Your students are going to love the activities in this eBook!
Please click on the image below to go to AMAZON.COM
Your students are going to love the activities in this eBook!
Please click on the image below to go to AMAZON.COM
As I have been stating in a number of previous posts in this blog, the barriers between Sales, Marketing and Customer Service need to come down fast, if companies are to become more effective. The upper hand of the relationship between customers and companies has shifted significantly towards the former in today’s market place. Salespeople must focus on the client as an individual and cater for her specific needs at every stage of the buying process. Therefore companies need to adapt and be way more attentive and responsive to be able to move the client along the sales funnel (the steps towards the purchase) and close the deal. Companies need to train their staff to develop sophisticated social media skills if they want to succeed.
Sales, Marketing and Customer Service have to work closer than ever to provide a seamless experience to the client, regardless of the different touch points (email campaign, sales call, the various social media channel communications, print ads, etc) she is exposed to and chooses to use on the path to a purchase.
The old system of departmentalization between Sales, Marketing and Customer Service is becoming obsolete: in the past, sales leads were generated by Marketing, which would qualify them and pass them on to Sales, which, in turn, would hand post-sales issues to Customer Service for support and help. This process does not work so neatly anymore. It has become a lot more complex, not to say messy. Customers are probably exposed to your product through a number of sources and the communication and the responsibility for the process of following up on their requests must be handled together, as a team, by your employees. Software is available to make all the history of this interaction clear to whoever deals with that client.
For starters the client is bound to already know a lot about the product even before she first contacts you. She has a number of ways to research and get precise info on what she needs to purchase. The idea is to be fast and prompt in your response, adding to what is already known, whether it be: passing on more specific info on the benefits, clarification on functionality, scheduling a live demonstration, an invitation to a webinar with a specialist, drawing the terms of a contract, the negotiation of a discount, etc.
Let’s focus in this post on how specifically the sales force could use social media more proactively to meet the customer’s needs and move them along the sales funnel towards a successful goal. They can use any or all of the following tools as a supplement to what they already do (such as personal sales calls or phone calls). In many cases, however, you will notice that if they use these online tools properly, parts of the more traditional in person face-to-face sales process might be replaced smoothly by digital communication – which, not rarely, are more likely to yield results.
1. LinkedIn: this is your personal online ID card. Chances are customers will check out your profile immediately after you schedule an appointment to see them. Make sure you live up or surpass their expectations. Choose your profile picture carefully. Only you can decide on the level of formality or informality expected from professionals in your industry. Play by the rules. Fill in as much relevant info about your career as possible, and do not hesitate to ask coworkers, bosses and senior management for recommendations and endorsements. You can always return the favor. Publish only work-related posts on this platform. Avoid jokes and cat photos (you can use other social networks for that, don’t worry). Think twice before you post an update here. Remember that slips may jeopardize your chances of a future job. Nurture and grow your contacts daily. Be courteous and answer communications sent to you as quickly as possible.
2. Facebook: if you are uncomfortable using your personal profile professionally, create a specific professional one (I’ve confronted that dilemma of separating private and public life myself for a couple of years, so I’m totally sympathetic to whoever has the same problem). However, I gave up the on the struggle and unified my profiles. In this day and age, customers expect to deal with genuine human beings, so developing skills to be able to post the right content to the right group of people through a single profile will surely make your life easier and boost your career. If you wish to post photos of your family barbecue, do create a little private group for the only people who would care about this. Besides, as you probably know, you have the option to post to your whole audience of “friends”, to a few chosen people, or to the public in general, by adjusting the platform settings for every post. Just exercise some common sense in your content publishing strategy and you should be OK. This works better than keeping separate profiles. What you can’t do is avoid creating a digital presence for the development of your personal brand on the Internet. Gather as many clients and prospects as your “friends” as possible, and start posting relevant and useful content (not annoying and interrupting ads) on your newsfeed. You will be building what they call “thought leadership”, presenting yourself as an expert in a specific subject, and, naturally, prospects will grow to depend on you when they have a problem that needs the kind of solution you have been discussing or blogging about.
3. Instagram: develop a similar a strategy. Of course, the focus here, however, is on visuals: photos and videos. Publish a balanced mix of personal and work-related content. The personal stuff will make it easy for the customers to relate to you as a person (so the occasional cat pictures are fine, don’t worry), whereas the work-related publications will hopefully help you build a friendly and caring image for your company and for yourself as a professional. You could, for example, post photos of your products and services (a dynamic teacher in action using the latest technology in the classroom, if you sell edtech products, for example). Try not to use fashion models – this is not an ad after all (lose the glitter and fake glamour) – but real life photos of actual happy users of your product instead. Show people you work with. Post pictures of the offices of your company, to make it more relatable to customers. The main thing to keep in mind is you should be providing valuable or fun information, educating your prospects, training your users, not interrupting your audience with a sales pitch. In the meantime, Marketing should be working on building a bank of images, video clips, ebooks, blog posts, white papers and other useful pieces of content to help you pass them on in a more personalized way to your prospects, but there’s nothing wrong in your creating your own content, if you have the skills and the authorization of your boss. Do not rely solely on the Marketing Department’s support for your success, it doesn’t work like that.
