Wondering Out Loud

More leads! More leads! More leads!

I experienced one of those ugly moments when a bad memory comes flooding back to the fore for no discernible reason. This one dates back almost a decade, to my early years in the marketing department of SoftBrands, a one-time enterprise software company that was acquired by Infor, a much larger enterprise software company, a bit more than one year ago.

The pain started when the sales manager stopped by my office to discuss the need to increase qualified sales leads. It seems her team was not busy enough with the 50 we were sending each month (10 m0re than the 40 required to meet quota), so she wanted us to increase the total to 80.

Happy to accommodate her request, I tried to start a discussion about the additional dollars that would be necessary. It is a discussion that went nowhere. Not to be stymied, I brought up the subject of changing the definition of a qualified sales lead. With a few tweaks to the criteria, like purchase time line, my team would be able to achieve the doubled quota. That suggestion was less popular than increasing the budget.

So, there I stood, staring at a sales manager who wanted me to perform the modern-day equivalent of the fishes and loaves. Being a mere mortal, I told here it would be easier if she would ask me to spin straw into gold. I quickly found that was the wrong thing to say.

Sales people are always asking for more leads, but they fail to see that, when lead generation is done correctly, less can actually be more. Let me explain.

Some time later in my tenure at SoftBrands we made the strategic decision to focus our efforts on penetrating a handful of very specific manufacturing micro-verticals that we were really good at: medical device, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and food & beverage. At first the sales team was concerned about the inevitable reduction that would result when we choked off the flow of leads. But as we implemented the strategy, they came to realize a few important facts:

  1. The number of leads did drop dramatically
  2. The quality of leads increased in the same way
  3. They were spending less time chasing deals that were unlikely to result in wins
  4. Wins – individual and team – increased considerably

For us, the ultimate road to success was not expanding the criteria and pumping more leads into the pipe. On the contrary, by focusing our resources and tightening the definition of a qualified sales lead, we were able to achieve our sales goals and do away forever with the mantra:

More leads! More leads! More leads!

November 30, 2010 Posted by | Marketing | , , , , | Leave a comment

Social media and pest control

Ever had a squirrel in your house?
 
Last week my wife called to tell me there were gnaw marks on a one of the windowsills in the living room. I suggest the 2 year old might be working on a molar, but that idea was scuttled when she told me the marks stretched for 2 feet and whatever did it had to be on the job for quite some time. That’s when I knew we had an unwanted visitor in the house. The only question was what type of visitor it was.

My bride – being a traditionalist at heart – went to the yellow pages looking for someone who could help eliminate the problem by whatever means necessary. She found Laughlin’s Pest Control and gave them a call. How the call unfolded is a textbook example of using social media tactics to build credibility and generate new business leads.
 
Raise your hands if you ask, answer, or even visit the discussion areas in LinkedIn. I’ll assume every hand is up. What you find there, is no different than what transpired on the phone between my wife and Laughlin’s Pest Control. She had a question and he took the time ask some questions of his own in an effort to answer hers. In the end he determined the varmint was a squirrel that was looking for a way out. His advice was to open the window and raise the screen to give the squirrel an exit. To entice the critter he suggested peanut butter – smooth, not crunchy – to lure the furry beast out of its hiding place (which I later found to be the smoke ledge in the fireplace). He also put the mother of my children at ease by telling her the squirrel would stay in hiding while people were around. A comforting thought when you have a 6, 4 and 2 year old in the house. The boys, 11 and 14, would have preferred taking it on in a head-to-head battle.

The people at Laughlin’s could have scheduled a service call ($150 for showing up), charged the hourly rate and gotten rid of Rocky themselves. But it would have been a short-term monetary gain at the expense of a potential long-term customer relationship.
 
In less than 15 minutes on the phone, our new friend at Laughlin’s had solved the problem and won a customer for life. I know who I’m calling if the moles return this summer.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | Public Relations, Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

Information isn’t power anymore

Leigh Anne Reynolds of The B2B Lead Blog posted yesterday about tearing down the gates in front of her marketing content and watching the clickthroughs rise. David Meerman Scott has been advocating the practice for a long time, but many of us – marketers – have been slow to adopt it because it goes against conventional wisdom and, frankly, everything we’ve ever learned about lead generation.

It wasn’t very long ago that visitors to websites were happy to provide contact information in exchange for a whitepaper, or a fact sheet, or a brochure. They wanted information about your products and services and where better to go then the company website? But that was when information was power and that time is long gone.

Before moveable type made it possible to print books in large quantities, education was for the elites. All that changed when books became available to the lower classes. Similarly,before the explosion of the Internet, you owned your collateral and were free to distribute it to whomever you wished. But the Web has become a supercharged information distribution system and much, if not most of the information you once owned is now accessible to anyone who knows how to use a search engine.

