If you share a thought piece and include the name of the thought leader, you should also provide a link to the person’s LinkedIn profile. Their LinkedIn profile should contain a decent photograph, a good summary explaining their personal value proposition and adequate connections, endorsements and recommendations.

6. Call back

Successful B2B digital marketing models have a golden thread from start to finish. At a specific point in the B2B marketing process, you may have to pass leads onto your sales team or someone responsible for taking the process to the next step.  As a follow up to all B2B digital marketing campaigns, the relevant persons need to follow up timeously and ask for appointments, set up meetings, ask if the person requires additional information, etc.

7. Closing the loop

Obtaining adequate feedback from the business in terms of meetings, requests for proposals and business won is very important. Make of point of asking the “business” on a regular basis on what happened with the leads you sent them. File this information away so that you can report back to the business on a later stage on all the successes as a result of your B2B didgital marketing activities.

8. Compliance

There are all kinds of legislation already out there and proposed amendments that may be passed soon. Consult with a digital communication legal specialist, get them to assess your existing environment and to provide you with feedback in terms of where you do not comply with existing legislation, what you need to do in order to comply and what plans you should be putting in place now in order to comply with legislation that is coming soon. This can be a big differentiator for you if your competitors are not doing anything about it.

I hope these eight points will be of assistance to you. Do you have any comments? Have I left something out? Do you agree or disagree with some of the points?  I would love to hear from you. 

Five tips to drastically improve your online marketing efforts

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So many organisations are missing the trick completely in the online space because they are incapable of ridding themselves of dated marketing behaviour of the past. I have listed five things you should do to derive tangible benefit from your online marketing activities.

1.     Provide value at all costs

Good content marketers keep harping on about this but so many do not listen. The Internet was developed all those years ago for people to find information that would add value to their lives. The emphasis here is on the recipient, not the person developing and sharing content. Online marketers that want to truly see notable results must produce information that is interesting, insightful, value-adding, intriguing and sharable. The more content you share that carries these attributes, the more people will continue to listen to you.

2.     Change the “I” to “you”

Go on a first date and talk about yourself all the time and see how well you fair. Generally, your will not make it to the second date. Online marketers that want to get noticed must talk about the customer, not themselves. Lose words like “I”, “we”, “us” and “our” and replace with “you” and “your”. The more you place the emphasis on the recipient, the more you instill a feeling that you actually care about them.

3.     Give away content

Ensure that at all times, that you give away content without ever expecting anything in return. It may take some time for recipients to realise that you are not going to ask them for anything in return, and when it does, you are on the road to developing some good online relationships. What happens during this process is that people continue to listen to you, but you are building credibility along the way and being viewed as a trusted adviser. As you are communicating regularly with your community, you are staying top of mind, and there is a greater propensity for your subscribers to contact you when they have a business challenge or a requirement that may be addressed by the services you provide.

4.     Never mention the products, services and solutions 

If you are an opportunistic salesperson or marketer, then mention all the products, services and solutions you sell, but remember this will be a once off exercise. You may land a few orders, but you will also upset a great deal of people who will report you for spamming them or who will unsubscribe from any future communication.

5.     Focus on subtle promotion

Online marketers who employ best practice techniques will:

  • Focus on the clients challenges and problems
  • Offer solutions, methodologies, approaches, tips, advice and guidance to resolve problems
  • Not talk about themself, their company, their products, services and solutions
  • Give selflessly without expecting anything in return

but this does not mean they will not include links to:

  • Their website where they talk about their company, products and solutions
  • Their LinkedIn profile and company page where they showcase their skills and qualifications
  • Invitations to meet to discuss specific business topics in more detail
  • Business events which they are hosting or attending

This advice is based on our past experience and results we have achieved through the adoption of this approach. Do you have any anything to add?

Online marketing is a full time job? Really?

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I participated in a conference call earlier today with colleagues in another region where I was describing my role and what I do on a daily basis. After going through all my daily responsibilities I was somewhat bemused when one of the persons on the call said “But that sounds like a full-time job”. After hearing this I thought it may be a good idea to explain a “day in the life of an online marketer”

Preparation of content

Any online marketer is dead in the water without good content to fuel their online marketing fire. In order to source good content, you need to meet with thought leaders on a regular basis to encourage them and assist with the creation of content. Any good content marketer will know that content has to be fit for purpose, depending on the channel they are using.

