There’s a huge difference between what our customers go through to buy and what most sales people do in trying to sell those customers. It’s this difference that causes much of the disconnect between customers and sales people.

There’s a huge difference between what our customers go through to buy and what most sales people do in trying to sell those customers.  It’s this difference that causes much of the disconnect between customers and sales people.  It’s recognizing this difference and engaging customers in their entire buying process that separates great sales people from everyone else.

Loosely, I characterize the buying process as Why, How, Who, When,  and What.  I’ll pause for a moment,  you’ll have to give me a little literary license as I describe this.  I know I’ll get comments saying is should be another variant of these words, but I’m asking you to focus on the concepts in this discussion.

The Why is what starts a buying process.  The Why really focuses on the “Why do we need to change?”  The why is about the disruption of what the customer is doing now.  It addresses opportunities the customer may be missing, opportunities to improve operations, to reduce costs, to improve efficiency, to improve effectiveness, to improve revenues.  The why forces the customer to focus on the consequences of not changing.  In this stage, the customer also focuses on defining the desired outcomes or results they would like to achieve.

Until the customer recognizes and addresses the Why, they never enter into a buying cycle.

The How addresses the process of How they will organize themselves to buy.  Who is an integral part of this. Who needs to be involved in this process?  How do we get the right people involved in the change process, How do we align different agendas and priorities, how will they get the approvals necessary, how will we define and scope the problem and the solution, how will we evaluate alternatives, and so forth.

The When focuses on When the customer needs achieve the desired outcomes or the results they seek to achieve.  “We need to see a 25% improvement in profitability by XX date.”  “We need to have the new factory in operation by YY Date.”  “We need to have the new product on the market by ZZ date.”  The when also focuses on the sequence of things that must be done by certain dates to

The What focuses on What the customer is going to do to achieve the desired outcomes.  What encompasses a whole bunch of stuff.  It includes, what changes they have to make to achieve their desired outcomes and goals.  These include business process, organizational, people, possibly cultural, and other things.

It also involves the what solutions they need to put in place to help them drive the results.  This is usually where sales people focus their attention.  They focus on presenting their solutions and convincing the customer to select theirs.

But it’s even worse.  The customers are engaging sales later in this part of the process (the what solution) phase than ever before.  They are doing their own research, they are narrowing choices.  So the amount of time sales is involved and the opportunity we have to influence their buying is increasingly becoming marginalized–as it should be if all we do is focus on the “what solution” part of the buying process.

So buying involves a whole lot more than what most sales people think.  Typically, we are involved near the end of the customer process–after they have done the most difficult work.  There is very little we can influence at this point–and very little value that we can create at this point.

This is also where a lot of our prospecting goes way off base.  We typically call customers blindly addressing the “What,”  (What ERP systems are you currently using?  What copiers are you using?  What payroll system are you using?  But the customer hasn’t even addressed the Why, How, Who issues yet.  So they aren’t ready or interested in buying.

Great sales people recognize there is a whole lot more to buying than selecting a solution.  They get involved in helping the customer with the whole buying process.  They recognize the most difficult part of buying is not the product selection.

Great sales people recognize the customer may not be addressing the Why issues when they should.  They engage the customer before a buying process has even started.  They constantly engage the customer in thinking about the Why or even creating the why through powerful ideas and Insights.

Buying involves so much more than addressing the issue “What do I buy, which product do I select?”  If you want to maximize your ability to engage the customer and create differentiated value, realize the greatest opportunity is in helping the customer with their entire buying process.

Photo credit: Sales Techniques/shutterstock

At my company we have a policy of not spending money on marketing or sales. We are “pull” (inbound) marketers to the core and this philosophy has served us well.

At my company, Fusion Marketing Partners, we have a policy of not spending money on marketing or sales. We are “pull” (inbound) marketers to the core and this philosophy has served us well. Of course, we do lots of “push” (outbound) marketing for clients, but we try to move them in the direction of pull marketing in order to drive awareness and leads up and drive new customer acquisition costs down.