Information isn’t power if everyone has the information.

There is another element to this and that is the two-sided coin of value. Side one is the value you place on your content. Side two is the value your customers and prospects place on your content. Would you be surprised to find out the two values rarely match?

Let’s face it, we are all proud of the work we do. And because is it we who spend the hours creating the whitepapers, podcasts, videos, brochures, etc, it’s not unusual that we would be less than objective when deciding whether the material should be gated. Unfortunately, we are not the final arbiters. That role goes to the marketplace, and when the marketplace has dozens of information resource to choose from the value of the materials decreases to almost nil.

Here’s the ugly truth: the internet has rendered our marketing materials powerless and valueless.

Here’s the new challenge: make sure the your targets are going to your website to view your content and give those targets a new reason to give you their contact information.

Difficult? Yes.

Impossible? No.

Critical? Absolutely.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

Train your people to use the phone

As a rule, it is better to give than to receive. However, as with all, there is an exception to this long-standing rule: voicemail.

I love receiving voicemail from people. So much so, that I rarely pick up the phone unless the caller ID is from someone I know. My love of voicemail comes not from an irrational desire to feel needed, rather it is based in my completely rational desire to be entertained – and have I been entertained.  

A couple of years ago we started receiving voicemail in a wav files. Not coincidentally, I started saving the best of the worst for future use. Today I can announce that the future has arrived. I’ll be sharing share some of the voicemail I’ve saved, edited to remove names, companies and phone numbers for your amusement.

My aim is not to embarrass – hence the heavy editing-  but to inform.

As a means of communicating, the telephone is irreplaceable and it is imperative that we learn how to use it properly. Nothing new here, right? The problem is there are far too many people who’ve not been trained to use the phone as a tool for doing business.

I suffered from the same lack of training until 1998. I was working as an account executive for the MNN Radio Networks in the Twin Cities at the time and one of my colleagues had the good fortune of meeting Steve Kloyda (@SteveKloyda), founder of Telemasters. Station management arranged for the entire sales team to take Steve’s 5 week training.

Each week, we met individually with Steve to listen to calls we recorded – voicemail and connections – with prospects and customers. I won’t speak for everyone, but through self critique and with Steve’s coaching I learned to use the phone as a business tool.

I don’t mean endorse Telemasters – although I highly recommend it – but I do want to endorse telephone training for anyone in your business who uses the phone for their work. Keep in mind they are representing your company and the impression they make will last forever. Make sure that impression is positive.

I’m off to the studio to begin editing and commenting on the worst of the worst.

September 14, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations | , , , | Leave a comment

Are you self serving or self promoting

As the adoption of social media by business expands at an ever increasing rate, its misuse grows along with it. When you engage in social media activities are you self serving or self promoting?

Have you ever considered the difference? Both deal with the self, but if you choose to practice the former over the latter, you are headed for social media failure.

Here are the definitions from dictionary.com:

Self serving: Serving to further one’s own selfish interests.
Self Promotion: Promotion, including advertising and publicity, of oneself effected by oneself.

Done correctly, self promotion will result in all the benefits – increased leads, sales and revenue – you can get through self serving means, without turning away a good chunk of your audience. If this sounds difficult to achieve, it’s not. Promoting the self – you, your colleagues, and your business – is as easy as showing your target audience what you know. How you show them, however, goes a long way toward defining which side of boarder you are on between serving and promoting.

Let me illustrate with an example of a LinkedIn discussion:

Q: My boss wants me to buy a list of emails we can use for marketing. We’ve never done this and I’m looking for advice on picking the right provider. Thanks for your help.

A1: You can buy any list you need from my company Lists-R-Us. We specialize in providing 100% opt in lists for every conceivable industry – and a few you can’t conceive of. Call me at 555-1212.

A2: Before you pick a provider you’ll want to ask several questions including how they compile their lists, what information they gather about the individual and the company, can they segment based on SIC codes, and what are the counts within the SIC’s you are targeting. Also ask to see a sample cut of the data and what accommodations they make for non-deliverable addresses. If you want more I’ve included the links to a couple of credible resources below. Hope this helps.

I will grant that the example I provided is fictional, but it is most certainly not extreme. Go through the discussions and you’ll find any number of questions and answers that are commercials. But LinkedIn is by no means the only site that suffers from sledgehammer marketing. Blogs – posts and comments – are not immune, nor are Twitter and facebook for that matter.

