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As we know, business development is a continuous and cyclical operation. The cycle is one of extremes; it’s either going fabulously well and opportunities are in abundance, or there’s precious little on the horizon.
All business development professionals question their ability to produce good quality leads when at this juncture.
With over a decade of front-line practice, this is something I have consistently experienced; exhilarating highs and frustratingly low periods of drought. Although, with the right formula and robust processes in place, thankfully these droughts don’t last very long!
We all consistently strive to perfect our methods to engage our audience and enjoy a higher success rate, yet often neglect to consider that people only buy from people that they like, can trust and that they can relate to.
Understanding the stages in the sales cycle and following good practice should go hand in hand with the development of the individual qualities that all successful new business openers seem to be unconsciously competent at.
Here are my top five essential attributes of a successful new business marketer:
A relaxed manner only comes to those who have prepared, are confident and that have a good level of understanding of their audience. Respecting the audience’s precious time and good manners will result in a positive all round experience that builds rapport for future potential.
Knowing when to talk, what questions to ask and at what level, when to listen in order to take in the right intelligence. These skills will help shape the conversation in order to get the most from it.
Immersion in the sales cycle on an on-going basis at all levels is necessary when you are in communication with director-level decision makers.
Problem-solving propositions are the best method of approach (above solutions based and offer based approaches). Asking what issues and problems the contact is faced with provides an opportunity to demonstrate how these problems could be overcome.
Respectful consistent communication when the contact has agreed for further contact works. Particularly when new insight/industry analysis/further evidence of suitability is presented as part of the warming process.
I’m in a generous mood this month, so I thought I would give away the details of some of my favourite free marketing tools that can really give a boost to your online marketing.
SeoQuake is a browser plug-in that’s available for Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. It’s invaluable for gathering intelligence about your main online competitors, and the factors contributing to their success. It consolidates data from a range of different sources that you would otherwise have to interrogate separately.
With the plug-in installed you can search for any key phrase on either Google or Bing, and see a variety of useful information about each page, just below its search listing. This includes page rank, backlinks, Alexa traffic rank, the size and age of the site, and several other options.
You can also save the results to a file. For some reason SeoQuake uses colon separators instead of commas, but a quick find and replace in Word fixes that, and makes the file importable into Excel or any other spreadsheet or database.
Click on any link and you can access data on keyword density and additional information about the page.
Search Google for ‘SeoQuake’, and find the link for the browser you want to use it with.
If you want to track your Google rankings for a range of keywords, but you don’t want to splash out on a pay-as-you-go service like WebPosition, then Free Monitor for Google from CleverStat is a great alternative.
You can track an unlimited number of key phrases for an unlimited number of domains. For each phrase the tool will show your current highest ranking, the previous highest, the change in position, and a list of all the top ranking pages. It doesn’t provide any graphing facilities, but you can paste the results into Excel and create your own reports from there.
Sometimes you may want to evaluate the page rank of a list of pages, for example if you are evaluating prospects for link building, or you want to monitor the rank of your own site’s pages. Checking them one by one can be a pain, but fortunately there are several free online tools that enable you to check page rank in bulk.
The PageRank Checker at http://www.bulkpagerank.com/ works well, and checks up to 500 pages at a time. It lacks a .csv export, but you can copy and paste the results into Excel or another application.
If you have a favourite app you’re willing to share, leave a comment below.
In short, an email preference centre is much like a membership page on your website that allows your subscribers to manage their subscriptions.
After signing up and when they log in, they’re given the opportunity to update their profile and also specify what information they’d like to receive from you and how often. This works best and is necessary if you have a variety of email campaigns that you send out, such as newsletters, sales alerts, product information, industry updates and more.
In the preference centre, your subscriber can opt in for as many of the campaigns as they wish, and subsequently make changes whenever they want. They should also able be to specify how often they receive correspondence from you, the format of the emails (html or text versions) and whether they want to subscribe to RSS, mobile or SMS updates.
If you supply products such as books, music, DVDs or clothes then you should definitely look at incorporating an email preference centre to manage your subscriptions effectively. If however, you only offer a single product or service it’s not necessary.
The real value of a preference centre is that it gives subscribers complete control over what lands in their inbox, and this helps build trust and loyalty, which is one of the main objectives of email marketing. By giving them what they want when they want and honouring their preferences, they’ll have less reason to unsubscribe from your email campaigns.
Keep in mind that customers are voluntarily offering private information about themselves at a time and pace that suits them. Therefore, it’s important that your preference centre is friendly and welcoming and the questions aren’t overly complex, in depth or personal. You want them to feel like they can come back at any time to make changes and when they do, it’s a painless process.
Contrary to popular belief, an email preference centre is pretty easy to implement and to begin with many people simply store data on their email platform or CRM, which is perfectly acceptable.
Georgia Christian is the editor of the online email marketing service Mail Blaze.
