How to Scale Sales Without Adding Headcount

how your startup can scale your sales departmentStart-up companies often face a classic catch-22: they need to invest in a sales team to generate revenue but lack the funds for hiring more reps. What most companies fail to realize is that they already have the right staff; it’s their processes that are dragging them down.

Let me give you an example. While shadowing a rep earlier this year, I observed six total call attempts in a little over an hour. The rep never talked with a prospect live. He jumped from webinar follow-ups from a variety of different sources to following up with prospects at different stages of a campaign. In addition, he was calling prospects with different titles paths and company profile. Of course he felt it necessary to research before every call so he could be prepared.

Unfortunately, this chaotic pattern represents how most inside sales teams operate. They have nearly complete autonomy and are only responsible for achieving activity metrics. Since they don’t follow a lead generation process, there’s no way for managers to understand what’s working and what isn’t.

Scalability isn’t always about adding headcount. Every time I’ve consulted with companies on improving their lead generation and B2B appointment setting results, I have implemented process changes that can significantly impact production of the team without having to add headcount. Here’s how:

1. Invest in a quality data source.

Most data sources need to be cleansed to ensure titles are relevant and accurate, and contact information is correct and complete. Asking sales reps to do this detracts from their productivity, so I always recommend investing in custom cleansing so reps are handed great data. Spending time to cleanse the data also can significantly boost results. Cleansed data can increase response rates by 300 percent with the same team using the same messaging.

2. Structure data into groups of similar leads.

Leads can be grouped by lead source, title path, industry, company size and/or message tactic. This allows sales reps to prep once for calls to an entire group, instead of prepping for each call. This also gives managers the ability to customize messaging strategies to entire groups to improve results.

3. Implement a call cadence.

A cadence is a structured campaign approach that includes a pattern of emails, calls and voicemail messages. This allows managers to pinpoint when diminishing returns takes place, and to identify which aspects of the cadence work best. The process becomes very predictable and efficient. It’s important to note that there is no single or universal cadence that will work for ALL your leads. Different personas might require different cadences.

Another option for start-ups is to outsource lead generation, which may be an attractive way to forgo all the technology and human capital costs needed, and start generating revenue immediately.

For more sales tips and tricks, make sure to check out Hunckler’s sales secrets from the Philippines!

How to Win at Google’s Game

1“Play their game. You need to embrace that they have a business model. Embrace it and the rules are there. Play the game.” – Ryan Mull, Partner and Director at Imavex

In the game of business, the premise is simple: make more money than you spend. When you take your business online, the game gets more complicated. Cheats and shortcuts that were once overlooked can be taken away, and even the rules you were playing by can change and essentially leave you starting over.

Google is famous for switching the rules of the game, especially when it comes to SEO. Why can this one company have such a big impact? It’s simple. Google controls 65% of the search results on the Internet and 80% of ads online.

So if you’re relying solely on Google’s benevolence to reward you with information or page rankings for free, be prepared to be disappointed. After all, Google’s shareholders demand that it make a profit, and it makes 95% of its profits through its ad network, AdWords.

Not only has Google gotten stingier with free information, but the portion of Internet real estate given to ads in comparison to organic search rankings has grown. Ryan Mull at July’s Smartups said,“I wouldn’t be surprised if the first page or two within the next four or five years is all ads.” Here are a couple of screenshots that show the difference between search results in 2007 and search results now, provided by Ryan Mull. You can clearly see the how much more space Google is giving to ads. Those, images on the right in 2014 are ads as well.

Google search in 2007

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Google search in 2014

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Google isn’t the only brand to restrict access to free marketing. In January, Facebook followed in Google’s footsteps and announced that it was changing the news feed algorithm for businesses so that their page updates would only show to a very small percentage of their followers. Now if companies want to share content with a large percentage of their customers, they need to buy ads. And if Google and Facebook have changed the game, chances are LinkedIn, Twitter, and others aren’t far behind.

So how can startups with small budgets make PPC work for them while they still work on their SEO?

Utilize best practices to make sure you’re getting the most from your spend

Google makes money when people click on your ads. If you’re not careful when you set up your campaign then Google can run ads that burn up your cash without reaching your target audience.

Steve Hill, Digital Marketing Director at Imavex, also spoke at July’s Smartups and laid out five key things that startups can do to enhance their PPC campaigns so that they’re not wasting money.

