No Bull: Jumping the Chasm Between Sales & Marketing

Recently, I had the pleasure of being on the Sales Lead Management Association Radio with host Jim Obermayer. I was thrilled to have this opportunity to participate in the topic of “Jumping the Chasm between Sales and Marketing.” Below, please enjoy a recording from the session, where you will hear my unique perspective on why marketing so often fails in its understanding of sales problems, and how sales doesn’t escape when it flops in “selling” marketing on its needs. During this session, I will address the failures that both departments experience, and how to better bridge this communication gap.

Meet Sales Goals by Lifting Up Your Customer Service Staff

Lift Customer Service StaffMeeting sales goals is heavily dependent on the customer experience your team provides. Since the experience begins with the skills and level of service offered by your reps, why are most customer service strategies focused on the customer? A big revenue opportunity is in doing your part to make sure teams on the front lines feel empowered and satisfied.

In this Q&A with Software Advice’s Holly Regan, we discuss some recent tips she developed for empowering customer service reps, inspired by Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson. While some might think energy and resources are best spent on the satisfaction of the customer, you’ll see how organizations notorious for excellent customer service (like Virgin) lift up staff to meet overall company goals.

 

interlinkONE: One of Richard Branson’s strategies for empowering customer support staff is encouraging them to collaborate for the best solution, rather than getting management involved. What are some ways to foster this collaboration?

Holly: According to Branson, praising employees for collaboration is the best motivator. Any time your customer support team members work together to provide better service, make sure you commend them for their actions. Consider offering a tangible reward for times they really go above and beyond. Branson personally praises Virgin employees on a regular basis and recognizes them company-wide when they provide exceptional service. Senior leaders should also lead by example where collaboration is concerned. They should consistently get out on the floor and work side by side with the rest of the team. This will give them a better understanding of what they should be encouraging team members to do to help each other.

interlinkONE: What is your advice for other organizations looking to operate within a “judgment playing field,” where staff are asked to make their own decisions?

Holly: It starts and ends with smart hiring. When you only hire staff who share your company values and fit with your culture, you know you can trust them to make decisions that benefit both the company and the customer. Of course, even the best employees will make mistakes from time to time, so you’ll have to make sure you clearly define the boundaries of the “judgment playing field” for all new hires–in other words, outline which practices, behavior and language are acceptable and which are “out of bounds.” By establishing clear guidelines that all members of your staff agree to uphold, you give employees the freedom to make their own customer service decisions, while ensuring that even a poor decision won’t have a catastrophic effect on your business.

interlinkONE: In what ways can you encourage your customer service reps to “bring their personalities to work”?

Holly: Customers prefer having genuine interactions with employees; they don’t want their reps to be robots. So don’t require them to follow a script, which by definition will make service interactions seem forced and ingenuine. Allow your reps to engage customers personally, like they would with a friend. If you’ve hired quality employees who have been thoroughly vetted, you’ll know you can trust them to keep customer service interactions friendly, yet professional. And if you have clearly established what sort of language and behavior is and isn’t allowed within the “judgment playing field,” you won’t have to worry about employees crossing the line. Managers can demonstrate this behavior in their own interactions with customers, too, to give reps an idea of how they can let their personality shine while retaining respectful boundaries.

interlinkONE: Here at interlinkONE we use our own customer communications software ilinkONE V8 to manage customer contacts and communications on one central, web-based  platform. Do you think it’s important for software providers to practice what they preach in their customer service department?

Holly: Yes; if software providers offer a product that they believe enhances the customer communication experience, like ilinkONE V8, then there’s no reason they shouldn’t use that product for themselves. Agents will be able to provide better customer service when they have personal experience with the product they’re supporting, and can understand firsthand how it benefits the customer.

interlinkONE: Why might reps who have a sense of overall company mission deliver a better customer experience than those who do not?

Holly: Reps who have a sense of the overall mission have a broader view of what exactly it is the company is trying to achieve. This not only clearly delineates employee goals, it also provides them with a greater sense of purpose. In order to be passionate about the company, employees must first know what it stands for. Then, they can internalize the mission and use their own judgment to deliver on it when serving customers. Knowing how each of their customer service interactions contributes to the bigger picture empowers reps to make these interactions the best they can be.

Is an Email Marketing Manager Still Relevant?

email marketing managerTake a glance at the world of digital marketing and you might assume that email marketing has taken a back seat. After all, the current digital landscape is driven by social media, content marketing, and other innovative ideas like video and text message marketing.

Where does this leave email marketing?  And how does this impact your average small- or medium-sized business?

Follow along and look at its importance…

                                      

The Current State of Email Marketing

Just in case you were wondering, email marketing is alive and well.