While we don’t incur direct marketing or sales expenses, there is definitely a cost in time and effort, and this is the tradeoff you will also have to make if you decide to adopt the pull marketing approach. As a B2B marketer, one of the best social media tools you can use is LinkedIn. It has gained us awareness, leads and revenue, and it can do the same for your company (as well as you as an individual). But to be successful with LinkedIn marketing, you need to follow some important rules, like:

  1. Get started now. Lots of people talk about using LinkedIn effectively, but relatively few make it happen. Like most other worthwhile things in life, LinkedIn marketing becomes easier over time. The sooner you get started, the faster you get to the easy part of the deal.
  2. Be a combination of the hare and the tortoise. Some Linked practitioners start out slow and stay that way. Others begin with a fast pace but quickly drop off. A better approach is to build up to and maintain a moderate pace. I wrote about this in a 2011 blog post titled Is Social Media a Marathon or a Sprint?
  3. Offer value. Make sure your LinkedIn updates include you sharing content or ideas of value to your audience. A bit of humor and motivation are also good, but don’t overdo it.
  4. Don’t always be selling. Remember Alec Baldwin in the chalkboard scene from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross, where his character is haranguing his sales team and shouting “ABC, Always Be Closing!”  While that philosophy may work in high-pressure sales situations, it does not hold water when you are communicating on LinkedIn. Think of LinkedIn as a relationship medium first, then a selling medium.
  5. Don’t pitch too soon. One of my pet peeves is people who connect with me and immediately try to sell me something. I bet you feel the same way about pushy salespeople. Build a relationship first, then make the offer.  It works better this way.
  6. Connect with people. A technology company founder told me that he rejects most connection requests because he only wanted people he knows personally. In my opinion, this is shortsighted. It’s like only talking to people you already know at a cocktail party – you miss out on a lot of interesting opportunities. This is not to say you should connect with everyone.  I probably accept about 60 percent of connect requests.
  7. Be visible. Even when you don’t have something pithy to say, you can stay visible by liking, commenting and sharing other people’s updates.  Participating in groups is another way to stay top of mind.
  8. Don’t put social items on LinkedIn. Treat this medium as a way to showcase your company and personal attributes, not your personal life. Some examples of things not to talk about or share on LinkedIn:
    1. Photos of your family life (including children, pets, etc.)
    2. Photos of you drinking, partying or out with a group of friends
    3. Your religious or political opinions
    4. Your sports preferences
  9. Keep it civil. Never gripe about your employer, employees, partners or customers. For that matter, if you feel the need to disagree or criticize someone else’s update, do so in as gentle a manner as possible.
  10. Assume that everyone (yes, everyone!) can see everything you do on LinkedIn. If someone likes, shares or comments on one of your updates, all their followers can see it and it can certainly be copied and/or forwarded. Remember that your current and future employer, spouse, partners and friends will be able to see that irreverent, harsh or negative update that you thought was so clever at the time you posted it.
  11. Post your blogs as LinkedIn articles. I leverage many of my blog posts this way and they tend to get very high readership.  Articles are a great to create or extend either your business or personal brand promise.

Of course, not all of these rules apply in all cases, but they are a good starting point. If you follow them, I hope that LinkedIn is as beneficial to you as it has been for me and my company. I’ll talk about other social media in future posts.

Photo Credit: LinkedIn Marketing/shutterstock

We have posted a number of times regarding Google+ Local Pages (which is now Google My Business) and why businesses, especially small/local businesses, need to claim their pages.

We have posted a number of times regarding Google+ Local Pages (which is now Google My Business) and why businesses, especially small/local businesses, need to claim their pages. In particular, it has been our contention that Google+ Local Pages are essentially acting as your new landing page to your business, fulfilling many customer needs for critical information without them coming to your site. They are acting as your splash page.

Recent improvements in the metrics reporting within the Google My Business system have given us further insight into the critical need for businesses to claim their Page as well as keep it up to date and promote it.