 

  1. Abandon broad match typeIf you set up your campaign with broad match keywords, you’ll find yourself paying for clicks that aren’t relevant to your company. So make sure that you’re using modified broad match. When you change your keywords to modified broad match you’re telling Google that you need all of those words in a search before your ad will show up.
  2. Consider landing pagesCreate your campaigns so that ads take your customers to landing pages that are optimized for mobile, tablet, and desktop. Strip out the navigation in these pages so that customers aren’t distracted. Include call to actions in the landing pages so that customers know where they can take the next step.
  3. Utilize remarketingRemarketing is when you attach a cookie to customers who have visited your site so that you can serve them ads on other places on the Internet. Customers often need many interactions with a brand before they purchase or convert, and so remarketing is a cost-effective way to gain brand exposure.
  4. Use enhanced ad extensionsGoogle has created ad extensions as a way to display more information and increase clickthrough rates.  Hill recommends that businesses use site links, review extensions, and Google My Business (also known as location extensions).
  5. Bid strategically on location settingsYou can target your ads to geographic areas and even adjust your bids on things like zip codes, radius from a location, or city names. This is helpful if you want to reach out to customers in a 30-mile radius, but bid less on customers that are farther than ten miles as those customers don’t convert as well as closer customers.

Consider PPC as a Testing Ground for SEO

When you work on SEO and content marketing it can take months to attract visitors. But when you set up a PPC campaign your ads will start bringing customers to your site away. You’ll get advanced data on your visitors in days instead of waiting around to see if your SEO worked. You can use this data to guide both your PPC and SEO efforts.

Continue Efforts in Both Search and Paid

Another reason to keep PPC in your marketing arsenal is as a hedge against another big change in the search environment that could decimate your SEO efforts and leave you scrambling to catch up with your competitors.

So while it can be frustrating as a startup to play the Google game, just realize that while SEO can be effective, the online world is moving more towards paid advertising. So you need to be playing that game as well. If you start investing in PPC and balance it with SEO, you’ll be on top of the game before you know it.

Amplify Your Content Marketing Efforts Through Engagement & Paid Media

“I like to think of content as currency. Here’s why. If you give valuable content, you will earn valuable customers.” -Julie Perry, Director of Social Media at StrataBlue

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Engaging With Your Customers Through Content

Content marketing has been around for over 100 years. In 1904 an unknown brand named Jell-O gave away free cookbooks on how to use their product. Within two years of distributing the cookbook, Jell-O earned over $1 million in sales.

Not every brand needs to create a recipe book, but you do need to reach your audience where they are and help them solve their problems. Brands that share quality content with their customers are seen as experts in their field and are more likely to gain customer trust. As customers start to trust your brand and benefit from your content they are more likely to purchase from you. So how do you reach your customers on the limited time and budget of a startup?

You need to focus your content marketing efforts on where your customers are.  Sharing your content via social media is a great way for you to amplify your content and reach your customers. For fashion brands this could be Pinterest or Instagram. For B2B businesses this could be Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs. Most businesses’ customers have a natural gathering place based on the types of content that interest them. One area where all businesses should put some content is on their own blog where they own the space and can post valuable content like articles, infographics, videos, and more that their audience can share with others.

Engaging Through Content On Twitter

Twitter is a great place to engage with your audience in a low-cost (or no-cost) way. Before her journey into marketing, Julie Perry spent over two years as a superyacht stewardess and wrote a book titled The Insiders’ Guide to Becoming a Yacht Stewardess: Confessions from My Years Afloat with the Rich and Famous chronicling her adventures.  At April Smartups, Julie outlined how she amplified her content to promote her book, drawing on her 13 years of marketing experience for large and small brands in consumer electronics and other industries.

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When Bravo TV launched a new show Below Deck that follows luxury yacht crews, Julie recognized an opportunity to connect with her audience and market her book. She followed the Twitter discussions on Below Deck in real time and saw some girls saying things like they’d “like to work on a boat”, “this was their favorite show”, etc. So, she favorited some of their tweets about the show, and when they saw that @WorkOnAYacht (her Twitter handle) favorited their tweet, they came over to her site. Books were flying off the shelf during that hour of TV each week thanks in part to her Twitter marketing efforts.

*Tips On Engaging With Twitter:
  • Retweet, favorite and follow your potential customers. By promoting them they will often research you and follow you back.
  • Always put a comment with a retweet, even if it’s small, so that the person feels valued.

Put Some Money Behind It

“No matter how successful your content, it’s going nowhere if you don’t put a little money behind it.” – Julie Perry

It is getting harder every day to get your content seen by customers. Just look at the controversy surrounding Facebook brand pages and how brands’ posts are being seen by a smaller portion of their followers. To get around this amplify your content with paid media.

Paid ads are a great way to overcome the noise that is out there on social media because of the amount of targeting they allow.

