Making Inbound and Content Marketing Work for You

Do inbound and content marketing mean the death of the salesman? There’s no doubt that the landscape of sales has changed dramatically over the last few years, with traditional tactics such as cold calling or door to door sales waning in popularity thanks to inbound marketing and the rise of content marketing. This is good news for customers, who can find what they want when they want it instead of fielding unwanted calls. It’s good news for businesses too, making it easier to focus on the customers who are most likely to buy. But where does that leave your business sales force? Is there a place for the salesman of old in the new landscape of inbound and content marketing and encouraging the customers to come to you? The answer is a resounding yes, if you employ some flexibility and make the best of both worlds.

Selling Has a New Face

Make no mistake about it, an important part of content and inbound marketing is driving sales, but in a more connected and less pushy way. Good inbound marketing acknowledges that increasingly more people are looking online for what they want and that your job is to have useful, engaging content ready for them when they reach you.

Good quality content and well planned inbound marketing don’t replace sales – they help to drive them. By giving your visitors the information they want, you are encouraging them to do business with you. That’s where inbound marketing and traditional sales meet.

A Warm Welcome and Useful Follow Up

Inbound marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Rather, part of your marketing plan should be to foster good connections with your customers by giving them a strong sense of your brand’s personality and the people behind your online presence. A welcoming presence that makes your customer feel valued is a key part of any marketing, inbound or outbound. As well as in your content itself, consider how you can generate that feeling when following up on leads generated by your inbound marketing efforts.

Engaging with customers who have shown strong interest in your content means utilizing your sales force to talk directly to people who are already interested in what you have to sell. By looking at the content that piqued their interest, your sales force can start a conversation that hones in on a customer’s immediate problems, concerns and needs.

Invite Your Customers and Be Ready When They Arrive

Instead of seeing your marketing and selling departments as separate, it’s time to realize that the two can offer each other valuable insight. Your marketing department understands your customers and can craft the content that will invite them to your digital doorstep. Your sales department understands how to qualify leads and how to talk to your customers to hone in on their needs, figure out how you can help, and close the sale.

By working together, your marketing and sales people can formulate a cohesive strategy for catching the attention of customers who are looking for just what you are selling, and communicating clearly with them when they arrive. You’ll still be selling, but in a much more focused and responsive way that is better for you and your customers.

Choosing the Right CRM System for Your Business

Would it make running your business easier if you had access to all the data you needed about each customer at the touch of a button? That’s the magic of a CRM, or Customer Relationship Management system. A good CRM system does much more than store all the data you need. With the right CRM you can share vital information with your whole sales team and track your prospects from start to close of sale, making sure that every customer interaction is tracked and no one falls between the cracks. With so many CRM systems available, the choice can seem dizzying. To find a system that will make your entire sales process run like clockwork, make sure it offers the following top ten features:

  1. Complete tracking. The right CRM will allow you to track everything from potential sales leads right through to finished sales. You should be able to check in on a potential lead and see where they are in the sales pipeline with no trouble.
  2. The full picture. You should be able to access your full history with each client easily.
  3. Easy to learn and implement. You can expect a learning curve, but a good CRM won’t give you a headache while you figure it out.
  4. Automated follow ups. You’ll find a lot of stress is lifted from your shoulders when your CRM allows you to set automatic follow ups such as emails that are triggered by an event or after a certain time.
  5. Centralized access. All the information should be accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection, giving your entire team access to the sales information they need on the go.
  6. File sharing. You may have documents that support your sales process. The right CRM system will give you a place to store these and share them with your team.
  7. Sales forecasts. Your CRM needs to put all the data to good use with informative sales forecasts.
  8. Customer experience. The right CRM will deliver relevant messages to customers and prospects in a seamless process.
  9. Intuition. Your perfect CRM system will fit in well with your sales processes and collate your data in a way that makes sense.
  10. Prioritizing. Not all customers are equal and the right CRM will make it easy to highlight the customers who are most likely to buy.

Choosing the right CRM software is a time and effort-saving investment that will give you more time to focus on your business.

Differentiating a Commodity from a Solution

Any company can sell commodities, solutions, or a combination of the two. At the management level, knowing which is which rarely creates any difficulty: McDonald’s sells hamburgers, while Stanley Steamer sells carpet cleaning. When looking specifically at sales, however, it’s a bit more difficult to understand how to differentiate between selling a commodity and selling a solution. Each requires its own separate approaches and strategies in order to be successful. What should you know about the difference between the two sales methods?

Sales Focus

Knowing where and how to invest your energy when selling either a commodity or a solution goes a long way towards creating a new customer. In many cases, the focus on selling a commodity will be on the commodity itself: in the McDonald’s example, every commercial features the hamburgers (and french fries) front and center on billboards, commercials, and so forth. The customer is secondary, if featured at all. Compare that with the Stanley Steamer example: no commercial highlights the vacuums, but rather the end result and the customers’ satisfaction. When promoting a commodity sale, the commodity itself should be first and foremost; in a solution sale, the customer should be the highest priority.

Negotiation

Sometimes closing a sale is easier said than done. Skepticism is a common trend amongst customers who are less than willing to part ways with their hard-earned finances. When pitching the sale of a commodity, sometimes the best way to provide value proposition, or the convincing factor of a sale, lies in the simple mathematics. If it’s less expensive to purchase a double cheeseburger, why would you ever go to any other fast-food competitor? By contrast, pitching the value proposition of a solution, it’s necessary to sell the value of a concept rather than the dollar value: having a carpet free of stains and dirt gives you peace of mind or a living space that you can take pride in.

