It’s funny how coming out of the recession hasn’t got nearly as much media coverage as when we went into it. Right now, savvy salespeople and companies are taking advantage of the upturn. But are you fully prepared?
If you’re a salesperson, you need to have a written sales plan of how you’re going to exceed your sales target. If you’re a sales manager, you need to have a written sales plan. If you’re a sales director, you need to have a written sales plan. If you’re a business owner, you need to have a written sales plan. There is no excuse for not having a written sales plan.
The next step is to make sure you’re focused. Most firms have had to be more focused than ever during the recession as they have faced a drop-off in enquiries and sales leads. This forced their sales team to concentrate harder on new opportunities and focus on how they were going to get it to convert into business.
If the market is starting to pick up, make sure you don’t fall into the trap of taking those enquiries for granted — as some companies had done before the recession really hit them. If you’re starting to get lots more enquiries, your sales plan will help you focus on the best opportunities, and the ones you and your team are most likely to convert.
This is an important point and one that’s often missed. The important thing is to be aware of your energy levels. Back when I was a sales manager, I had one rep that truly was a morning person — jumping around at 8.30 in the morning, yet when 3pm came he was almost asleep!
We decided to play to his strengths and arranged his diary to take advantage of his energy levels. We made his new business activity (cold calls, new business appointments) in the morning, and existing client calls and paperwork in the afternoon. Month on month his sales went up 50%. Amazing.
Are you playing to the strengths of your team? Think about how to best use your resources right now and play to the strengths of your staff.
I’ve lost count of the times people have said to me, “We don’t have time for prospecting/cold calling” or “I know I should have made some calls today, but things just got in the way”.
There is no excuse for not prospecting. Sales managers continually get frustrated with salespeople who “ride the sales rollercoaster” — a good month, followed by a bad month, followed by a good month, followed by a bad month.
This is usually because the salesperson has become so busy dealing with their leads that they haven’t had time for prospecting, which means less leads the following month — and that leads to a lack of sales.
Everyone should make time for prospecting. It should be the most important thing in your day. Too many salespeople don’t prospect because it’s easier to deal with existing customers but then they complain when they miss targets the following month.
Already this year, lots of companies have asked me to come in and help motivate their sales team. Companies that want to steal a march on their competitors are looking to get better results from their teams.
Motivation is vital to your success. Many firms make the mistake of assuming that their salespeople are already motivated. Yet in my experience, most salespeople generally work between 30-50% of their potential.
If you’re a manager or a director, what steps are you taking right now to work on the motivation of your team? If you’re the salesperson, what would it take for you to feel more motivated right now? And don’t say “more money”. That’s known as commission!
Finding your content on the internet is almost as difficult as looking for a specific star in the Milky Way. It would take you over 340 years to peruse the 2.15 billion actively indexed web pages out there — even if you just spent five seconds on each one.
In short, people aren’t going to simply stumble upon your content. Even though you’ve created an interesting, relevant, high-quality article, you’re still going to have to do some legwork to make the most of it.
Continuing to market and track your content helps deliver reach, targeted delivery and increased credibility. Here are some free ways to increase your content’s exposure after publication.
If you’re on a budget, there are still lots of ways to get your content in front of relevant audiences — you just need to tap into your networks.
Using your article as a resource in LinkedIn Groups can be effective for sharing your expertise without seeming too promotional. Find like-minded groups and make a habit of joining their discussions before you share your own content. Likewise, don’t overshare and keep it professional.
Adding your most recently published article to your email signature functions as an instant credibility badge. I almost always follow a link like this if I want to know more about someone who has emailed me. It demonstrates thought leadership in your industry and it gets your message in front of the people you’re trying to reach.
This is a good place to extend the conversation about a published article without duplicating content. Can you follow up on your original blog? What did you learn from the comments on your article? Are there any comments you’d like to respond to? Be sure to include a link to the original article.
In addition to getting your content maximum exposure, it’s important to follow the data and use metrics to drive your decisions. With Google Analytics or a similar platform, you can track your leads and conversions by source. If one source stands above the rest, you know you’re effectively reaching your audience, either with your content or the publication.
Tweak your content marketing strategy by immersing yourself in the metrics and making positive changes. Set a goal for your content, whether it’s increasing visits to your site, starting more conversations with prospects or converting more leads that find your site through your content.
Content marketing isn’t a vanity exercise. If you’ve ever done it, you know it takes time, effort and strategy. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your content’s journey ends once it has been published. You’ll be missing out on an opportunity to keep your content working for you.
Mark Hodges is a brand strategist at Influence & Co.
It’s almost impossible to succeed as a business today without having a website. But just having a website is no longer enough — SMEs in the UK are missing out on up to £77bn in annual revenues as a result of not having mobile-optimised websites, according to research commissioned by Hibu.