Amplifying With Facebook

During Below Deck’s season, Julie reached out to fans of Below Deck with Facebook display ads. She targeted the ads to young women between 19 and 31 who watched and liked Below Deck, and were not already connected to her page. She also created promoted posts (like the one below) where she took a quote from the show and connected it to her content about a detailed job description of a Yacht Stewardess.

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Julie put $21.86 towards the promotion and received 185 website clicks, at about $0.11 a click, and a click through rate of more than 12%. This is a very cost effective way to reach a highly targeted audience. And at these prices you wouldn’t have to sell many books to make good money from the promotion.

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Amplifying With LinkedIn & YouTube

LinkedIn and YouTube are also places to target potential customers and clients. LinkedIn can be a great option for B2B companies. On LinkedIn you should first create a company page where you can share your content just like Facebook and Twitter. Then, for your paid advertising, you can target individuals by job title, employer, company size, or even their interest and skills. As spends on LinkedIn can be higher than other channels, it’s a good idea to have a very narrow group you’re advertising to and send them to a very specific landing page.

On YouTube you can create pre-roll videos that are shown before viewer-selected movies. The content you use is up to you, but you can start out with helpful content you might already be making.

These videos can be skipped after only five seconds, so make sure you make the beginning compelling and information packed so that viewers don’t skip your ad. You can target people based on their age, gender, viewing history, interests and geography, and even remarket to people who have already visited your site.

You will not be charged for your pre-roll video until somebody has watched at least 30 seconds of your ad. So if you create a 32-second video that sort of cuts out at 28 seconds and your viewer skips the rest, you will not pay for that view. This effectively gets you more great brand impressions that you don’t pay for.

At the end of the day, content marketing is a great way to market your business, but only if you know who you’re sharing your content with. So find the best ways to connect your content with your audience and add some paid media to make sure you get seen.

13 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Meeting Potential Advisors

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

What is the #1 mistake young entrepreneurs make when trying to pursue relationships with potential mentors or advisors?

Dan Price1. Not Being Specific About What They Need

They generalize what exactly they need help with. I see this when I’m asked, “Will you be my mentor?” We have so many relationships today that this type rarely exists. Instead, they should come prepared and say, “Here’s what I need right now. Here’s how you can help me get from point A to B or make a connection for me.”
Dan Price, Gravity Payments

lawrence watkins2. Giving Up After the First Email

Usually, the mentors who you would like to have are busy making a substantial impact on the world. If this is the case, they may miss or forget to respond to your initial attempt to reach out and connect. This is why it is important to follow up with potential mentors more than once. Some will respond, and others will not, but it is important to try more than once.
Lawrence Watkins, Great Black Speakers

Michael Quinn3. Being Too Persistent

Chances are the person whom you would like to become your mentor has a lot going on already. You need to approach him with your interest, but don’t be overwhelming. A few reminders and follow-up emails will probably be necessary, but don’t scare him off.
Michael Quinn, Yellow Bridge Interactive

Andrew Vest4. Not Providing Value to the Other Party

This is networking 101. In any relationship, there has to be a mutual benefit between both parties. Mentors and advisors — regardless of how successful they are — still have the urge to learn and grow themselves in some form or fashion. Time is a commodity that has the highest value — even more so to mentors and advisors. They have funds already, so their time is worth its weight in gold!
Andrew Vest, Preferling

Danny Boice5. Not Timing Their Approach

It helps immensely to have a bit of buzz, whether it be in the media or community, before you approach a high-value mentor or advisor. It is human nature to want to be involved with potential winners. Generating some buzz or other positive attention for your startup or yourself will help garner the attention of the right mentors and advisors right away.
Danny Boice, Speek

Bhavin Parikh6. Not Saying Thank You

I have had many conversations with entrepreneurs trying to start new companies, but very few follow up with a “thank you.” When I talk with other founders, I’ve found that this is a theme. Young entrepreneurs should realize that they are building relationships — not transactions — and take the time to show appreciation to those by sending a simple thank you email. It goes a long way!
Bhavin Parikh, Magoosh Inc

Kasper Hulthin7. Keeping Your Ideas Secret

You never know when you’ll potentially meet your best mentor. But the surest thing in the world is that you will never meet him unless you share your ideas. Whenever I ask someone about what he is working on, and he replies, “I can’t really tell you,” I think to myself, “You just missed your opportunity for me to help you.”
Kasper Hulthin, Podio

 

8. Approaching the Mentor or Advisor as a “Fan”Michael Parrish DuDell

It’s important to have respect for a potential mentor or advisor, but it’s never wise to approach the relationship from a place of fandom. When you do that, you establish an unequal power dynamic, which ultimately muddies the relationship. You should always strive to be seen as a colleague — never a fan.
Michael Parrish DuDell, Race + vine