Here are just a few mind blowing email statistics:

•           77% of consumers prefer email for permission-based marketing communications

•           7 out of 10 used a coupon in an email in the previous week

•           82% of consumers open email from companies

 

The intangibles are also in email marketing’s favor, if we compare email to something like social media. KISSmetrics argues that email is more social, more transactional, and more personal than social media.  It’s tough to argue with those types of points.

When you consider the versatility of email, you have to hand it to this “ancient” digital marketing medium.

After all, newsletters, in-depth updates, and a wide variety of messages are possible with email – while social media would take a skilled marketer to pull it off as easily, if possible.  And then, of course, with most social media networks – it’s in the past in the blink of an eye.

 

Many think that email marketing is the most valuable type of marketing platform.

Think about it – would you rather have an email contact or a social media follower?  Most would choose the former.

 

Is the Manager Still Relevant?

The most relevant point here is that email marketing is still relevant, powerful, and worth any company’s time – no matter how large or small it may be.

As for the manager, it depends.

Since email and social media marketing campaigns can and should be linked together at times, perhaps the digital marketing manager or director could oversee both – as well as other forms of online marketing.  It’s important to at least co-ordinate the two, and combining the two can form a powerful tandem.

That is an important take-home point for businesses.

Email, social media, text messaging, video, content, and more – these forms of marketing can and should co-ordinate and combine with each other accordingly.  It’s the solution for brand identity, hitting the mark with special deals and messaging initiatives, and much more.  It all has to fit together.

 

You can take or leave the email manager.

What you should buy into is the realization that email marketing is alive and well.  Invest in it with your resources to get what you can out of it – your competitors certainly will do so!

 

About the Author: Brian Neese is an author that specializes in content marketing, social media, and SEO.  He writes about technology, financial software, marketing, and much more.

Is That the Right SEO Consultant for Your Business?

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Search engine optimization for business purposes deserves the type of attention that only a professional consultant can provide.

But, not all consultants are capable of the same SEO skills required to get the job done. Because of this, it’s wise for your business to take plenty of time when hunting for the right consultant.

With search engine competency in mind, here are just a few things for your business to consider when searching for the perfect SEO consultant:

It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask Around

Chances are that others in the business world have gone through the same consultant search as your business is going through, which is exactly why asking business acquaintances and your online professional network for referrals is so helpful.

Not only will you get unbiased opinions and honest testimonials from other businesses, you’ll also quickly weed out consultants that simply aren’t worth it.

Likewise, if you’ve exhausted your direct acquaintances, there are plenty of online resources specializing in SEO consultant best practices and reviews.

Breaking Down Fees

There are no guarantees in SEO unless it’s a money back guarantee, so avoid consultants promising guaranteed results. And, once you’ve found a consultant that meshes well with your business, it’s time to talk fees.

SEO consultants offer services ranging from simple website assessments to extensive keyword search campaigns, so you need to have a rough idea of what your company is looking for.

More often than not, an “all-inclusive” SEO package is unnecessary considering a wide range of websites and businesses require very specific optimization needs. Whether it’s a small amount of work or complete website restructuring, flat rates by the hour or project are always a wise pay structure to use.

 Questions for the Consultant

Choosing the right SEO consultant is just as much an interview process as hiring a full-time employee, so your business should come to the table with questions.

Likewise, the questions should boil down to two parts: what are you getting out of the SEO service and how will the consultant achieve those results?

Some questions your company could ask range from whether or not the consultant follows Google Webmaster guidelines, to the SEO techniques the consultant uses to specific optimization services related to your business’s needs. During the decision making process, the right answers are worth their weight in SEO gold.

 Local vs. Remote Consultants

Although meeting with your consultant face-to-face is beneficial, choosing your consultant based on location simply depends on what makes your business the most comfortable. Thanks to video conferencing services, a remote consultant located halfway across the country is just as convenient as a hometown SEO professional.

Whether local or remote, the ultimate goal is to choose an SEO consultant that understands your business.

About the Author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including social media, how to become a better budget planner, and home improvement.

4 Ways to Enhance Targeted Marketing Efforts

Do your marketing efforts make a personal and immediate connection with your audience? Do you use a proactive approach for telling them how your business can specifically help their needs?  If you feel like you should improve your campaigns but are not sure how to, take a look at these four tips to help you get started!

Speak to Your Audience.

It’s human nature to pay closer attention to something when it is more relevant to you, so why not apply this methodology to your marketing efforts?  With variable data printing, you can instantly give that personal touch to your marketing pieces but having the recipient’s name, address, and a variety of additional information included in your messaging. Think bigger and incorporate Augmented Reality, QR codes or NFC in as well. This will help you stand out from the many marketing messages they may receive each day.

Address Specific Needs.

The next time you create your next marketing campaign, avoid the generic “About Us” path, and focus more on the recipient.  Ask yourself, “What are their needs, what would appeal to them, what would they request information on if they were to call my business?”  For instance, if you created athletic uniforms for schools, a great summer campaign would be a back-to-school-themed campaign featuring fall sports.  Take advantage of the information you already have about your audience and blow them away with your proactive approach to how you can help them.