In our socially-networked-always-on-demand world, it seems that brands themselves are simply not enough any more. Today we, as consumers, question the value of a brand, we scrutinise whether we’re getting our money’s worth and actually question whether the product delivers. Simply put, we don’t put our blind trust into that alluring logo and brand anymore.
How does that apply to you or me? With the internet, (of course), product reviews, recommendations and complaints are so easily and instantly available to everyone that the playing field is changing. Depending on your industry, it has changed already.
Let’s take a little step back for a brief moment. The definition of a brand used to be simple, it was the identity of a specific product or business that built up an emotional reaction. It was the psychological relationship you had with customers.
Now let’s look at a brand as a story. Maybe you haven’t thought about your brand or company in this way before. This story used to be told on a product’s packaging — you only need to search for “vintage packaging” on Google Images to see some brilliant examples from days gone by. The trend in today’s world is for packaging to be minimal and slick — Apple Mac for example with their white boxes, crisp and clean.
Getting back to our on-tap, on-demand, constantly changing world, we have to tell our brand story in a different way. We do this via online tools including Twitter, company websites, review websites, blogs, Facebook and Linked-In. All of these places and facilities are platforms, platforms for you to tell your brand story.
Why? Because just having a brand is no longer enough. You need to articulate your brand story. You need to know the background of your brand, its values, the promise it’s making and more. It’s about generating content to feed these platforms. That content can’t be one-directional, this is a two-way street with your customers. Open up, listen, engage.
Sian Lenegan is account director at Sixth Story.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, forums, groups, communities… With so much going on in social media, how can you be sure you’re getting the best ROI for your time?
It’s easy to fall into the social media trap and open profiles and pages on every network going. After all, everyone’s doing it, right? But, as my mum used to say: if everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it too? I didn’t think so…
The real value of social media marketing is in the doors it opens for interaction and engagement with your end user. It’s about creating the opportunities to have conversations with your customers so you can better understand them and they can let you know how they feel. It helps us as businesses to better tailor our services to the needs and motivations of our target audience.
One way to think of social media marketing is as a dinner party (stick with me on this one); treat your activities as you would a dinner party and you can’t go far wrong! Here’s how:
If you want to engage with your target audience, it’s important to understand who they are and what they are interested in — and what you want to achieve with them. This should be the basis of your dinner party plans and will guide the rest of your decisions.
There’s no point holding your party in London if everyone you want to invite lives in Scotland — in the same way, there’s no point trying to engage on Facebook if the majority of your audience is active on Twitter. Select your party location carefully.
You wouldn’t serve meat to a vegetarian (not if you want them to have a good time, anyway!). Do your research to understand what your audience likes and what will provide them benefit, then identify the products you have in your business that appeal to those needs and add value to the party guests.
You’re the host of your party so you need to make sure your guests are comfortable and having a good time. Guide the conversation but don’t talk at them – your party is about conversation and everyone should be able to get involved.
Be available to your audience beyond your social media interaction – ensure there are ways for people to get in touch and find out more via your website and consider email marketing campaigns.
So don’t just jump on the social media bandwagon because everyone else is — make sure you’re making the most of your time and your investment.
Laura Hampton is a copywriter and online marketer at Zabisco, a digital agency in Nottingham
Find out more in our dedicated section on social media and online networking.
Linkdex recently ran a survey in the UK and USA to find out which tools were most important to small and medium-sized businesses when it came to marketing the products and services they sell.
Perhaps to validate the recent increase in online networking platforms, which work on the basis of peer-to-peer recommendation, the most important marketing tool for SME businesses is word of mouth. In fact a massive 81 per cent of the companies polled said that referrals and recommendations were the most important marketing method.
The second most important promotional method for SME organisations was “Google or another search engine”, followed by direct sales teams and PR.
The least important promotional method for the companies surveyed was passing trade.
In terms of trends, 60 per cent said that they would increase spending on email in the next 12 months, 57 per cent will increase spending on social networks and 54 per cent would invest more in SEO or being on the top of search engines.
These new marketing tools will gain at the expense of more “traditional” promotional methods. Thirty per cent of companies surveyed said they would spend less on print advertising and 26 per cent will spend less on directory listings, including the phone book.
The perceptions by companies match the changing ways in which consumers find information about the products and services they want to buy. Evidence suggests that search engines like Google and Bing are the first place people look. As smartphones like the iPhone become more popular and get faster and more powerful, searching on the internet becomes more integrated and immediate.
When these results are backed up by peer recommendation, consumers will trust them more and be more inclined to make a purchase.
It shows that search engine optimisation (SEO) should not be seen as a technical function, but an essential business capability that sits at the heart of the marketing mix. If 54 per cent of businesses plan to spend more on SEO in the next 12 months, then chances are some of those companies will be your competitors.
Making SEO part of your organisation’s workflow and measuring it alongside other key marketing goals can help deliver long term growth. It’s not about search results, but business results.