Chris Cancialosi9. Not Seeking Cross-Industry Mentors

I think a lot of young entrepreneurs think effective mentorship comes from someone who has experience in their same industry. I’ve found that a ton can be learned from people who have struggled and succeeded in any industry — if you take the time to listen. It’s less about the same experiences and more about the right experiences when it comes to finding a great mentor.
Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture

Erin Blaskie10. Creating Conflicts of Interest

I am often approached by people who would like advice on their business and suggestions on how to get clients. Although I love being able to support people in their ventures, it becomes difficult when the person is in the same industry as I am and would be competing for clients. Choose a mentor or advisor who is similar, but not so similar that it becomes a conflict of interest.
Erin Blaskie, Next Dev Media

Justin Baille11. Setting Expectations Too Low

The biggest mistake young entrepreneurs make when trying to pursue mentors is not reaching high enough. As a young entrepreneur you need to decide who you want to emulate and reach out to them. It’s okay to get pushed back or pushed down. You will still land in a much higher place than if your expectations been set low to begin with.
Justin Bailie, FR8nex.com

Emerson Spartz12. Being Too Afraid to Ask

There are a lot of mistakes that young entrepreneurs make when it comes to mentorship, but the biggest one they make is not having the courage to ask the right people to mentor them. People love to share their knowledge, and you will be surprised by how often the answer is “yes.” One great mentor is worth five very good ones, so shoot for the stars.
Emerson Spartz, Spartz

Amanda Barbara13. Not Knowing How Many Questions to Ask

Find a happy medium between asking too many questions and not enough. It’s important to outline your goals and who in the industry is interested in connecting with you to help further your business.
Amanda Barbara, Pubslush

How Twitter Creates Customer Engagement

wabash students visit twitterAccording to Statisticbrain.com, there are numerous staggering statistics surrounding Twitter:

  • 645,750,000-Number of active registered Twitter  users
  • 135,000-Number of new Twitter users signing up everyday
  • 195 million-Number of unique Twitter site visitors every month
  • 58 million-Average number of tweets per DAY
  • 9,100-Number of tweets every SECOND
  • $405,500,000-Twitters Advertising revenue for 2013

 

So How Do I Leverage Twitter?

With stats like that, you might wonder, how do you grow a fan base of that size and how do you keep it running? This brings about lessons on engaging customers, a topic that consumed a trip of 12 Wabash students to the glorious city of San Francisco. After visiting 10 different companies in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley areas, I’ve learned a lot about the importance in engaging customers.

While at Twitter, we learned some really cool facts. The most popular tweet of all time is Barack Obama’s “4 more years” tweet, announcing the successful win of the 2012 election. Other famous tweeters include regular pop stars such as Justin Beiber, Taylor Swift, and Lady Gaga, but also, many athletic stars get a fair bit of twitter attention, including TJ Lang’s tweet acknowledging how terrible the refs were in September of 2012. The most retweeted tweets tend to focus on either humor or news, and ‘brevity is the soul of wit’ definitely plays a part (as if you could get any shorter with 140 characters to play with). Another thing we discussed with Twitter was the next steps for the company. Twitter already has a huge reach, but they are looking to expand even further globally. If you don’t currently Tweet, Twitter wants to know why and how they can convince you to join the network. Twitter wants to engage everyone in the world in their constant flow of quick information.

Standing Out From The Crowd

twitter increases customer engagement

The world is growing smaller by the minute, with faster travel, more global information, and more connectivity between people. However, with this idea of the world growing smaller, there is a flood of information that absolutely overwhelms everyone as consumers. You can’t walk 10 steps down a city block without seeing 30 different ads for this, that, and the other, each ad absolutely assuring you that you NEED this product in order to be hip, healthy, and happy. So with such an absolute deluge of information, what really stands out in the consumer mind? One word: engagement.

In order to really connect with a customer, companies have to engage with and interact with customers. Twitter, Facebook, and Google are all extremely popular companies because they have such a high level of engagement with their customers. Twitter is constantly blasting with snippets of news, short bursts of shoutouts and new trending topics. Developing companies need to establish an interactive personality with their clients so that the customers really appreciate the product they are engaging with. We visited a company called Red Rock Coffee, a small non-profit coffee shop run by a church. The shop has netted over 1 million dollars in revenue in the last 2 years alone from one location because they share with their customers where the product they are drinking is coming from. Knack, a company focused on creating games to make the evaluation process of recruitment much more streamlined, does the same thing, creating games that require focus from their users.