For this example we've selected one business, a 1-location popular restaurant in a major city. For clarity, "clicks" in this graph represents: "Clicks to your website: Number of clicks to your business’s website from local search results in Google Maps, Search, and Maps for Mobile" That leaves a lot of possibility for variance as there are so many facets to Google Search and where your information is displayed, but unfortunately that's the definition we're provided with.

Worth noting: this business is NOT active in Google+ beyond having a Google+ Local Page created, and some basic auto-posting from their blog. They have less than 100 followers and almost 0 engagement on their posts.

Over the last 30 days, the business's information was displayed:

  • 43,217 times in search views (this is what we'll be focusing on)
  • 28 post views
  • 11 profile views
  • (totaling 43,256 views)
From that information, it had actions of:
  • 7350 clicks to the website
  • 1240 clicks for driving instructions
  • 770 phone calls
  • (totaling 9360 clicks)
This has a click through rate (CTR) of 21.6%.
Putting this in context with the rest of the website's traffic
Over the same 30 day period of time,
  • The website received a total of 23,722 sessions
  • Google Search resulted in 14,221 of those sessions
  • The website was viewed in Google for 23,463 impressions (via Webmaster Tools)
  • From all of Google Search, the website recorded 7,506 clicks
  • Google Organic Search accounted for 60% of all traffic to the website
Takeaway observations from this data...
Google Local Search clicks to the website were responsible for 52% of all of the Google Search traffic to the website, and 31% of the total traffic to the website.
If we sum the driving instructions and phone calls as "goal conversions" (as those for a restaurant generally imply a firm movement toward a sale), this is an equivalent of an 8.5% bonus to the goal conversions of the website, as their goals have been fulfilled before the user even visits the site.
Looking at the differences between the Google Webmaster Tools data of impressions (23,463) compared to the Google My Business search views (43,217), we can deduce that the Local Search displays are providing an additional 184% bonus search exposure to the business beyond the standard Google Web Search.*

(* this is either an 84% bonus or 184% bonus, depending on whether GMB search views include regular search or not, but their description would seem to indicate that it does not, hence 184%)
In summation, Google+ Local Pages and Google My Business needs to be a prominent piece of every small business's local strategy and search strategy. While this study is for one business in particular, from the data that we have observed for other businesses local businesses, this is fairly indicative of the results that we've seen, especially for B2C establishments. As the local search market grows, a local business's need to maintain a valid presence within the local search results needs to be at the forefront of their online marketing efforts.
Our digital age is now in full swing with social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn having increasing popularity and even more reasons to join. As one of the fastest growing social networks, Twitter uses its 140 characters, real-time online news, and mobile multimedia platform to its advantage where user experience controls the way you interact with one another

Our digital age is now in full swing with social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn having increasing popularity and even more reasons to join. As one of the fastest growing social networks, Twitter uses its 140 characters, real-time online news, and mobile multimedia platform to its advantage where user experience controls the way you interact with one another. If you are looking to interact with your target audience, finding a strategy that works best for you is very important.

After reading this you should have a better understanding for how to build a valuable following on Twitter. This will increase your engagement and the overall value of each tweet. These 5 steps will help you to gain a solid following on the site with 271 million monthly active users

1.  Set a schedule to engage on Twitter

Twitter is a real-time news social network. Optimal engagement on Twitter can take place seconds after news is released. You need to make sure you are taking advantage of the “Real Time” aspect on Twitter. Get organized by setting a schedule on Twitter. Setting a schedule will lead to more consistency, which will increase interaction and your following.

2. Constantly test and refine your strategy

As you use Twitter in your everyday tasks, make sure that you are trying new strategies, researching new ways to interact, and then using them to refine the perfect campaign for your industry. Different industries, business’ and companies have their own ways to engage with their target audience and no two are the same, but some strategies do prove to be more effective.

3. Creative outreach strategy

Use hashtags, searches, and direct communication to connect with others within your industry. Your list will become much more valuable when your content will interest your followers. If you are an attorney, make sure you follow other lawyers in the same field. Comment on their tweets about their most recent blog or respond to a witty tweet. You will start to see the interaction skyrocket on your account when you dedicate time each day to an outreach strategy.

4. Advertise

A great way to instantly gain a larger following is to invest in advertising. With a simple Twitter advertising campaign, you are able to target specific industries and demographics that are interested in following you. Even though organic is a “Free” method, if you are pressed for time, there is nothing wrong with advertising to grow your following.

5. Be active

It’s as simple as that. If you want people to follow you, have good reason for them to follow you. If you are posting interesting and relevant news that users find to be useful, your following will continue to grow. Too many people don’t post enough compelling and consistent content. You can’t expect to be a Twitter all-star if you are not putting in the time and effort.  

As Twitter comes close to reaching 300 million users, you will want to know what strategies work well for you and your industry and what messages will reach your target audience. The sooner you implement these helpful steps on how to build a valuable following, the faster you can an expert on the most powerful micro blogging website.

You've probably come across one or two of Dove's exceptional PR advertisements in the past few years. They are amazing, awe inspiring, and in emotional at times. They have taken something like soap and turned themselves into a voice for women's beauty, and we love them for it. Let's take Dove's strategy and apply it to our own social media profiles.

Any quality SEO company will tell you that keywords alone won’t help you gain clients. Your message - which includes copy but also image, logo, photos and more - is what really resonates with an audience. Dove is one of the hugest companies out there and they’ve mastered the art of branding. Small businesses and startups can take hints from Dove when it comes to marketing themselves and standing out from the crowd.

Add a Negative Connotation

This seems to go against everything you know about branding. Why would you ever want to put your product in a negative light? Sometimes adding a contrasting implication is actually a positive thing for your brand. Dove does this beautifully: it’s not a soap, it’s part-moisturizer. Now, of course, Dove is a soap, but that’s not what they want to be remembered for; there are plenty of soaps on the market. By contrasting the baseline item (a soap bar) against a better offer (a soap bar that’s really a moisturizer), you’re standing out from the crowd by elevating your product. Why would a customer choose a soap that isn’t a moisturizer? They probably wouldn’t.

Small businesses can do this because they often specialize in a specific product or service. You’re not a copywriter, you’re a content expert. You don’t make flip-flops, you design comfortable footwear for beach bums. You’re better than your competitors. In an industry where everybody is selling the same thing, this is a way to sell something different to the same exact market. When you elevate whatever it is you’re selling, people don’t mind the higher price tag that goes along with it - you do, after all, have a premium product.

There are two golden rules when it comes to taking this approach:

1. Your product or service has to have something that does, actually, stand out - you can’t make it up. Figure out what you have that other similar companies don’t. Not coming up with anything? It’s time to take a good look at what similar businesses are lacking so that you know what gap to fill.

2. Keep the contrast simple. You’ll have to continually repeat your tagline or whatever you’re using to communicate the standout aspect of your brand. The simpler you make it, the easier it will be for customers to remember.

Make Good On That Promise

Let’s say you’re ready to branch out while still keeping your first product or service in tact. A web designer may want to get into graphic design or a t-shirt designer may want to try their hand at creating matching socks. The promise should remain the same: just like your website, your graphic design is also animation-inspired; just like your t-shirts, your socks are made with green materials; just like their soap, Dove’s other beauty products are majorly moisturizing. Even if you’re offering a range of things, your key promise should remain the same - this is one of the best ways to get consumers to relate a certain experience to your brand.

Gather a Following

Even though Dove is a humongous brand, they still rely on views from real people instead of celebrities. For a small business, real people are the only way to go unless you’re willing to spend big bucks for a celebrity endorsement. Reviews are one of the best ways to gain new customers - if others have had a positive experience, then the customer who’s looking into your business can expect to have a good experience as well. When normal people promote your business, your company becomes relatable, which puts consumers at ease and instills trust.