Publishing the daily blog post

There are no hard rules around the frequency of blog posts but the general rule is not too many, not too few and focus on quality. I attempt to schedule one blog post per day, preferably first thing in the morning.

Sharing blog post across online channels

Depending on the social networks you are participating on, you may want to introduce your published article differently. As you know, Twitter has a 140 character limitation so you want to be brief but still attempt to attract attention. In terms of Twitter I try to attract the attention of social media influencers and journalists and editors from popular business publications. In some cases I will contact certain individuals through a Direct Message (DM) and email or mention their Twitter handle in my tweet.

When sharing on LinkedIn and Google+ you are able to prepare a longer introduction to the content and ask your community for their comments, opinion and feedback. Besides the LinkedIn update, I also share the article on the relevant LinkedIn groups I manage and other groups I have joined. I also include specific people I am connected with on LinkedIn. In the LinkedIn groups I manage I will also use my weekly announcements feature on the groups to send an announcement to group members.

After creating updates on all the relevant social networks I then add a scheduled update on Socialoomph for Twitter and LinkedIn.

Preparation of email campaigns

For our email subscribers, we will identify specific content and determine which roles within organisations and which industries we should be targeting. I then need to prepare the templates for the relevant emails, create the filters, insert links, send a test to check that all is in order and then schedule the email.

Dialogue with community

Any online marketer or community manager has to ensure that all comments on blog posts, DMs on Twitter, shout outs on Twitter, replies to email campaigns, requests for information, CVs sent, comments on LinkedIn updates, comments on LinkedIn groups, requests to connect on LinkedIn, requests to join LinkedIn groups, discussions submitted on LinkedIn groups which require authorisation (I will end it there) are attended to and responded to timeously. This is an all day task and depending on what campaigns you are busy with, varies in intensity.

Measurement and feedback

This has to be done on a regular basis so that the relevant stakeholders within the organisation are kept abreast of all online marketing activities, understand the effectiveness of the channel and are able to react quickly to sales leads that are generated through my efforts.

Writing articles and supporting other influencers

I also need to find time to identify suitable subject matter to write about for subscribers to my personal blog and for sites where I am a guest blogger. Over and above that, I need to spend time reading, commenting on and sharing articles written by thought leaders.

So if you are looking for someone to manage your online marketing, I can assure you that if you want to do it properly and get results, then budget for a full time person.

Is there anything I have missed out? Please add to my list.

Your 2013 LinkedIn checklist to enhance your personal brand

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LinkedIn may have played second fiddle to the likes of Facebook and Twitter for some time but things have changed. Besides the explosion of LinkedIn user numbers on a global basis, LinkedIn has introduced a whole bunch of new features and functions which has radically improved the user experience. If you are serious about exposing and enhancing your online brand from a business perspective, LinkedIn is the place to be, however if you are going to use LinkedIn, I advise you not to do things in half measures. Here is a list of LinkedIn “must do’s” to start your 2013 off with a bang.

1. Upload a decent photo

Statistically, there is a greater propensity for people to connect with you if your profile has a DECENT photo. LinkedIn is a business social network, so in most (if not all) cases, the accepted norm is a colour head and shoulders shot. If you want to project a professional image, then I suggest that your attire is business casual. Make sure the image has enough resolution to be enlarged without blurring.

2. Include job history

As you would do with your resume when seeking a new job, include a detailed account of your past employers and your role within the organisation. You wouldn’t go to a job interview with half a resume, so don’t do this online for all the world to see. Even if you are not a job seeker and you are using LinkedIn to promote your expertise, potential clients will want to know what you did in the past.

3. Provide a good summary

The LinkedIn summary is your “brag sheet” or 30 second elevator pitch. You want to create a good impression as quick as possible and this is the ideal place to do so. Use the summary to explain your core skills, where and how you add value with one or two examples.

4. Where were you educated?

Besides your job history, potential employers and clients want to know where you were educated and what qualifications you have. Besides schooling and tertiary education, make mention of the certificate courses, diplomas, short courses, awards achieved.

5. Add skills and ask for endorsements

A recent addition to LinkedIn is the ability to have other LinkedIn users you are connected with to endorse your skills. This is the LinkedIn’s version of word of mouth marketing. If I have heard from multiple sources that a person is good at something, there is a good chance that I will believe it. The best way to get endorsements is to endorse others and they will reciprocate. If they don’t, then ask them to.

6. Ask for recommendations

Reach out to your colleagues, clients, ex-clients, past employers and manager and ask them to add a recommendation. When applying for a job or tendering for a project you always include references. This is exactly the same. The more references the better. Just remember to reciprocate!