Key Resource You Need Today: Guide to Selling Marketing Services

Highlight Services.

What happens when you receive a promotion and the majority of the promoted products and services do not apply to you? You discard it and usually ignore future promotions that are similar to that one.  You must remember that your customers may use your products and services differently than other audiences.  Create audience-specific campaigns by promoting the top three services that each of your audiences would utilize the most.  You want your audience to see what they need right away and be able to take advantage of the promotion that is being showcased in the marketing piece.  Avoid making them look for what they need, be the expert by presenting the best tools for them from the start.

Optimize Delivery Time.

Each industry operates differently throughout the year.  For example, retail stores may be extremely busy during the fall yet incredibly slow during the winter.  Universities may focus its marketing efforts to potential students in the spring, but then focuses on alumni funding in the fall.  If you develop campaigns around these audience-specific cycles and trends, you may be the perfect solution to your audiences’ needs during the time they need you most.

By using these tactics, your marketing efforts will grab your audiences’ attention because of its targeted messaging and strategic delivery time.  Be sure to always stay engaged with your customers’ timely needs so you will always remain relevant to them.

For assistance with your next marketing campaign, let’s connect!  Me and my team would love to consult with you and help you deliver an effective message to your audience. Learn more here. From on-site consultations to complete marketing plans, we’re ready to help your business succeed!

9 Ways to Keep Leads and Prospects Engaged

Sometimes the usual phone call or email is just the complete wrong way to follow-up with leads.  While tempting, keep in mind that you may catch them at a bad time, lead them to feeling like they’re “being sold,” or have them ask you to stop attempting altogether.  How can you spark action and interest into that lead without a hard sell?  Simple!  Here are 9 types of information you can send to your leads to keep their attention:

Recorded Webinars

Webinars are a convenient way of educating a large audience with minimal costs associated.  What is also great about them is that they can be recorded!  If you’re going to deliver a great presentation that highlights your expertise, make the most of it by saving the recording and using it as a sales tool for future leads and inquiries.

Recorded Sales Demonstrations

In sales, you may come across a situation where you have to deliver multiple demos for the same company before you can close the deal.  While every point of contact is an opportunity to get closer to the lead, make sure they don’t forget you (and can show you off to colleagues) by sending them a recorded demo.  That way, they can refer back to it at their convenience and never forget the greatest parts of your software. For example, check out our drag-and-drop demo for our mobile website builder, iFlyMobi!

Digital Company Brochures

If you have a fantastic printed brochure, turn the original PDF file of it into an electronic sales tool!  It’s a great way to sum up all of your company’s benefits and services into one well-designed package, and your leads can then save it on their desktop.  Be sure to share this via a software that handles electronic fulfullment so that you have a history record of sending it.

eBooks

Educate your audience with an enticing eBook that includes interesting facts about your audience’s pain points, and the solutions to those problems.  You can subtly promote your services and products within them, but have this eBook act as a reminder to all that you’re the answer to their problems.  Take a look at our eBook, “Guide to Selling Marketing Services” for inspiration.

Videos

Position yourself as the expert by giving tips, best practices, and a summary of services in 1-2 minute video clips.  Send this along to your prospects as a conversation starter, and let them get to know you through creative videos.

Podcasts

If you have team members who are fantastic speakers, podcasts may be the best approach to take when trying to capture their knowledge.  You can get away with longer podcast sessions as opposed to videos because the listener can listen in the car, at their desk over lunch, or on their morning run. Invite educational guests and keep folks coming back monthly for more knowledge!

Infographics

If you have a great graphic design team, and some captivating statistics, highlight both of these resources in an infographic (like this one).  They’re interesting, fun to look at, and share-worthy.  You can share information about the industries your target audiences are in, how you have increased success for clients, or how you’re keeping up with new technologies.

Service and Product Sell Sheets

Perhaps your leads don’t need the entire brochure, all they may want is a one-pager that goes over key benefits of one service or product they may be interested in.  Think real estate; they’ve mastered the 1 page sell. What’s great about having electronic sales sheets of your various offerings is that you can send a mixture of them depending on what your lead needs, and not clutter up their mind with too many ancillary services that don’t suit them.

Surveys

This sales tool is beneficial for two big reasons.  If you deliver a survey with weighted questions, you can customize the end results of what the survey would say based on the lead’s answers.  It also helps you qualify the lead in finding out what type of offerings would best fit their needs.

The bottom line?

The sales process doesn’t always have to be direct.  Take more of an inbound marketing approach and let them come to you. Sometimes the best way to keep the conversation going is to send educational and informative materials that will captivate your leads and get them excited about what you have to say so when they are ready, they come to the expert first (pssst…that’ll be you!)

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Need a reminder of these great tips? Print this handy cheat sheet: