Tag Archives: business

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.

online marketing pipeline

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.

 

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

The level playing field has turned into a content arms race

This article which I have reblogged from Schaefer Marketing Solutions, emphasises the importance of content in your social media marketing strategy. 

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The level playing field has turned into a content arms race

(This article was written by Mark Schaefer and was originally published on the Schaefer Marketing Solutions website. Click Here to access the original article).    

Have I ever told you how much I love Gini Dietrich? For me, she is such an amazing role model for dong it right on the social web. And if you’re one of the five people on earth not already following her Spin Sucks blog, go do that now.

Gini is a smart and savvy friend and we don’t always see eye to eye, which makes her an even better friend. Last week she penned a post about how Facebook seems to be unfairly squeezing money from us by forcing us to use paid promoted posts to reach people who are already following us. It’s a good point of course, but I fell off Gini’s wagon at this point:

The awesome thing about the web and social media, in particular, is it levels the playing field. No longer do you need millions of dollars to spend on PR firms and ad agencies in order to build your brand and reputation among the masses.

Today all you need is a good writer, a self-hosted website and/or blog, and organically grown social networks. With those three things, you suddenly are competing with the big boys for reputation and credibility. You’re seen as a thought leader in your industry. You’re creating kinship among your prospects. And you’re selling in a way that has never before been possible.

All of the tools are free so it’s a really low barrier to entry. And it works.

You see, I have been thinking just the opposite about our social media world. Yes, three years ago Gini was probably right. When the social web was young almost any foray into social media was novel and attracted attention. It was pretty cheap and the entry barriers were indeed low. You could post a video of a bride falling into a swimming pool and it would go viral.

No longer.

Today YouTube is mainstream entertainment fueled by slick corporate video content. People have increasingly sophisticated expectations about what they’re going to find on your Facebook page, Twitter stream, or blog.

I recently saw a statistic that stated there was more information created on the web in the last two years than all of human history combined. I don’t know if that is true or not and I rarely let facts get in the way of a good story anyway, so let’s just say it makes a point — there is an enormous amount of data to get through these days. Heck, even Mashable makes me dizzy.

The content arms race

To succeed on the social web today you better bring your A Game and a bucket of money. To connect with customers today you need to consistently provide useful, relevant, and entertaining content — and that is not cheap. And as the information density on the web increases, so too will the cost to produce that great content.

Yes, yes, I know there are plenty of companies who are still finding niche success with modest social media programs but as soon as their competitors get in the game, the content arms race begins.

As I wrote recently, the social web is NOT a level playing field. There is definitely a first-mover advantage for people who have the money to create useful content and overwhelming amounts of it (which then become entrenched in the search rankings). In the long term, you probably will NOT be competing with the “big boys” (as Gini states) with just a writer and a blog.

Can you talk the CEO into doing social media?

Here is a great article by Dave Thomas I discovered on ViralBlog which provides good reasons why your CEO should invest in social media.

Can you talk the CEO into doing social media?

You are the chief marketing officer at your company and you have to approach the big man or woman about trying something out. The goal, to get them to sign off on putting major time and effort into a social media campaign.

Yes, the company is doing well overall, but you and others know it could be turning an even bigger return on investment.

The sticking point, however, the CEO is not exactly tripping over themselves to integrate social media into your company’s marketing plan. So, where does that leave you?

As many who do marketing for a living know, one of the main goals of any business is to stay a step ahead of the competition. In your heart of hearts, you feel passionately that your company is missing out on a key area, promoting itself through social media.

For many chief marketing officers, it takes a little extra time and effort to sell the head of the company on all the good things that social media can do for your business. The CEO is oftentimes questioning the true value of social media, saying they have trouble getting a true read on its ROI to the business.

Social Media Continues to Grow for Many Companies

When you find yourself in that position, throw a few of the following statistics at the CEO from the 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

Among them:

  • Ninety-four percent of all companies with a marketing department used social media as a portion of their marketing platform;
  • Nearly 60 percent of marketers are devoting what amounts to a full work day to social media marketing development and maintenance;
  • Forty-three percent of people aged 20-29 spend more than 10 hours a week on social media sites;
  • Eighty-five of all companies that have a dedicated social media platform as part of their marketing strategy noted a gain in their market exposure, while 58 percent of businesses that have used social media marketing for more than three years stated seeing an increase in sales over that period.

So, if those numbers still have your company’s CEO questioning the importance of a solid social media effort by your team, share some of these thoughts with them:

Engaging consumers – As more and more shoppers go on-line to browse and shop, not engaging them on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social media platforms is flat out wrong. According to a recent Forrester Research Inc. report, on-line shoppers in the U.S. are forecast to spend $327 billion in 2016, an increase of 45 percent from $226 billion this year and 62 percent from $202 billion in 2011. In 2016, e-retail will account for 9 percent of total retail sales, a jump from 7 percent in both 2012 and 2011, according to the report, “U.S. On-line Retail Forecast, 2011 to 2016,” by Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. That amounts to a compound annual growth rate of 10.1 percent over the five-year forecast period. With those kind of projections, companies need to be socially engaged;

Avert on-line problems – Another reason your goal as a CMO is to have a solid social media presence for your company is knowing what folks are saying about your business. Are customers turning to Twitter and Facebook to complaint about your products or services? Are they taking to social media venues to disperse unfounded rumors about your company? Lastly, is your competition talking about you in ways that do not truly define your company? Three more reasons to be actively involved in social media;

Be seen as an authority – Finally, a strong social media presence allows your company to be seen as an authority in its particular industry. Consumers are more apt to come to your Facebook and Twitter company pages if you are providing valuable links, authoritative blog posts, informative press releases and more. As your likes and followers increase, you can point to these figures in your brochures and other company promotions, giving you more clout with consumers.