Despite the growing popularity of mobile browsing — fast becoming the main way that we access the internet — the Hibu research found that just 10% of UK SMEs have optimised their websites for mobile.
This is despite the fact that research by Google in 2012 found that two-thirds of smartphone users believe a mobile-friendly site would make them more likely to buy or use that business’s service.
By not having a mobile site you are not only losing out on potential business, you are giving your competitors a distinct advantage. It’s like opening a shop that you can only enter by way of a series of ropes, pulleys and ladders.
Luckily, creating a mobile website need not cost the earth.
A large budget isn’t necessary for a smart and elegant mobile site, but it’s important not to attempt to go all out. We recommend using a pre-existing theme for a content management system like Wordpress. There are plenty of systems to choose from, but Wordpress suits simplicity and a lower budget.
Using pre-existing themes will give you out-of-the-box mobile functionality with minimal fuss or start-up delays. It doesn’t mean that you’re short of options either — there are thousands of themes available. Sites like Theme Forest have many different options to choose from and all are relatively inexpensive. With so many on offer, you’re sure to find something you like, but it is important to be selective.
Once you’ve made a choice on what sort of plugins, features and themes you want to use, you then need to make sure that they are the right fit for your business, that they are installed properly and that they are optimised. This is the process that you may need help with. The end result will be a smart, functional and simple mobile website that will offer all basic features to mobile visitors.
With a higher budget, you have space to make your mobile responsive website more dynamic, more reactive, and more likely to convert visitors into customers.
With a higher budget you can work with complex, but highly beneficial tools that allow you to test for a multitude of browsers and mobile devices visiting your site. That way you can optimise your website for all possible mobiles. It will also give your site a personalised feel — it won’t look like any other mobile website out there.
Being selective is even more important with a bigger budget, simply because you’ll have more to play with. Set objectives for your site and then evaluate which features and options will best help you achieve this. You need to think about what your user will be looking for, and what features they might want on a mobile site.
In short, you need to take a thorough look at your user experience (UX). This way your end result will be an entirely user-focused site that keeps visitors on the site because every aspect is geared toward delivering smooth, easy and attractive usability.
With your mobile site sorted, you can rest easy in the knowledge that those who visit it will be happy that they’ve arrived.
Rudi Hoppe is chief technology officer at content marketing agency Southerly.
There’s a small independent toy shop near my home that I often walk past. I am always really impressed by just how well the staff dress the windows each season or tie in with key events and dates. I particularly loved their recent Six Nations window.
This shop is rightly aware that their window is prime real estate for the business. Make a splash with a fresh display and heads will turn. Dress it once and only make minor changes once in a while and people will walk past without noticing.
Rugby may not be everyone’s cup of tea but change will attract attention and create awareness. And one day, someone who noticed a Welsh flag one week will notice the push-along horse on display a few weeks later — and that would make a perfect gift for their nephew’s birthday.
Now why am I banging on about shop window displays? It’s because the home page of your website is your online shop window. And you can apply the shop window thinking to your own website.
Did you pat yourself on the back for a job well done and breathe a sigh of relief when your website first launched? How much work have you done on it since? Has the home page changed at all?
I meet so many small business owners who treat their websites as a one-off exercise and believe that an online presence is all that is required. Your website is like a living creature that needs to be constantly fed and cared for, if it is to do everything you want it to do. And that means regular updates — especially if yours is an ecommerce business.
And remember, it’s not just website visitors that love fresh, engaging content — so does Google.
It was while enjoying a series of single malt whiskies, in the Three Crowns Pub, that I was reminded of a marketing lesson that too many businesses are missing in this new digital world.
On finishing our drinks, I asked my brother if he wanted another round. After agreeing to have “one more for the road”, I duly went to the bar and ordered another couple of doubles of Glenlivet. The price I was charged would have made the bottle of Glenlivet just over £100. Yet it is widely available to buy by the bottle for around £30.
Why spend so much extra? I could have easily bought a bottle of Glenlivet in my local supermarket and sat at home with my brother. The drink would have been of equal quality.
The point is that the value was not in what this pub supplied — the drink. There are other pubs that sell the same brand, and there are also many other ways I could have purchased the whisky, many of which would have been more cost-effective.
Rather, the value was in how the pub delivered the product. In supplying pleasant surroundings, a comfortable place to sit, a good atmosphere, a log fire and showing the football, the pub created an experience that was bigger than just the quality whisky. The totality of the experience made the cost of the product acceptable at that moment in time.
Moreover, although this particular pub’s main product is beverages, the landlord had thought about other items a customer may want during their visit. Snacks including crisps, nuts and bowls of chips were available. There was also a quiz machine to play. OK, this is pretty standard inventory for a pub, so why the big deal?
