One of the most profound changes in sales and marketing in recent years is the idea that companies should focus on engaging customers more than selling products. A big part of the customer engagement movement involves using various communication techniques to create a meaningful relationship where the customer values you and your company, independent of what you’re selling.
There’s been some analysis on a handful of techniques that can drive engagement. Popular examples include social media, storytelling, and content marketing. But most of this analysis has focused on tactical execution, as opposed to how knowing what the customer really wants (read: the customer’s psychology) can help you drive engagement.
Robin Dreeke has written a book called It’s Not All About Me. It’s a primer on how to use ten different communication skills to build rapport with people. Dreeke is the head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program and his recommendations are based on a good understanding of evolutionary and social psychology, as well as years of experience in the field.
Marketers spend $33B a year on market research. It’s a huge number that’s driven by marketing’s never-ending quest to understand what the customer really wants. It goes without saying that companies that understand and deliver exactly what the customer wants across product development, marketing, sales, and customer service have a distinct advantage. Marketers have always understood this. So why is that so few marketers are able gather customer insights that truly impact the business?
The short answer is that traditional market research is broken. The long answer is that traditional market research makes gathering high quality customer insights really hard. Legacy research techniques are expensive and time consuming and make it difficult to have meaningful conversations with prospects and customers. When forced to make the seemingly inevitable tradeoff between quality and cost, many marketers have opted for the low cost, low quality option. In this world, market research becomes a perfunctory exercise – something that simply doesn’t impact the company’s performance. In fact, many marketing organizations just get out of the research game all together, choosing instead to treat the market research function as something that’s meant to keep third party analysts and thought leaders happy.
Everyone’s a publisher now. It’s one of the most common refrains you’ll hear in the world of content marketing. And it’s true. A couple of years ago, one of the bosses of content marketing, Joe Chernov, told me, “We all have the means to be a publisher now. There’s been a massive disintermediation between somebody who wants to publish and an audience to reach. You don’t have to go to a printing press anymore. You can publish on a blog. You can publish on Twitter. Technology has enabled brands to do this wherein the past it was relegated to only the biggest companies.”
The vendor-as-publisher concept is a powerful one, but acting like a publisher is a lot harder than saying you’re a publisher. One of the more common questions our clients ask us is: “how do we scale our content marketing program”? It’s another way of asking “how do we act like a publisher”? A recent study by the Content Marketing Institute highlights the problem. When asked to identify their top content marketing challenge, marketers cited three primary issues:
1. Producing high quality content – 41% of respondents
2. Producing enough content – 20% of respondents
3. Producing content on a limited budget – 18% of respondents
This data highlights what you might call content marketing’s perfect storm: how can marketers create high quality content at scale with a limited budget?
One of the most important factors in creating a scalable, repeatable revenue machine is sales and marketing alignment. In aligned organizations, sales and marketing are working together in a coordinated effort to achieve the ultimate goal: revenue. There is compelling data that highlights the effectiveness of aligned organizations:
- Organizations with tightly-aligned sales and marketing had 36% higher customer retention rates and achieved 38% higher sales win rates – MarketingProfs
- Companies with dynamic, adaptable sales and marketing processes had an average of 10% more of their sales people on quota – CSO Insights
- Aligned organizations achieved an average of 32% annual revenue growth while less aligned companies reported an average 7% decline in revenue – Forrester Research
- B2B organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24% faster growth and 27% faster profit growth over a three year period – Sirius Decisions
Despite these statistics and years of emphasis, sales and marketing alignment continues to be a struggle. The good news is that there is a desire to change. The biggest impetus for this new mind-set has come from sales. Sales now realizes that buying behavior has changed and marketing now must own a significant portion of the buying process. A recent Sirius Decisions poll
of 300 sales leaders highlights this: “The top third of the sales cycle has gone away. Salespeople believe that the beginning of the traditional sales process has evaporated and that buyers are self-servicing their needs instead of engaging with salespeople.” Sales needs marketing now more than ever.
Pop ups are making a comeback. That’s somewhat surprising news given that the pop up had been relegated to the underbelly of the internet after a run as one of the internet’s more dominant forms of advertising. The pop up peak came a little over ten years ago when the number of pop ups served grew from 1.2 billion in January 2002 to 4.9 billion in September 2002. At about the same time, a Gartner study revealed that 78% of people found pop ups to be “very annoying”. As a result, most credible websites eliminated pop ups from their ad inventory, in spite of the excellent conversion rates they offered to advertisers.
The resurgence in pop ups is still about conversions, but for many marketers, today’s pop up is less of an advertisement and more of a feature that’s integrated into a website. As a result, pop ups are able to strike more of a balance between achieving high conversion rates and offering a good experience to the visitor.
Account based marketing is getting serious attention these days. Vendors, bloggers, and market research firms are fueling a resurgence in account based marketing’s popularity. ITSMA coined the phrase in 2004 and B2B vendors have been doing this type of marketing for years (but without calling it account based marketing). For the last several years, sales and marketing teams have been trying to re-think demand generation, understand technology such as marketing automation, wrap their hands around inbound marketing, and have now realized: “Well wait a minute, we sell to companies – we need to build our sales and marketing machine accordingly.”
Here is ITSMA’s definition of account based marketing:
“Treating individual accounts as a market in their own right”
A structured approach to developing and implementing highly-customized marketing campaigns to markets of one, i.e., accounts, partners, or prospects. This approach involves marketing and sales taking a close look at key business issues facing the target, mapping them to individuals, and tailoring campaigns to address those issues.
People love pictures and there’s no better place to see that than online. Facebook alone now stores over 220 billion images. Over seven petabytes of new photos are added to the social network every month. And it’s not just Facebook. We’re seeing a proliferation of images all over the internet, including on other social platforms, news sites, blogs, and ecommerce sites. The internet has become a truly image-centric medium.
For online marketers, images hold a lot of power. That’s because they have the potential to dramatically increase conversion rates for a few different reasons. First, the internet has evolved from a text-centric medium to an image-centric one in recent years where people now expect an image-rich experience. Second, most people prefer to consume images as opposed to text. Third, images can be a subtle, but powerful cue to guide people’s behavior.
One of the most critical functions in converting leads to opportunities is a sales development team. Sales development is a group whose main job is to identify, connect with, and qualify leads. When a lead is qualified, they hand the qualified lead over to a sales person who is in charge of working the rest of the sales process and hopefully, closing the deal. Some organizations call this role lead qualification, lead development, account development, telemarketing, or inside sales. For this post, we will call the role “sales development”.
Your revenue often depends on having a high-functioning sales development function. I am one of the biggest proponents of the sales development role. Here is a brief write-up that includes my views from Marketo’s Definitive Guide to Lead Qualification:
Today, we’re excited to introduce TOPO. We’re a research, advisory, and consulting firm that believes in a really simple, but powerful idea – that all revenue can be distilled down to a series of conversions. By connecting everything we do back to this core idea, we help sales and marketing organizations exceed their revenue targets.
Some of the world’s leading companies already depend on TOPO to improve their sales and marketing programs. For these clients, we’re delivering comprehensive audits, specific playbooks, and actionable advisory and consulting services across a range of programs. For example, one of the world’s largest technology companies used a TOPO playbook to increase their “lead to opportunity” conversion rate by 30%. More recently, a startup media company engaged TOPO to increase sign ups for their live events by 41% using a variety of online and phone-based conversion tactics.
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