Measuring Multi-Channel Marketing Efforts

Multi-channel marketing has become increasingly important due to the number of ways consumers can find information on products and services. B2B Marketing Insider says that consumers are making purchasing decisions from a variety of sources beyond your business website and sales people. Effectively measuring multi-channel marketing efforts helps you target where your brand message has the most impact. Knowing the most effective channels gives you a better ROI on your marketing dollars.

Collecting Customer Data

The key to evaluating your channel decisions is collecting customer data. This is especially important when creating channel combinations. A TV ad that shows a Twitter hashtag, a direct mailing that includes a QR code, and a radio ad that announces a URL will drive traffic to your retail store or website and generate purchases. But what were the most effective touch points?

Collect all of the channels seen by the consumer to get the best picture of how your campaign is doing. Did they go to your website because they heard it on the radio or scanned the QR code on the brochure? With this consumer data you’ll know how well your brand message is being seen and where you might want to focus your future marketing efforts.

Measuring Revenue Performance

Your baseline is a forecast of revenue. You can then compare the actual revenue received against the baseline. Matched with the above customer data, you’ll be able to tell what percent of revenue during the campaign was the result of offline versus online channels. Your combo channels, such as print brochure with a QR code, become a third channel type to evaluate.

Measuring Consumer Actions

Your channel effectiveness is not only about revenue but about successfully getting a consumer to take action up to the purchase point. For example, a TV ad that displays a URL can drive a consumer to your website. They may or may not purchase something, but if you offer an opt-in to receive a monthly email with special offers, you’ve created a prospect and added them to your pipeline.

Other measurements could include:

  • Visits to a specific landing page
  • Sign ups for a newsletter
  • Views of a certain hashtag
  • Consumer surveys completed

These are all ways of measuring the effectiveness of the channels you’re chosen. Being able to evaluate your channel marketing means you can fine-tune your efforts. Put your dollars where they are most effective and stop wasting money on channels that no longer meet your brand’s message.

6 E-Commerce Advantages

These days, an online store is essential (not optional) for business success. Having an online presence and e-commerce store has many advantages — some obvious, some less overt. To start, an e-commerce store has far lower overhead than a brick and mortar shop. E-commerce advantages start with making your business available to customers 24/7, 365 days a year for a very affordable cost and proceed from there. Here are six additional e-commerce advantages:

1. Stock more items. With e-commerce and a warehouse or a drop-shipper, it’s easy to stock a huge selection without the need for costly retail space.

2. New sales channels. Connecting with new markets and customers is easy with a website, SEO and an e-commerce-enabled store.

3. Up-sells and cross-sells. It’s easy and almost effortless to offer up-sells and cross-promotions as your customers shop your e-commerce store. Suggesting products at checkout can result in additional immediate or future sales.

4. Data/business intelligence. E-commerce also facilitates a much higher level of intelligence and insight about your customers. With quality analytics paired with your e-commerce store, you’ll collect useful, actionable data about your customers. You can track spending habits, preferences, wish lists, and more. With this data, you’ll be able to adapt and fine-tune your store to make it even more effective.

5. Social media engagement. In many cases, an e-commerce store can help to increase the effectiveness of a social media strategy. Since the majority of your customers will be using a computer or mobile device when making a purchase, it’s easy to motivate them to “Like” you on Facebook or engage with your brand via other social media channels.

6. Email marketing. Ideally, your e-commerce store will be collecting customer e-mail addresses at checkout and encouraging visitors to register or create a free account. Email marketing with properly opted-in members is a low cost and effective method of driving traffic back to your store through the use of newsletters, special offers, contests, etc.

Clearly, the advantages of e-commerce far outweigh its minimal investment. Contact us today to find out more about our online ordering and warehouse management software.

The Importance of Customer Relationship Management

Try to imagine, for a moment, being unable to tell family and friends apart or to distinguish them from strangers in a crowd. This is a real circumstance for some people, such as a woman, featured in this video, who suffered an injury in her work as a firefighter and who now experiences “face blindness” because of her injury. There are even people who, although they’re otherwise healthy, live their entire life without being able to tell one person from another by just looking at them, as most of us are easily able to do. One such person, Tom Uglow of Google’s Creative Lab, has written a blog post illustrating how he must use clues to guess the identity of people he knows very well. For someone who really can’t recognize the faces of family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, everyone looks like a stranger.

For any business, the interactions between associates and employees, on one hand, and customers and prospects, on the other hand, tend to become numerous, scattered, and fleeting. As a business grows, its possible relationships go well beyond what we human beings can comfortably maintain as far as truly personal relationships. A business’s leaders have to find ways to maintain and develop the business’s relationships with its customers and prospects, and to the extent that a business lacks such customer relationship management, it suffers something a little like “face blindness.” Every contact the business has with a prospect or a customer remains like a first and only meeting with stranger.

Customer relationship management, defined in one way as “the practice of building a strong relationship between a business and its customers and potential customers,” requires developing within a business the internal functions or abilities it must have, if it’s even to be capable of developing and sustaining relationships with prospects and customers. The business, as a whole, gains social abilities only to the extent that its leaders see what’s missing and give the business new organization.

Fortunately, they don’t have to invent better systems of customer relationship management from scratch. interlinkONE has experience and software tools that will help.

Contact us today to learn more about how our customer relationship management software can help you grow and succeed. Already know you want to see increased sales success with a CRM? Schedule a demo of ilinkSALES by clicking here now.