Provide help with information the individual can use to solve their issue. It is a way of promoting yourself, without selling yourself. Over time, as your credibility grows, you will find a growing number of people who follow you, listen to you, and offer your name to others a resource that can be trusted.

August 24, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nice bones, now here’s the meat

Wednesday morning was a great morning at the St. Paul Pool & Yacht club.

A small group convened to hear Provident Partners’ Albert Maruggi and me speak on the ways of integrating social media tactics to one’s traditional marcomm efforts. Keeping the group small allowed us to drill down into the attendees specific issues and objectives and they walked away, not with a laundry list of what tools are available, but with concrete ideas of how to develop a social media strategy that will help them achieve those objectives.

Our goal was to give people a different type of seminar. We wanted them to forget about the shiny new objects – all the tools and toys that are used and developed everyday – and ask themselves a few questions:

  1. What are our marcomm objectives.
  2. How can we leverage social media to help us me.et those objectives.
  3. How do we determine which tool is appropriate for the given job.

Content, credible content, being king, we also asked them to look inside their company and consider resources – the human kind – they could tap to play the role of subject matter expert and how they could best be leveraged; audio, video and/or text.

We packed a lot of information into a two hour semianr, and in the end everyone left with a solid foundation on which to begin building the strategies they came in search of. I’m going to enjoy watching as the companies represented build out their plans and begin executing on them.

It was a very satisfying and gratifying to help fellow professionals who are in the same position I was just a few short years ago.

August 14, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pitch alert: Abusing LinkedIn

Holy cow, but there are a boat load of groups on LinkedIn to choose from. I’ve joined 16 – some related to my industry, others related to my profession – and have, over time, figured out which have value and which have nothing to offer. In some cases the line between treasure and garbage is quite clear and I can sum it up in one word: Pitch.

Have you ever come across a discussion that opens in a fashion similar to this: “Is your business suffering from a lack of qualified leads.” If you can answer yes to this question my advice is to drop it to the bottom of the list and leave it there.

I may be daft, and am willing to admit it in some arenas, but I’m done with people using LinkedIn as a lead generation tool – recall this post from last week – and am making a point of leaving groups that tolerate it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a marketing guy and am measured on, among other things, how many leads I can drive, but there is a time and a place for everything and far too many are abusing my time time and this place.

Last week I was reading a response to a question on LinkedIn. It was well written, well argued and, just when they had me interested out came the pitch for the beta version of their new software. The only thing missing was “operators are standing by” and “order before midnight and receive a free bamboo steamer.”

Sadly, this is not unique. I had a conversation last week with a company wanting advice on how their sales team could use LinkedIn to generate leads and they were going down the bamboo steamer path. Their strategy was to look for discussions to which they could contribute and pitch their particular products as a way to solve problems. 

 I should have invoiced them for a percentage of the sales I saved them.

Here’s the upshot – read last week’s post – then raise your right hand and swear to the following:

  1. I will never pitch my product or service to anyone on LinkedIn unless they ask me to do so
  2. I will raise my hand and be heard when I find someone trying to pitch me without my permission to do so

LinkedIn is second to none in the world of  professional networking sites (Plaxo fans can complain in the comments) and it is up to those of us who use the site to keep it that way.

August 4, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , | 5 Comments

Amen for eBook tips

I love the Savvy B2B Marketing blog. And I don’t say that with any reservations. Why, you may ask, have I fallen in love with a blog? I need no reason other than  this post: 5 Things You Should Know BEFORE You write an eBook.

I’ve read many eBooks in the past several months and have found very few that follow any of the 5 tips offered by Savvy B2B Marketing. Most read like a company brochure and leave little doubt that the only purpose is to generate new business. That ain’t what I’m looking for.

I read eBooks to learn something – not about your business, but what you know that can help me run my business better. Don’t tell me your products and services can solve my business issues: convince me you understand the pains enough that I can trust you to solve them, if I decide to contact you. When you start talking product, you lose me as a reader.

Social media is not rocket science, but you can blow up on the launch pad if you don’t take the time to think through your plans.

August 3, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brian Carroll strikes again

Brian Carroll of intouch has given us 6 lessons he’s learned about using LinkedIn for generating leads and I’d like to add one that, while implied in his 6, cannot be reiterated enough:

1. Tread very, very carefully

Above all, LinkedIn is a networking site for professionals. Most use it to find others who inhabit the same industry or professional role as they and are taken aback when they find someone who appears to be there to sell, sell, sell.

Remember that social networking is just that: social. We don’t call it business networking or lead generation networking for a reason. Get to know the folks you’re communicating with before you shove a piece of collateral under their nose. If you shoot first and ask questions later you’ll screw up any chance you have of developing a relationship – personal or professional.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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