While you will not always be able to sell your company’s top person on social media, your goal as a CMO is to promote it wherever and whenever possible.

By all accounts, social media is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Wouldn’t you rather be the CMO who was in front of the social media train than the one running to keep up with it?

Dave Thomas, who discusses subjects such as installing the right home gutter guards and starting a home business, has more than 20 years of experience as a business writer.

11 Reasons Why Social Business is Like Dating

I wrote an article for Memeburn titled Social media is a Virtual Cocktail Party where I compared participation on social networks with a cocktail party. Along a similar vein this article (written by guest author Susanna Gebauer on jeffbullas.com), titled 11 Reasons Why Social Business is Like Dating, shows the similarities between social business and dating. Take the time to read what Susanna has written. If you apply this with your online social business activities, you will see significant and positive results!

11 Reasons Why Social Business is Like Dating

My brother Jonathan (with whom I founded exploreB2B) often describes our platform as a “dating site for businesses.”

This is one reason why, in a recent interview conducted by my colleague Erin for her ‘Unraveling Social Business’ series, her interview with Michael Brenner came as such a pleasant surprise. In talking about an effective social business strategy, Brenner made a comment directly addressing the romantic analogy. He said:

“It may sound like I’m talking about dating, but that is another often-used analogy for social business. Too many companies are out shopping for a spouse and jumping right to the big question of ‘will you marry me?’ and our potential customers are saying, ‘slow down. I don’t even know you.’”

Obviously there must be something more to the analogy of dating and business communication than just a playful and catchy slogan.

What makes social business comparable to dating? What useful advice can we take from our dating experience? The 11 tips below discuss how business communication relates to dating – what you can learn from the romantic world of social business.

1. It takes time to get to know each other and build trust.

This is the obvious takeaway from Michael Brenner’s above statement. The bigger the deal, the more intimately you want to understand your counterpart before you get in too deep. Sure there might be love at first sight, but the successful marriages based on a short-term meeting and elopement are rare.

2. It’s not all about scoring.

In dating we have learned (or haven’t we?): even if you just want to get in the sack, making this goal obvious will not get you any closer to achieving it. Courting and flirting are necessary to lead to any meaningful interaction – and if the build up is fun, both parties will want to connect (and come back for more).

The same goes for social business. Let real communication that is not focused on the “end deal” be part of the process. To establish a multifaceted professional relationship, allow the conversation to drift off topic – be creative, intellectual, lighthearted and genuine. There will be a time for closing the deal, when that time is right for both parties.

3. Don’t push too hard.

When I was young(er), there was a weird rule in dating: do not call earlier than three days after the first date. Even though hard time limits seem a bit out of order, there is some truth to it. If you haven’t decided whether or not you want to continue dating someone, feeling harassed into a decision will probably turn into a “no.” Giving time to ponder might get you curious for another meeting.

In social business courting, you do not want to let your leads feel forgotten, but part of successful marketing involves staying on your counterpart’s radar. In content marketing, this means allowing them to consume your high-quality information on their terms. Give enough frequent information and content to communicate, discuss, and be helpful – without constantly repeating, “So, what about that deal?”

4. First impressions can be deceiving.

It is not always the most flashy and shiny date you are going to marry and spend the rest of your life with. Some people know the game. While they often make for a fun “date” – they would be disastrous as a lifelong partner.

The same goes in business: it is not always the most flashy marketing campaign or additional discount that make for the best, sustainable deal. Take your time in choosing smart and reliable partners – and strive to elicit these qualities yourself.

5. Different needs, different partners.

In dating, sometimes you only have the time and/or desire for a casual fling. There are other times you are looking for a steady, long-term relationship. The more serious you are about a date, the more thought and consideration you will put into choosing your partner.

In business, some deals are of vital importance and long lasting; others are short-term commitments. Be certain you know which type of relationship you are looking for, before you invest time and energy into your commitment. Especially when making costly decisions, take the time and thoughtfulness to make sure you are getting (and giving) enough to support the type of relationship you wish to enter.

6. Self-promotion is a real bore.

Have you ever dated someone who was constantly praising his or herself? Was it a good date? (They never are.) Usually these turn out to be the most boring kind of dates. Even when you decide to grin and bear it, the self-inflation rarely turns out to be true or beneficial. Confidence is a key element of attraction, and over-promotion proves that it is lacking.