What Does A Successful Brand Look Like, Anyway?

increasing customer engagement with twitterSuccessful companies are no longer just the ones that have the coolest logos, the hottest models, or the furthest reach. The most successful companies engage their customers in such a way that the customer not only connects with the company but that the product becomes a regular part of their lifestyle. We live in a generation where people are addicted to Tweeting, drinking coffee, and playing video games. That is because the products they use are interactive. The road to success is paved by creating a lifestyle feel that customers can engage with through your company, where it would feel unnatural to use some other product.

Winning Startup Trade Show Ideas from The Innovation Showcase

It’s been a big year for Santiago Jaramillo and the BlueBridge Digital team. The kind of year that landed him on the Inc. 30 under 30 list.

Startup Conference Tips to Win

Santiago Jaramillo, Founder and CEO of BlueBridge Digital.

A year ago, BlueBridge had fifteen clients and three employees. They now have over 110 clients and more than fifteen employees, but that’s only the beginning–with plans to add 199 jobs over the next nine years, Santiago and BlueBridge are only going to continue accelerating.

And when Santiago pitched at The Innovation Showcase in July 2013, the team was already well on their way to growth mode: they took home 1st place in the Early Stage Startup category, attracted lots of attention from the startup community in Indiana (and around the country), and have continued to innovate in the mobile space.

So when Santiago shared with me how he and the BlueBridge team prepared for The Innovation Showcase, I knew it was advice worth heeding.

Santiago explained that three things take the most effort and time to prepare for startup conference and events: the exhibit, the team, and the pitch. Catch the full interview and my takeaways below.

Winning Startup Trade Show Ideas

Startup Trade Show Idea #1: Be Intentional with Your Exhibit

Attendees at most conferences won’t have any clue what your company does when they walk through the door, so start with the pain or problem you solve. Try to avoid industry jargon. Your goal is to be understood–to create an “Ah, yes, I see!” moment–not to speak over attendee’s heads.

BlueBridge delivers Mobile Apps as a Service (MaaaS?). Which may or may not come across clearly, even to a techno-literate audience.

Keep your exhibit simple, like your pitch, Santiago said. Put a lot of thought into the few items you will bring, and keep attendees laser-focused on the real value you provide–not the chintzy usb drive the booth next to you is giving away.

Startup Trade Show Idea #2: Be Intentional with Your Exhibit

Startup teams are tight-knit, but that doesn’t always mean that everybody is on the same page going into scrutinous environments like The Innovation Showcase. Prep your team with finely-tuned talking points to make sure the message is consistent. Rehearse.

“When you start describing what you do,” said Santiago, “There are just so many solutions out there that people wonder why you should even exist.”

So why does BlueBridge exist?

“There are more smartphones sold than babies born in the world,” said Santiago, chuckling. “It makes you laugh, but it captures their attention…and they’re willing to listen to how we’re solving that issue.”

Key Startup Trade Show Idea: Ask yourself what key metrics you can share, and how you can create buy-in from attendees with your reason for being.

Startup Trade Show Idea #3: Perfect the 60 Second Pitch

Startup Conference Pitch

Santiago Jaramillo and his partner Adam Weber delivered a conversational, easy to understand pitch that really resonated with the judges.

At The Innovation Showcase, companies only have 60 seconds to pitch–but since founders really only have about a minute to get the point across any time they pitch, the lightning-fast 1-minute pitch gets a lot more use than you might think.

“Put yourself in the shoes of your audience,” said Santiago. “You have to really simplify and condense.”

Key Startup Trade Show Idea: Keep your pitch simple. Really simple. Questions afterward do not always mean the pitch was unclear–often, they demonstrate real interest.

Santiago’s pitch style earned him a win at The Innovation Showcase–and if you’re thinking of applying for the 2014 Showcase, his advice is certainly worth incorporating into your pitch: “Be very specific, clear, and simple. Those people don’t know the industry and buzzwords like you do.”

“You want to be either loved or hated, but not ignored or confused!”

The Innovation Showcase is accepting exhibitor applications until April 30, 2014. Get your application in now for a chance to secure one of the first 15 spots!

3 Lessons Learned About Getting Press From A PR Expert

“All startups have one thing in common: Great ideas. Small budgets.”

Those where some of the first words of advice spoken by Kelly Hendricks, the CEO of BLASTMedia, at Smartups last month. Startups are often spending every dollar they have on the product; so with their small budgets how far can a bright entrepreneur stretch their budget to get their great ideas and products in front of paying customers? That’s exactly what Kelly answered when he talked about PR as one of the greatest marketing tools for budget conscious entrepreneurs.

PR Is The Greatest Low Cost Marketing Tool For Entrepreneurs

getting PR for startups

photo credit: kenteegardin via photopin cc

The PR that we are talking about is the press coverage that companies get by pitching their message as a part of a solution to a journalist’s story. Of course you can pay a PR company, but that eats into the definition of a tool for the budget conscious. One of the great aspects of PR for the cash strapped is that you can do it for free. Kelly freely admitted as an entrepreneur you have no need to hire a PR company such as BLASTMedia. You can get a lot of the coverage you want and need on your own with a little bit of knowledge and a good story.

If You Want Press, Nurture A Relationship With Journalists

Start by following editors on Twitter who write about your space. By understanding their likes and dislikes, you have a head start on conversation topics.  Building a relationship can begin with a simple email along the lines of “Read your article. Very helpful. Thank you.” Hint: the editor’s email is usually at the bottom of his article.

Not only do you want to keep tabs on the editors, but also on your customers’ interests. By reading the articles they retweet, you have a better feel for topics/angles for your story. Kelly also recommended creating a wish list of target journalists you’d like to have cover your company. Doing your homework before you pitch to the media gives you the advantage when talking to an editor.

Remember, just because you might be a tech startup, doesn’t mean your list of journalists should include the writers of TechCrunch, TheVerge, and other tech blogs. Seek out the journalists who write to your customer base. You might have the greatest bit of technology in the world to help auto dealers, but no auto dealers read tech blogs. Auto dealers read car blogs and other trade publications. There are always new startups that seem to pop up out of nowhere because they were ignored by the tech press (such as Pinterest). The reason Pinterest came out of nowhere is because they knew their core audience didn’t read tech blogs; they read mommy blogs, fashion blogs, and other types of blogs that the tech press had never heard of. Bottom line, target journalists who target your customers.

Put Your Ego Behind You. Be A Storyteller

Digg famously told the story of hiring a developer on Elance for a small amount of money to create their hugely successful product. At the end of the day, every journalist wants a compelling story like this that will make news. So, be sure you know what story to tell. Keep in mind that journalists are on the receiving end of countless pitches from entrepreneurs. And, although it might feel like your product is going to change the world, ditch the ego and focus on giving them a good story. And a good story isn’t: “you covered my competitor so you should cover me.”

If you are having trouble framing your story, paying money to a PR agency might be the better alternative. But, if you can explain your story effectively, you can save money and get press that leads to customers.

Now, it’s your turn to create a million dollar PR campaign on a startup budget.

Bonus PR Pitching Tips:

  • You can start sending the editor information 30 days before your announcement if you have a relationship with them. If you don’t know them, then, it’s never too early to start that relationship.
  • Pick up the phone. Since 90% of pitches are through email, a call makes you stand out – with extra points for personable flair. Remember to be aware of time zones though.
  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days to pitch your story. And don’t forget, Fridays can be ripe for phone calls. You may even strike gold on a Sunday night (proceed with caution).
  • Use HelpAReporter.com to find journalists who might be writing stories about your industry.

Your Marketing and YOUtility: Jay Baer Tackles How to Help, Not Hype

YOUtilityMy first encounter with Jay Baer came when I was introduced to his book as required reading for my employee onboarding at Compendium (acquired by Oracle in October).  Little did I know then, I would not only go on to meet the New York Times best selling author but I would become regular acquaintances with him throughout the fall.

My experiences with the All Help NO Hype Marketer

My experiences with Jay have been all over the board, ranging from grabbing beers at a little hole in the wall spot in Louisville to hearing him address agricultural executives at a farming conference in Minnesota – random I know.  One overwhelming trait that stands out to me about Jay is that regardless of the situation or the audience that he’s addressing, his message is ALWAYS helpful and useful.  His advice, techniques and principles regarding marketing are timelessly relevant to any company regardless of size or industry.

Taking Something With You

When you come out on the 13th to hear Jay speak you will undoubtedly leave with information that will be valuable to YOU.  You can expect to hear stories ranging from his experiences working with Fortune 500 companies all the way through to personal experiences from his living room.  His stories will more than likely be strikingly relevant as that has been my experience.  The same breadth of ideas and topics you get from hearing him speak, you will surely get from his book Youtility if you haven’t read it already.

What exactly is Youtility?

I’ll let you hear from the originator of Youtility about what it is exactly but I will say the two main quotes on the book are – “Why Smart Marketing is about Help not Hype” and “The difference between helping & selling is just two letters” and it doesn’t disappoint in providing helpful examples for any business.  The themes presented in this book are particularly critical for entrepreneurs & software startups to understand and I’ll tell you why:

The digital landscape has shifted from Outbound -> Inbound SO GET WITH IT!