The digital economy has seen the increasing commoditisation of products and services — whether you are a business-to-business company, or a business supplying consumers. We are all now working in the experience economy. Of course, products and services have to be delivered to a high standard in order to compete. However, today that is just the price of entry into any particular market.
The value for the customer is no longer in what you do. Your clients will, more than likely, have a multitude of options, of which you will be just one. The value is in how you deliver the product or service. It is the experience that will differentiate your business. It is also the experience that is more likely to be talked about, shared and which will generate referrals.
Moreover, what you deliver is likely to be the same as a number of other suppliers. This being the case, this is not where the value lies in your business. The most precious resource today is people’s attention. So the value in your business is more likely to exist in data and the customers you supply.
In other words, the real worth of your business is in the engagement and trust you have with your client base. The more you can deepen this, the more valuable your business becomes. Being able to provide added value to “the experience” enables an organisation to earn more money while creating more engagement and value for the customer.
Understanding your customers’ challenges and the contexts in which these occur, will enable you to create new offerings and obtain a greater share of a customer’s wallet. It means being truly customer centric and understanding what else a customer may require when they engage with your business. In other words, what is the equivalent of your crisps and nuts?
When jazz musicians Melvin “Sy” Oliver and James “Trummy” Young wrote the song ‘T’ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It) in the 1930s, little did they know they would be providing the perfect comment on marketing in the digital economy.
Ultimately, what you do allows you to exist, how you do it enables you to compete and differentiate. Too many companies focus all their energies on what they do, rather than how they do it and for whom.
Now that is sorted, I am off for a well-deserved single malt! Three Crowns anyone?
The world of search engine optimisation (SEO) has changed. Websites that tried to trick Google are now reaping what they have sown, with disastrous results. Instead of getting lots of traffic and making lots of sales, their SEO tactics have led to the exact opposite result. No traffic and no sales.
The sad thing is that the owners of these websites often had no idea what their SEO agency was up to. The owners were offered “No.1 ranking” in return for cash, and simply handed the money over.
Typically that cash was used to pay ‘link farms’, based abroad. These are the bad boys of the SEO world. Many of them use automated systems to ‘scrape’ content from respectable sites such as the Marketing Donut and upload it onto a series of new sites. They then sell links from these new sites, to boost the ranking of whichever web pages those links go to.
But Google algorithms are always getting smarter. And Google also has a small army of humans who search out and penalise such ‘black hat’ SEO practices. Well known websites such as Interflora and Halifax — and more recently the law firm Irwin Mitchell — have found themselves removed from the Google rankings. In 2013 Interflora only reappeared in the rankings once the company had already missed out on millions of pounds worth of flower sales over the crucial Mother’s Day period.
Noisy Little Monkey has been brought in to sort out several such messes and in one case we found no fewer than three million spammy links in place — none of which the website owners knew about, as they had simply trusted the SEO agency to get on with improving the rankings.
Google eventually has to reinstate big brands such as Interflora, as so many people search specifically for the brand name and Google has to serve its users. But the same is not true of a small business. In some cases you cannot even re-use your old content on a completely new website, as Google treats it as the same website that was given the penalty previously. At this point businesses are better off jettisoning their website and starting afresh with a new URL and new content.
All of which is irrelevant if you have always followed the guidelines that Google publishes. These guidelines can be summarised in two words: Don’t cheat. If you do anything that is not ‘natural’, it is probably cheating. Paid-for advertorial that has a link back to your website is cheating, as that link would not be there unless you had paid for it. So if you want to do advertorials, make sure that any links in the content are ‘no-follow’ links.
And we can all recognise a spammy link when we see one. For example, those annoying website comments: Great post! Paul Paul’s Office Furniture [with an optimised link to a page on Paul’s furniture website]. Unless the comment and the link are contributing to the discussion, the purpose of such comments is as obvious to Google as it is to the rest of us. ‘Low value’ links like this will not help your website’s rankings at all.
Proper SEO in has always been about optimising each page. The easy wins are the same as they have always been. Choose one or two key phrases that you want a page to rank for. Mark up the HTML carefully. Optimise the page title of each page. Make full use of high quality online directories such as Google+ Local, Yell and maybe your local chamber of commerce (ie those directories that people use to find things) and make sure that your contact details are identical, including even the spaces in your phone number — which ideally should have a local code and not an 0845 code.
Above all, you need to have high quality content, because that is what Google and the other search engines are all about. Put yourself in Google’s shoes. If someone searches for ‘Solicitor in Bristol’, there may be 50 firms to choose from. Which one would you rank at the top? It would be the site that has traffic, that visitors spend time on, and that people link to and mention in blogs and in social media — all of which adds up to a winning digital footprint. It would not be a site that people arrive at and then quickly leave.
Finally, if you are using an SEO agency, make sure you know what they are doing. Google Webmaster Tools is free and is easy to use. If nothing else, just look in the messages section. Any really bad news from Google about your website will be in there.