The same goes for social business. You need to be confident that your product or service is the best. Yet, shouting and repeatedly boasting, “I am the best,” will neither inspire trust nor get you any closer to a valuable deal. In social business, it is vital to communicate knowledge and expertise, rather than over-promoting your products or services. Be believable (and pleasant to listen to) by demonstrating rather than telling why you are the most eligible bachelor or bachelorette.

7. Sometimes, the best things grow with time.

Sometimes you meet someone you like, yet you do not date for various reasons: you are in a relationship, you are business partners, your best friend has a fancy for the person in question, you are leaving country next week… Whatever the reason, it might not be final. When the time is right, you might turn back, meet again and find that nurturing the relationship with time was worth the wait.

In business the same situation often arises: you like someone, you trust their expertise, you believe in their products, yet the time is not right for a deal. Circumstances change, new needs and business opportunities arise. When the time is right, someone who knows you and trusts your expertise will come to you if he has a deal to give in your field of interest.

8. Don’t try to make your partner someone they are not.

I am a woman, a mathematician and 6 feet tall. I have been on dates, where the guy obviously had a problem with who I am and constantly tried to make me feel like the timid small girl he really should have dated. This kind of misbalanced date does not work, and cannot be made to work by belittling your “opponent.”

A business relationship should be a balanced partnership. Everybody wants to gain; everybody has something valuable to give (and something to lose). It does not inspire trust, if you try to have the upper hand.

9. Know when it’s time to break it off.

There are many reasons a pair will be mismatched. How many terrible dates have you been on for every one good one? The reasons are plentiful for engaging with someone who isn’t right (your mother set you up, your couple friend has a friend, you agreed to go out with someone you met during last call at a bar). While there may be initial attraction, it is important to take action when you recognize that it is not the right match.

In social business there are also plenty of meetings that may take place. Unless you have unlimited time and a plentiful budget, know when to cut your losses.

Note: This is why understanding your clients needs and establishing initial trust are so important (to avoid having to cut your losses).

10. Be clear about your intentions.

You probably do not plan to marry every date you go out with. Still, you can have a lot of fun together. The most important issue is that both parties are open and honest about their intentions. To be dishonest in dating might help achieve short-term goals, yet it is a sure way of ending the relationship (with a bad aftertaste).

The same applies to social business dating. You might be able to fool someone into a bad deal, yet in the end, this will not pay off. A happy customer will want to engage for a long period of time – and provide you with positive recommendations when the deal is closed.

11. It’s not hard to smell a phony.

Have you ever gotten the feeling that the person sitting on the date in front of you is a phony? That what they are saying is not their own opinion, but merely an attempt to tell you what they think you want to hear?

Just like we value originality and individual motivation in those we date, we also strive to engage in business with people and companies who we believe will provide us with honesty, original ideas and solutions. Don’t be the person who fills their potential customers and clients with a mouthful of false promises. Strive to be both transparent and to provide something that no one else had produced.

Love and Marriage?

In today’s world of social business, behavior in dating and business courting can be strikingly similar. Some of the things you keep in mind when dating, should also be considered in business communication. (It is, after all, a long-term investment.) Even if you do not end up married, integrity is key for your reputation and for pursuing healthy relationships in the future.

Guest Author: Susanna Gebauer is one of the founders of the social publishing and content marketing platform exploreB2B. You can find more of Susanna’s content on her profile on exploreB2B. You can also find Susanna on Twitter.

What social media advice would you give to a Chief Information Officer today?

What social media advice would you give to a Chief Information Officer today?

I am speaking to a group of Chief Information Officers from prominent South African companies on Tuesday 13th November about social media. My presentation will focus on my social media journey and my observations and key learnings along the way.

I plan on talking about crowd sourcing as one example of the “power of social media”. To supplement the advice I will provide at the session, I would like to include your comments, if you would like to make a contribution that is. I will be sure to include your name and contact details.

Yours Sincerely
David Graham

The 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Practices and Trends

Hubspot released their 2012 State of Inbound Marketing ebook which is essential reading for any digital marketer. The report is based on a January 2012 survey of 972 professionals familiar with their business’ marketing strategy. The key takeaways are:

Inbound Marketing Brings Low-Cost Leads

Inbound marketing channels are maintaining their low-cost advantage. Inbound marketing-dominated organizations experience a cost per lead 61% lower than outbound marketing-dominated organizations.

More Spending on Inbound Channels

The distribution of marketing budgets continues to shift to inbound channels. The difference between inbound and outbound marketing expenditures grew by 50% from 2011 to 2012.

Social media Growth

2012 saw growth in social media use across the spectrum. 62% of companies said that social media had become more important as a source of leads in the past six months.

The Rise of Google+

Google+ has started to affect social media marketing. Within six months of its launch, over 40% of marketers consider it “useful,” “important” or “critical.” It’ll be interesting to see how Google+ affects marketers in the future.

Increasing Value of Blogging

Businesses are increasingly aware their blog is highly valuable. 81% of businesses rated their company blogs as “useful,” “important” or “critical.” An impressive 25% rated their company blog as “critical” to their business.

Click Here to access the full report

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