Don’t know if you’ve heard of this company out of Massachusetts called Hubspot??  If you haven’t then you’ve seriously been living in a cave…  The company now has over 10,000 customers & 374,000 followers on Twitter – Incredible.  They managed to create this cult like following by employing inbound marketing and by simply being HELPFUL, which is what Youtility is aiming to teach you.  The companies rising above the noise in the marketplace have switched their marketing tactics from pushing -> pulling and from selling -> helping. Inbound Marketing & Youtility go hand in hand and in order to truly thrive in today’s marketplace you CANNOT have one without the other. IMPO a company that is doing an amazing job of this right now is Buffer because they’re the most helpful & transparent company out there.  Have you seen their post about Open Salaries? Amazing stuff.  Jay is an investor in Buffer– no coincidence here folks, his techniques work!

SEE YOU THURSDAY!

We’re excited to have another big name speaking to the Indianapolis startup community. Just weeks after we played host to the founder of Reddit and another big tech launch, Indy is at it again. See you at the Speakeasy!

How to Leverage the ‘New’ Buzzword Customer Experience to Build your Startup’s Customer Base

Customer ExperienceGot Customers? If you are looking to expand your startup or on your way to your first customer – listen up.  Tony Robbins put it best in his book Awaken the Giant Within

“Why wait to be memorable?”

True his book is more about purposeful living, although providing a great customer experience (CX) has a lot to do with purposeful communication, which is the heart of a startup. The key to making your startup memorable is to equip you with some customer centric approaches which will be provided later on, because we believe there’s absolutely no reason to wait to be memorable!

Enter CX: Getting Around the ‘New’ Buzzword

Although, CX may just be grabbing your attention it’s been around for a bit and only a few companies such as Amazon and Trader Joe’s can successfully attest to that. So what exactly is CX? It is defined as “how customers perceive their interactions with your company” via Forrester Research.

From a comprehensive perspective, it’s the sum of all touchpoints a customer experiences within the customer journey they take during their relationship with a company.  A touchpoint being a point of contact a company has with a customer. A customer journey being the path a customer takes from one touchpoint to another. And a relationship encompassing one or more phases of the customer life cycle – those simply being:

  1. Awareness: touchpoints to create awareness of your company
  2. Consideration: touchpoints to educate prospects on your company and its products
  3. Purchase: touchpoints to convert prospects into a paying customers
  4. Service: touchpoints to get customers onboard and provide ongoing service
  5. Loyalty: touchpoints to maintain relationship with customers

The above highlights the components that go into forming a CX, but the difference between a great and bad CX is dictated by the best practices that frame these experiences. Some of these include:

How convenient are your touchpoints?

Are you making it easy or hard for your customers to move forward in a relationship with you?

How concise are your touchpoints?

Are you communicating your product’s value in a quick and efficient manner or slow and inefficient manner? Note: Customers have little patience these days; meaning if you’re not purposefully communicating (communicating the value you can provide concisely) there’s a good chance you’re losing customers to a competitor that is able to do so.

How consistent are your touchpoints?

Can your customers expect consistent or inconsistent service throughout your touchpoints? Note: This is the most important practice, because you can have quality touchpoints, but if they’re inconsistent throughout a customer’s experience you’re losing overall credibility in your customers’ eyes.

To reiterate, the CX is made up of touchpoints that create a customer’s journey that in turn ultimately build a relationship with a company. A company’s CX best practices determine whether the CX will be a good or bad experience for the customer.

So…Why the Buzz?

CX Buzz

Let’s start by elaborating with some hard facts:

  • It is 6-7 times more costly to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer. (White House Office of Consumer Affairs)
  • A customer is 4 times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service related vs. price or product related. (Bain & Co.)
  • 89% of customers have stopped doing business with a company after experiencing poor customer service. (Oracle/RightNow)
  • During a 5 year period on the S&P 500, a portfolio of CX Leaders outperformed the broader market by 3 times while a portfolio of CX Laggards produced cumulative returns of -33.9%. (Watermark Consulting – See Chart)

Statistics on Customer Exeperience

Sure these are some pretty stellar facts and we can keep going on, but facts won’t show you what a customer centric approach can do for you…just like rattling off the features of your product won’t show your customer the actual value of your product. Again, here is purposeful communication resurfacing…

So what can having a customer centric approach do for you? – See below for some benefits (Watermark Consulting):

  • Lower acquisition costs
  • Better customer retention
  • Greater wallet share

Not to mention, ultimately differentiate your brand in a way that’s uniquely yours. As a customer centric company you’ll have to work hard to create and sustain these benefits, but as you can see your efforts would be well rewarded.

Now How can a Customer Centric Approach help my Startup…TODAY?

Great question – you are simply asking how can you start being memorable to your customers now.  As a startup – we understand – you have to be resourceful, you have little patience for a large company style plan of action and most importantly you want to DO something now. We’ve got you covered – removing the formalities – CX is undeniably about initiating/strengthening customer relationships. This is what you need to do:

View touchpoints as the hidden opportunities they are

Whether that’s sending a customized email and invite to connect on LinkedIn within 24 hours of meeting a prospect at a networking event, or leveraging  your landing page in a more memorable way than your competitor – Overall, don’t take any touchpoint for granted!

Understand customers’ needs and wants

Listen to your customers/early adopters, after all isn’t that ‘problem’ you’re solving…for them?

Create purposeful communication
Whether that’s making sure you’re communicating value to your customer at your landing page, the call center, marketing materials or at a networking event – this is vital! You have this awesome product, but if you can’t translate that awesomeness to your customers – you’re as good as dead.  In a way you need to treat your customers as your students, and be able to educate them in ways you’re competitors have not and in ways your customer has not come across…yet. Bottom line – purposeful communication is not only the main component in providing a better CX, but it’s a startup’s lifeline – a lifeline that runs throughout every function of your startup just like the various touchpoints scattered amongst your startup.

To review: see every touchpoint as an opportunity to leverage a customer’s relationship, understand them and create purposeful communication based on their needs.

So whether you’re a startup in the first couple months or first couple years of operations, there’s no reason to wait to be memorable – the time is now – How do you plan to awaken the giant within your startup?

Lessons from out West, Episode II: Precise Marketing in Action

wabash-trip-to-shutterflyRecently, a group of students from Wabash College went on a trip to Silicon Valley to learn about entrepreneurship from some of the most iconic brands in the tech space. Today, Wabash Sophomore Michael Haffner talks to us about his visit to Shutterfly and what he learned about building a successful email marketing system for a business of any size.

The selling of goods and services may be among the oldest professions in the world, but with advent of the Internet and social media, the methods and science behind selling are changing rapidly.  This became apparent during our Wabash College sponsored visit over the Christmas break to Shutterfly.

Most every company has excess inventory–goods that do not sell in the normal course. It may seem simple for a company to determine clearance prices for excess or obsolete inventory. Shutterfly has developed an impressive system of maximizing prices and yet “moving” the obsolete inventory.

The Best Marketers Have The Best Data

However, after visiting various companies out West through Wabash College, I learned that if you are going to remain competitive in this kind of commodity market, you must have the best data and expertly crafted, targeted email campaigns.  Mike Berry, a ’92 Wabash graduate, described the ins and outs of marketing at Shutterfly.  He alluded to the fact that entire “committees” were devoted to deciding what time of day would be most beneficial to send emails and to whom to send them.  As I came to understand, Shutterfly is a branch of a larger company.  Other branches are: tinyprints, Wedding Paper Divas, treat, and thislife.

While there are many branches in the 1400 person company, Berry’s small team is known as CRM technology.  He’s focused on determining automated emails.  As we listened to him talk, I noticed a white-board wall full of possible “clearance emails” that would likely be sent out that week.  Each one consisted of important details, highlighted by a proposed “percent off” the retail price.  When we asked how they determined how much clearance to give, Berry responded with a lighthearted laugh as to imply that a lot goes into these decisions.  Maybe more than we cared to know.

wabash-trip-silicon-valley

But Do You Know Your Buyers?

Overall, the main theme was to know your buyers.  It is crucial for a company, especially from a marketing perspective, to know whom they are targeting and who is buying their product.  For instance, Berry explained that after researching, very little of their sales came from professional photographers, but rather, middle-aged women.  Furthermore, he broke down percentage wise, what he called the 70%-20%-10% rule.  He said that 70% of your money should be put toward what works today.  You want a guarantee that 70% of your money is being put toward things that work.  Also, 20% of the money should be put toward something new that may need more funding.  Finally, the last 10% should be put toward something crazy that has not been done before.  The last 10% should be a unique and creative idea, which, as we found throughout the trip, is a major theme on the West Coast.

silicon valley beach

As the end of the visit neared, we were left with three last business tips.

  • It is a lot easier to sell a product that you actually believe in and would use.
  • Find a cofounder you believe in.  Berry spoke openly about this point, giving an example of his first business with a cofounder that he often questioned.
  • Lastly, I learned to be sure to have a sufficient cash reserves for the company.  Businesses fluctuate in terms of revenue, and therefore, a business that attends to its cash flows will prevail through rough times.

So the next time you receive an email about a product at a particular time or day, discounted by a certain amount, and maybe packaged with other items that you might find of interest, be sure someone meant to “target” you at that time and in that way.  Far less is random or coincidental in the science of marketing than I might have thought.

I thought about asking what I might be hungry for at dinner the next day–but I was afraid they might actually know.  Thanks to Shutterfly and Wabash for an incredible trip!