7. Connect!

This is what LinkedIn is all about. Reach out to all your colleagues, friends, associates, past employers, past and existing clients and connect with them. Remember to follow LinkedIn protocol when doing so otherwise this feature will be blocked. If you do not know someone personally, but would like to connect, ask someone you are connected with to introduce you.

8. Join groups

There are MANY LinkedIn groups out there so take your time joining groups. The idea behind joining groups is so you can interact with LIKE-MINDED individuals. If this is not happening, then leave the group. You also join groups to learn, so if there isn’t decent interaction and/or the subject matter is poor, then leave the group. You can use groups to build credibility and to let people know that you are knowledgeable around certain subjects. In order to do this you have to participate in discussions. Ask questions, post content, use the polling feature, but participate.

9. Monitor updates

Check updates on the LinkedIn home page. This is where you have visibility of all the updates made by your connections. If there is good content, read it, share it and comment on it. The more you do this, the more you are noticed and the more your connections will support you. Remember that your connections have extended networks. As soon as they start sharing your content and comments, the more your content is noticed.

10. Share articles where you have been published

LinkedIn provides a great feature where you can showcase articles that have been published which you may have wrote or where you have been interviewed or quoted. This just helps to build your credibility.

11. Include contact information

Make sure to include all contact information such as email address and telephone numbers. If you use Twitter and have a blog, be sure to include links to these platforms to. Just ensure that your blog and tweets are current if you are going to do this.

There are many other great features and functions available on LinkedIn which you should take the time to explore, but I will leave you with these 11 tips to enhance your personal brand for the time being. I can assure you that if you use this advice, you will see the results. Have a great 2013!

Do you have any other LinkedIn tips to add? Would you like to share any of your personal experiences? What is your opinion of LinkedIn?

I invite you to connect on LinkedIn or chat on Twitter

How to create a decent Twitter profile and Twitter best practice

More and more businesses and business people are recognising Twitter as a great environment where to keep abreast of breaking news, source information and connect and interact with like-minded individuals. What many are still getting wrong however are the basis such as the creation of a decent profile and effective participation on Twitter. 

I have listed a few tips below that should assist you in deriving more value and benefit from Twitter. If I have left any out I would love to hear from you here on my blog or on Twitter (@DavidGrahamSA)

Creating Your Twitter Account

Your Picture – This is one of the most important aspects of your Twitter profile because that’s what people are going to look at first, before making their decision of adding you as a friend or not. My advice is to insert a real picture of you (or the picture of a man/woman). I don’t recommend adding a logo or an abstract image because people don’t really relate to those. However, people can easily relate to the picture of another man or woman.

Background Image – Do not use one of Twitter’s background images. It won’t be personalized enough. Instead, I suggest you upload your own image as a background. Many websites let you download Twitter backgrounds or even create your own. Click here for a list of free Twitter backgrounds resources.

Name – It is important that you use a real name, and not just a brand or a website URL. People will more easily trust a real person’s name than they will a brand or website address. It makes sense, but still, many people do the mistake of not using a real name.

Username – Your username is what people will see on Twitter. Avoid having numbers or special characters in your username. If possible, try to have a single word or an association of 2 words.

More Info URL – This is your one chance to drive traffic to your website without doing anything. If you can, create a custom page on your website to welcome people coming from your URL on your Twitter profile. You can for example create a page to welcome them and tell them what your website is about and maybe give them a few links so they can easily browse the important pages.

One Line Bio – The bio is another very important element of your Twitter profile. You have to be able to tell people about you in 140 characters or less. Think of it as a mini resume so be as concise as possible.

Twitter Best Practice

Share – Share photos and behind the scenes info about your business. Even better, give a glimpse of developing projects and events. Users come to Twitter to get and share the latest, so give it to them!

Listen – Regularly monitor the comments about your company, brand, and products.

Ask – Ask questions of your followers to glean valuable insights and show that you are listening.

Respond – Respond to compliments and feedback in real time

Reward – Demonstrate wider leadership and know-how. Reference articles and links about the bigger picture as it relates to your business. Champion your stakeholders. Retweet and reply publicly to great tweets posted by your followers and customers.

Establish the right voice – Twitter users tend to prefer a direct, genuine, and of course, a likable tone from your business, but think about your voice as you Tweet. How do you want your business to appear to the Twitter community?

Do you have anything to add to this list?