4. Twitter: don’t waste time using your Twitter account only for personal interactions. Think of it, as of any other social media channel, as a powerful tool to create an Internet presence and carve a unique personal brand. This may advance your career in unexpected ways. Create or curate as much germane content to your customers as possible. Retweet, for example, your company’s invitations to webinars and events. Indicate and promote useful and complementary websites to the customers. Share relevant information about your industry. Educate the prospects on the benefits of a new product or service. I know you have only 140 characters to use, but you’d be amazed at how much can be accomplished with that. Don’t forget you can use links to more comprehensive information (such as a blog post, a landing page or a how-to video clip), although I wouldn’t recommend you overuse this technique. The recommended balance goes more or less like this: for each 15 new updates, think 10/4/1: 10 posts should be about content from other people you are curating and sharing; 4 posts should direct them to your latest blog post or video clip; 1 post should invite them to a special offer on your company’s landing page. Don’t use this ratio as a straightjacket, though.
The bottom line is nobody has a perfectly safe job in today’s corporate world. Companies will not give you all the support you wish you had to carry out the ideal sales performance everyone expects from you. You need to stand up for yourself and imagine you are an external consultant hired to do the best job you can for a limited period of time. Lay-offs are around the corner. I don’t mean to scare you, but this is the brutal reality of our times. Therefore, you have no choice. Dive into social media, develop a powerful personal brand on the Internet, nourish a healthy and trusting base of clients and feed them all the relevant content you can. The pay off will be the empowering of your personal brand and the resulting sale – when and only when the customers are ready for it. The good news is this method will yield a lot more closings than the more traditional approaches, in which you need to wrestle down the poor customer to the floor and drag her across the room by the hair to force the purchase of the latest edition of your Manual for Reluctant Customers.
For more on the same topic, please refer to my previous post:
Please let me know your thoughts about this article. Use the comments section for your reaction.
Writing is today more fashionable than it has been in a long time. Perhaps it’s at the peak of its importance ever, with all the blogs, messages, emails and tweets swamping our computer, tablet and smart phone screens every second of the day. Of course, most of the time it’s bad or unclear writing. But everyone is doing it one way or another, and job opportunities are opening up for those who do it well.
Content is the key word in the workplace today. Especially if you are in sales & marketing. The buyer has all the power today and they control when, how and where they will make their next purchase. In this context, writing can be a great asset in educating and persuading prospects, making them see you as the expert, or thought leader in your field. Writing great content and making it available will help you develop a relationship with your potential customers, who will definitely lean towards your offer when the time is right.
As a consequence of its importance, the Internet is full of advice about effective writing, how to put blogs together, the dos and don’ts and best practices of publishing anything. By all means, read all you can, as there is a lot of useful information online. Beware, however, of some of the most common misconceptions about writing: in general most of them were acquired or developed at school and academic settings rather than on the Internet. Here are five of the most common:
1. Writing is about inspiration and waiting for the muse to come down and sit on your keyboard. Well, I’m afraid there’s not enough room for the muse to relax and spread out on such a small space. Also, deadlines have a weird way of not accommodating the muse’s busy schedule, so do not wait to get started. Writing is not necessarily what Hemingway warned us against in his famous quote: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Make it more active: brainstorm ideas, do some research, check out what is trending online, use automatic topic generators on the Internet, and do not delay. Start the process as soon as you can,
2. Writing comes out as the masterpiece you usually read in the printed copy of good magazines, newspapers and books. Well, the final draft is not easy to get to. That’s what you see published. But anyone can get the process started and refine it until you achieve a satisfactory result. The saying writing is rewriting, or writing is more about transpiration than inspiration are indeed true. Once you spill out your first ideas and get them more or less outlined on the page, you will start the process of polishing them. And that is the hard part. This will take time, effort and immense patience.
3. You cannot self-edit. If we are not talking about your PhD thesis or your fiction masterpiece, do not believe you need a team of copyeditors, researchers and proofreaders ready to work for you. They are expensive and hardly available in enough numbers even for big publishing companies nowadays. So, unless you can count on close friends to help you out with it (remember you can always return the favor), you must learn tactics for self-editing. Do not hesitate to count on every piece of technology available to help you with the task: spell checkers, grammar checkers, dropdown thesaurus, online dictionaries, you name it. There are a lot of very useful tools out there. Read your drafts as many times as you can and carry on refining them. There will be a moment when you’ll get so fed up with reading your piece you will want to throw up. That’s when you take a serious break. I’m not talking about the proverbial coffee time (you have probably been drinking coffee nonstop throughout the whole process anyway). Just abandon your text for a couple of days (I hope you can afford to do that. Factor in those necessary breaks when you plan your timetable to meet the deadline). Next time you get back to the text, you will see it with fresh eyes, and give it the final touches as a Steven Pinker would.
4. Sophisticated writing is good writing. Write as you speak. Content that will help you sell is content that’s simple enough for the majority of readers to understand. So drop the long words and complex sentences. The golden rule of elegance is less is more. Apply this to your writing: precision and simplicity of vocabulary, clarity of ideas, avoidance of overuse of the passive voice, and keeping to what is essential are the tactics that will make you win the reader over. As you read and reread your text, try to leave out everything that is superfluous or redundant. Cut, cut, cut.
5. Not everyone can write. You are write (sorry: right) to think so, if you are using Oscar Wilde or Hemingway as your standard. Artistic and creative writing are not for everyone. It does not need to be for you. But most people can learn to develop and communicate clear, authoritative and persuasive ideas in writing. It takes practice, though. All the content marketing gurus agree on this single point: you need to write everyday if you are in the business. The blog post you will write as soon as you finish reading this text will sound a hundred times better than the one you wrote around the same time last year. They will be both there on the Internet: just read and compare them. You will have improved. So keep working at it and surprise yourself month after month at how much better you are becoming. Good luck!
Would you like to share with us any advice on writing? Please do not hesitate to do so on the comments section of this blog. You might as well rate us so we can improve.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Ernest Hemingway
As we all bloggers know, Hemingway did nail the writing process in his quote above. Yes, it’s hard; yes, it’s time-consuming; no, it’s never right the first time around. Writing is rewriting. For a 1000-word blog post, I would say the average blogger would write at least 10 drafts before he is reasonably satisfied with the result. He is lucky if he has an editor to help with the polishing, but that is not usually the case.
However, in this day and age of content marketing, you would be crazy as a marketer if you did not sit down at least once a week to create or repurpose some written content to post on the Internet. Let me highlight in this post the features of good blog posts and how your business could benefit from them.
1. Search engine optimization: provided you offer useful and original content, employing the relevant key words, blogging will help your business show up on the SERPs (search engine results pages) of your prospective clients. I don’t know many people today who will not go to Google at some point during the buying cycle to do a search before actually purchasing a product or service. So, to be available, to show up, it will help to have a carefully SEOed (search engine optimized) blog to pop up on the first page.
2. Answer your customers questions: the buying process – the cycle your prospects go through before committing to a purchase – consists of the the following phases: first, the prospect needs to identify a need or problem; second, they will try to learn about possible solutions; third, they will start shopping for the ideal solution; afterwards, when they are ready, they will look for directions to actually buy it (online or offline); finally, when they start using the product, they might have problems or questions about it, so you need to offer them prompt customer service. Your blog needs to account for each one of these phases and provide the appropriate answers to help them at the stage they are, moving them along the sales funnel. It takes close communication between Marketing, Sales and Customer Service to identify the customers most frequently asked questions and issues, and try to solve them through your blog content. So it’s time to cooperate (there’s no need to tell me how hard this can be, but it’s worth trying): salespeople and customer service professionals need to develop their marketing skills, while marketers should learn more about the customers from sales and customer service so they can provide qualified leads.
3. Thought leadership: by covering content that speaks to the different needs of your customers at the different stages of the buying process you will soon develop a reputation of an expert in the field. Even if you don’t get conversions in terms of sales at the first moment, your customers will grow to trust your opinions and respect your points of view. When the time comes for them to make a buying decision, who do you think they will turn to?
4. Style: your blog is not supposed to be a work of art if you are a marketer. So write as simply and elegantly as possible, as if you were actually “talking” to the prospect. A marketer’s blog is not a piece of literature, so tone down your message, and be objective and direct. Of course it would help to be aware of the reading level of your audience, but “according to many reports (including the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics’ 1992 Adult Literacy survey), the average reading level is the 7th or 8th grade. Combine that with reports of increasingly low-attention spans of Internet users who require even milder language and you’re looking at a reading level of the 6th or 7th grade” (http://blog.ezinearticles.com/2013/10/ezinearticles-asks-what-reading-level-should-you-target.html) . If you really wish to fine tune your text’s level of difficulty, there are some tools on the Internet (try the Readability Test Tool, for example, http://read-able.com) that will allow you to measure it.
5. The title: the importance of a catchy title to crown your blog post cannot be underestimated. This is the first impression you will make on the reader, and you only have a couple of seconds to entice them. So think carefully about it. Putting yourself in the shoes of a journalist may help, after all, this is your headline. Research says that questions are a good way to go, as they tease the reader into looking for the answer in the text.
6. Promoting and Repurposing: to make the most of all the effort you put into writing your piece, promoting your blog is a must. Use your social media channels with this objective. Putting links to your blog post repeatedly, however, may not be the solution (although you’ll have to do it occasionally). Be careful not to make your audience feel spammed. Another solution is to repurpose your content and distribute it in different formats to suit the different social media channels: write a summary of the content as an image (for Instagram); use the photos you put in your blog post with a link to it (Instagram, Facebook); write a headline for your blog with a link to it (Twitter); turn it into an infographics poster (Pinterest); use the main points for a slide presentation (slideshare), etc.
As with most things in life, practice makes perfect. Some people say they blog everyday so they can improve. Research indicates that to be excellent at a skill you need to have spent at least 10,000 hours at it (read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” for a deeper explanation on this). Maybe you don’t have that amount of time available anymore, but I would say it’s never too late to get started. What you can’t afford to do as a marketer is NOT to have a blog. How about starting today?